Ipoh Old Town Buzzing and Blazing

Cover Story

By Nantini Krishnan and Tan Mei Kuan

There is a palpable buzz afoot as one meanders through Ipoh’s old town. For those following the heritage trail there is the juxtaposition of impressive old buildings, some lovingly restored to their original condition; while others are artistically left in their dilapidated states, flaws embellished with plaster, shabby chic reigning supreme. Tourists mingle with locals in the many eateries and cafes that have popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, and where the coffee shops of yesteryear had oldies leisurely sipping their white coffee, today, a very different ambiance prevails. Ipoh Echo sent two of its reporters to suss out some of the activities and locate some of the buzz.

The Quaint, the Eclectic, the Old and the New, Mix and Mingle with Gay Abandon

The heritage trail through the historic old town is an interesting walk passing many impressive buildings from 1880s to the 1930s. This beauty is reflected in the architecture of the period and many fine buildings remain in the old part of the city are covered along this Ipoh Heritage Trail. For a self-guided tour, heritage trail brochures are available at the Ipoh Tourist Information Centre. Just get yourself a map or GPS and all basic necessities that enable you to walk long hours. Taking a heritage trail is one of the best ways to see and experience the rich heritage of Ipoh. The heritage trail features many attractions and heritage buildings such as the Railway Station, Majestic Hotel, the Ipoh Tree, the Town Hall and Old Post Office, the Birch Memorial Tower, the Chartered Bank building, the Straits Trading Company, the Mercantile Bank, the Perak River Hydro-Electric Power Company, the High Court, the iconic Ipoh Club, the Church of St John The Divine, Museum Darul Ridzuan, St Michael’s Institution, Town Padang Mosque, F.M.S. Bar & Restaurant, Han Chin Pet Soo, Concubine Lane, Dramatists’ Hostel, Dato’ Panglima Kinta Mosque and the Little India district.


Pigeon Fountain

Ipoh Padang is a special place for Ipohites. The fountain at the edge of Ipoh Padang is famous for pigeons and a popular activity for visitors is to feed them. There are hordes of friendly pigeons flying around the fountain and these pigeons are somewhat tame and are not afraid of people. People can throw food scraps on the ground and these pigeons will converge and eat the food scraps. The fountain is claimed by pigeons in the mornings as  they get their food from the nearby restaurants while at night they roost at the nearby shop lots. The fountain at Ipoh Padang is well worth a visit whether or not one feeds the pigeons. This is the heart of Old Town, a must-see place in Ipoh.

Popiah at Concubine Lane

Walk down Concubine Lane where legend has it that the rich tin miners or towkays used to keep their mistresses and you’ll find quaint shops and eateries. Popiah at Concubine Lane is one of these. Harking back to more than 60 years ago, this popiah stall, run by three generations of the family remains loved by many. Despite being hard at work wrapping up the finely chopped vegetables and crunchy bits in a paper thin roll with such deft fingers, Madam Low Kim You, 78, did not forget to flash us her warmest smile as Ipoh Echo met up with her and her equally friendly daughter, Miss Elly Cheang. “Our sauce is what makes the popiah here special,” Miss Elly told Ipoh Echo. “We even have the not-so-common fried popiah,” she added. Their service orientation is so well honed that they sell the fresh popiah in two batches, one for the morning crowd and another for the afternoon crowd to ensure that everyone gets a chance to taste this wonderful spring roll. However, do take note that the ever-popular fried popiah is only available in the morning.

Opening hours: 8am-4pm

The Art of Old Town

Ernest Zacharevic left his mark in Ipoh Old Town with his collection of Ipoh Wall Art Murals. Seven murals in total, these are spread out within easy walking distance of one another and here is a list of the mural descriptions and their locations:

1. A Paper Plane
Road Name: Jalan Sheikh Adam
(GPS: 4.597715,101.076882)

2. An Old Uncle Drinking Coffee
Road Name: Jalan Dato Maharajalela
(GPS: 4.59787,101.076169)

3. A Yellow Hummingbird
Road Name: Jalan Panglima
(GPS: 4.596704,101.07843)

4. Bags of Coffee Drinks
Road Name: Jalan Tun Sambathan
(GPS: 4.597151,101.078703)

5. Girl on a Wall
Road Name: Jalan Bandar Timah
(GPS: 4.597004,101.078213)

6. Old Town Relives Nostalgia With Trishaw
Road Name: Narrow Road off Jalan Bijeh Timah (GPS: 4.59525,101.078556)

7. Tin Mining Town With Chinese-Style Painting
Road Name: Jalan Bijeh Timah (GPS: 4.596343,101.079138)

Yasmin Museum @ Kong Heng

Situated in Old Block Apartments and shaded by lush green foliage is the Yasmin @ Kong Heng gallery, exuding a quiet elegance. Upon climbing the stairs, one spies a room with glass panel windows shaded by climbing green vines allowing just the right amount of morning sun in. This is where the compilation of advertisements created by Yasmin is being played on screen. The second room has cozy yellow lighting to allow visitors to enjoy the screening of Yasmin’s movies. Miss Safiah, who has been put in charge of the museum from October 2014, told Ipoh Echo that she wished for more locals to support the gallery because currently most of the visitors are from KL. “There were some locals but I think the support is mostly from outstation, particularly from KL,” she added.

Opening hours: 10am-4pm (weekends only)

Memory Lane

Looking for the unconventional? Enjoy being immersed in the crowd? Adore the open-air shopping concept? Is collecting antiques your thing? If the answers are all positive, we have the perfect solution for you: Memory Lane. Being the largest flea market in Perak, you can find old treasures at unbelievable low prices. From vintage matchboxes, vinyl records, cassettes, collectibles, antique sewing machines to pre-loved clothes, Memory Lane has everything one can think of! Who knows, maybe even pick up a treasure from an unsuspecting vendor.

Opening hours: 7am-1pm (Sunday only)

Eesha Herbal Works at Concubine Lane

Opened in November 2014, Eesha Herbal Works offers a vast array of handmade souvenirs. Their handmade soaps and colourful dream-catchers are not to be missed! “This street is really special and unique,” Miss Chong, an employee of the shop, told Ipoh Echo. The shop proprietor retained the store’s old-world charm with only a  minimum repainting, which is good news for all the shutterbugs out there!

Opening hours: 10am-5pm

Meiko at Concubine Lane

“To bring back Concubine Lane to its former glory.” That was the answer given by Madam Low, from the newly-opened Meiko Wholesale and Retail, to Ipoh Echo when asked why she chose Concubine Lane of all places as the perfect shop location. Occupying one of the century-old shop lots in the historical lane, the shop proprietor retained its original charm by keeping renovation to the minimum. For instance, the walls were simply finished with wax that added shine while keeping its vintage feel. After browsing a wide range of souvenirs downstairs, Ipoh Echo was in for a surprise as we moved upstairs. What greeted us was an exhibition of antiques which included a 100-year-old newspaper! According to Madam Low, business peak hours are mornings of weekends and public holidays.

Opening hours: 10am-5pm

Best Souvenir Hunting Grounds at Old Town

1. Craftnerds

Craftnerds can be found in the heart of Old Town at Plan b., next to the famous Kong Heng coffee shop and below the iconic Sekeping Kong Heng hotel. It is a shop for buying handcrafted products that are so exquisite and tasteful, you will find it hard to resist even if they are slightly expensive when compared to other little outlets. It is the perfect place to shop for gifts to take home to friends, family and for yourself as it is impossible to go out of the shop without wanting the handmade elephant themed crafts, key holders, handbag charms, home decor and the list goes on. Ipoh Craftnerds has been attracting many visitors and shoppers, particularly during weekends. The staff speak good English which is an added bonus. This is a ‘Must go to’ little shopping haven and to support our local crafters and see beautiful handicraft.

Address:  Shoplex C @ Sekeping Kong Heng, 75A, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: 10am-5pm (closed on Tuesdays)

2. Kristy Collection

If you’re someone looking for trendy, vintage and unique accessories, then the Kristy Collection is for you. They not only sell online, but they have their own shop too. Kristy Collection sells necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets, bangles, anklets, hats, caps, stockings and special make-up accessories. Kristy Collection also offers an exclusive selection of beautiful clothes for women that is perfect for sightseeing or a night on the town. Then accessorize with their baubles and beads and get the perfect pieces to go with your new outfit from Kristy Collection.

Address: No. 89 & 90, Jalan Sultan Yussuf, Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: Mon-Fri: 10am-5:30pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-6pm
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