A three-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur will take you into the UNESCO Heritage City of Ipoh. This is a logical next stop on the way up to Penang and you can have a couple of nights to check out the sights, eat the food and relax in a quiet city.
It is very easy to make friends in Malaysia, must be the widespread use of the English language here. My friend here was born and raised in Ipoh, a true local. We went on a food adventure and literally ate all the food.
Kuala Lumpur, Puduraya Bus Terminal every hour
Ipoh, Amanjaya Bus Terminal multiple times per day
Set in an industrial zone, reminiscent of a scene from 28 Days Later, this restaurant is a welcome find. Serving daily specials ranging from Nasi Goreng to Char Kuey Teow, there are a lot of delicious Malaysian meals to tantalise your tastebuds. Below is Nasi Goreng Ayam, served with (oddly enough) coleslaw..
The owner, who really does look like a kid, was such a friendly and animated spirit. He was warm and welcoming, very polite and with a mastery of English it was the perfect host you would wish to find in an industrial park. He wanted a photo in front of his car, which is really just a shiny decoration in the restaurant. Can you see it? No, because we bloody stood in front of the darn thing hahahaha!
Although the old town is a heritage and protected area, there are some buildings that have taken over dilapidated and run down structures, transforming them into Spartan, retro-chic places of business, tied with the hustle and bustle of a hipsters market stall atmosphere.
Love locks, akin to those (now removed from the bridges over the Seine in Paris), adorn the feature wall. What better way to lock your promise of love to your soulmate? (I know better ways…)
Stone and earthen vases line the streets and many are a lively ecosystem of lily pads and goldfish. Go hunting!
A famous dish from Ipoh, nasi ganja is a rice dish served with a red curry sauce, a piece of fried chicken and a salted egg. Its a local favourite, though it was not my favourite. A meal that is both tasty and satisfying, but not amazing.. 5.30 RM for the dish.
This is a warm dessert, made of tofu bean curd and sugar syrup. That’s it! For 1.20 RM, you will be served a small bowl and you eat it at the front of the shop standing up. Cars are often lined up around the corner, waiting for drive-thru service.
The old town is full of things to discover. I won’t say hidden gems, but fun to find nonetheless. There are alleyways that are beautifully white stucco grey and concrete rendered walls, coloured with pretty paper lanterns. This is a very Chinese area and many of the businesses operating here have store signage in Chinese script.
Street art forms an important and well-integrated part of the heritage aspect of the old town. There are numerous wall paintings, sculptures and installations. You just have to find them. I did manage to find a few.
Finish off the day with a nice cuppa tea, hot (teh tarek, literally pulled tea to make the frothy top) or cold (teh ais, literally iced tea). Both tea drinks have the same ingredients: black tea, condensed milk to sweeten. 1.20 RM for one tea drink (hot or cold, same price).
Dan tart is a Cantonese dessert from Hong Kong – you’ll likely have already tried this at Yum Cha. A great one to try in Ipoh is Nam Heong Oldtown White Coffee. 1.20RM per tart.