The capital city and most populated urban center in the state of Perak (over 1.1 million), Ipoh is a city grown on the tin mining industry that remains a profound cultural center of Malaysia. It's main draw for travelers is in its well-preserved and compact Old Town, where the buildings constructed under British rule are in abundance (check out the Ipoh Heritage Trail). At the same time, the city government attempts to forge ahead with new parks, sports stadiums, and changes as small (but wide-ranging in their intentions) as removing the colonial names from street signs. In this sense, Ipoh does well to juggle its dual identities, seeking to retain the beauty of its colonial roots while forging ahead with contemporary development that is uniquely its own. For us international travelers the cheap and modern tourist infrastructure, excellent food and cafe scene, and range of adventure-based activities are highly valuable in themselves.
Ipoh is a premiere home base for outdoor adventures, whether it is in exploring the many wonders of the rainforest or spelunking through awe-inspiring limestone caverns. The Hutan Lipur Forest is your nearest rainforest settin and is home to a convenient waterfall and swimming hole. Gua Tempurung is one of the mainland Malaysia's longest caves, located just south of Ipoh, while the best swimming near the city can be had at crowded Teluk Batik in Manjung. The one knock against this neck of the woods is its lack of clean, attractive beaches, which is quite the opposite of those often found in swarms on the east coast. Still, island environments like the throwback fishing villages sandy coves of Pulau Pangkor still lure in active types who enjoy their diving and swimming where resort culture hasn't fully metastasized. Head toward the center of the country for the hilly climbing and hiking region of the Cameron Highlands or the whitewater rafting adventures that can be tackled near Gopeng. Check out our adventure page for more.
For those whose best estimation of a culture is through its food, then Ipoh is one of your best bets in Malaysia; whether it is the eating of locally grown fruits like pomela, eating dim sum style, or drinking Ipoh's famous white coffee (coffee beans roasted in palm oil margarine), the gastronomic experience is one of more unique and enticing in Southeast Asia. The large Chinese population in the city also contributes to the flood of good grub, whether it is in hawker stalls or the packed little sit-down eateries through downtown and beyond.
As for nightlife, we're not going to lie to you, Malaysia in general has not caught up with the Western ideal of massive parties and public drunkenness and therefore a city like Ipoh is not likely to attract travelers fond of a roaring nightlife. A walk through Bandar Baru Medan or behind the Greentown Business Centre will provide you with options, although you may find your time better spent at the night market, Pasar Malam.
Ipoh's biggest selling point, though, is its host of inexpensive eating, drinking, and accommodation choices. A week in Ipoh, if you're willing to stay in a hostel, will cost you south of RM 400 ($125 US). Good luck pulling that budget off for a single day in Europe. Check our Ipoh listings for more information on what to eat, drink, and experience while in town.