Ipoh is located halfway between foodie island Penang and Cameron Highlands and for some reason, this hidden gem is not on everybody’s typical Malaysia itinerary. Although it was listed by Lonely Planet in 2016 as the sixth best Asian destination and the only Malaysian pick.
It is home to natural formations of impressive limestone, extraordinary Buddhist cave temples and several mural art projects.
After spending almost 2 weeks on and off in this cute British colonial city, I deeply fell in love with Ipoh’s charming streets and the overall fun vibe it’s radiating.
Do you want to know what exciting activities you shouldn’t miss out on? Then keep reading!
To plan your next adventure to Ipoh with ease, I’ve created this extensive Travel Guide that includes everything you need to know. I’ll show you where to stay, find delicious vegan food and how you can make the most of your time in one of Malaysia’s most hidden beauties.
TRAVEL GUIDE TO IPOH: BEST PLACES TO SEE & 2-DAY ITINERARY
How to get there
You can reach Ipoh by bus from Penang (3 h) or Kuala Lumpur (3,5 h). Buses leave regularly from TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) in the south-east of KL or Sungai Ningong bus terminal in Penang. The price is around 80 RM (17 €) each for a one-way ticket.
Another more comfortable way of travelling from KL would be the ETS – Electronic Train Service. It operates daily and runs the route multiple times a day. I’ve used it twice and can honestly say, that it’s such a nice way to travel through Malaysia. Not only can you watch the changing landscape passing by, but it’s also very fast & convenient.
Another advantage is definetely, that the train stations are more central in both KL and Ipoh than the bus stations. Which means you save time & money to reach your hostel for the night.
Travel Tip: Take some socks, long pants and a cardigan/hoodie with you in the train. It gets reeeally cold in there!
Best time to visit
Ipoh has a tropical climate and with an average temperature of 31°C it’s pretty much warm all-year round.
The best months to visit Ipoh are during summer season from May to August if you want to make sure you’re not getting rained on. You can expect a peak temperature of 32°C and less rain than the rest of the year. Especially June awaits you with 11 daily sunshine hours on average .
With that being said, summer is also the busiest time of the year with lots of Malays travelling around their own country. So make sure you’ve prebooked your train and bus tickets if you’re planning to visit the famous Cameron Highlands.
The rainiest months are therefore March-April and November – December. During these months, the average temperature at night is as low as 20°C.
I personally happened to be in Ipoh at the beginning of November and did experience some very heavy rainfall. But nevertheless, I also enjoyed some very sunny days, pleasantly quiet temples and street markets as well as less traffic than usual.
Where to stay
If you’re only going to stay for a couple of days it’s best to look for an accommodation directly in Ipoh’s charming Old Town. From there you can reach the best restaurants & eateries, the famous mural art lane as well as other interesting sites within walking distance.
Ipoh: Hostels, Hotels & Guesthouses
- Dé Café & Rest House: ($) My top pick! Situated directly in the heart of Old Town, this place is a real heaven for long-term travellers in need of some time for contemplation. It has two 10-bed dorms, seperated by gender, each with its own bathroom area, lockers and soft blankets for a restful night. Cosy Dé Café on the ground floor offers good coffee & breakfast options; the local owner is very friendly and loves to help planning trips. – Find it on Booking.com!
- The Brownstone Hostel & Space: ($) Perfect backpacker’s choice if you want to get to know people! This stylish hostel offers free breakfast in its large community kitchen with very cool hanging chairs (!), cosy bunk beds with comfortable mattresses, a big lounge & outer area, lots of plants and overall a very inviting vibe. – Find it on Booking.com!
- M Boutique Hotel: ($$) Stylish & homey! This nicely decorated hotel not far from Ipoh Old Town welcomes you with a cosy lobby, restaurant, comfortable & clean rooms and a fitness studio. It’s best to book the bigger room, some of the smaller ones don’t have windows. – Find it on Booking.com!
- Ipoh Waterpark Homestay: ($$) The best option for travelling families or bigger groups of up to 8 people! Enjoy lots of space in this clean & central 3-bedroom apartment with a well-equipped kitchen, city view, netflix and even a large swimming pool area. – Find it on Booking.com!
How to get around
Ipoh’s centre and Old Town can be easily explored by foot. It’s nice to just stroll around, not having to walk a long distance to see some attractions. The sidewalk is mostly in a good condition, sometimes even roofed to give you shelter from the rain. And, oh dear, when it rains, it rains like there’s no tomorrow!
Another very common way to get around the city is the app “Grab”. Especially if you are going to visit some temples, which are located a bit out of town, it’s a very convenient and way cheaper alternative to a common taxi.
The usual cost for a 10-15 minute drive is 12-15 MYR (2-3 €) depending on the time of the day and the expected traffic. There are more drivers registered than customers in need of a ride, so expect a very short waiting time of mostly under 2 minutes.
Another typical way to get to know Asian cities would be to rent a scooter. There are several motorbike rentals in the city, mostly starting from 40 MYR (9 €) a day for a basic motorbike.
I personally love riding a scooter, but although I stayed in Ipoh for quite a while, I never really needed it. I guess it felt nice to discover the city in a slow pace, giving you the opportunity to just wander around and check out some amazing local food. Ipoh is a perfect place to do so!
What to do
Visit Perak Tong Cave Temple (霹 雳 洞)
Ipoh has several temples to visit, but Perak tong Cave Temple is arguably the main attraction. It was built in 1926 by a chinese buddhist and contains a 12 m golden Buddha statue at the main altar as well as stunning murals.
There’s no entrance fee.
Behind the altar, you can walk to different parts of the cave, each containing another beautiful altar with offerings.
Travel Tip: At the far end of this impressive masterpiece you can take the stairs and hike up to the top of the cave for a far-reaching view over Ipoh town and the surrounding. Narrow stairs & signs guide you all the way. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top.
Stroll around Kek Look Tong Temple & Zen Garden
Picturesque Kek Look Tong Temple is located about 20 minutes south of Ipoh in the lush area of Guning Rapat and is translated as Cave of Great Happiness. After seeing the stunning beauty of this place I think the name is pretty accurate.
Like Perak Tong Temple, this popular tourist attraction has been built inside a gigantic limestone formation, in which Buddhist and Taoist statues are being broadcasted. Walking through the cave already feels amazing, but once you’ve reached the end you’ll get the first glimpse of the spectacular zen garden behind the cave temple.
It’s the ideal setting for a peaceful walk within Ipoh’s majestic natural beauty. Local families & couples love this place as a gathering point to enjoy a sunny day and of course it’s also popular among travellers. At the far end of the garden there’s even a small lake where you have the opportunity to rent a pedal boats for half an hour.
Serenity at its finest!
Watch Mural Art in Old Town
Ipoh’s street art scene is trhriving! When you thought Penang has many murals, then you’ll be amazed by the amount of art in Ipoh. The pieces of art in vibrant colors can be found throughout Old Town at almost every turn.
If your hotel happens to be in Old Town (which I recommend) than you’ll be able to see the majority of them by simply walking around.
The most famous pieces of art were painted by Ernest Zacharevic, a contemporary Lithuanian artist based in Penang.
Pick up a map from Ipoh Tourist Information Center (ITIC) to pinpoint the locations of Zacharevic’s work and embark on your artsy journey.
Where to find mural art
The best start for your mural art hunt would be in Market Lane (VIEW MAP), where you can discover the famous painting “Trishaw” among others.
Then make your way towards Jalan Masjid (VIEW MAP) to find even more art.
There are also some paintings in Concubine Lane (VIEW MAP).
Eat Streetfood & Shop in Concubine Lane
Charming Concubine Lane is a narrow and rather small street, packed with tiny restaurants and souvenir shops. In the evenings and especially at the weekend this historic place comes to life with even more food stalls.
Besides cotton candy, chocolate cookies and smoothies, you’ll find a number of snacks and colorful desserts you’ve probably never seen before.
Winner of the most colorful one would be Kuma Rainbow Cheese Toast without a doubt. They raise the classic cheesy toast to a new level, using rainbow food coloring. Maybe not the healthiest option, but it looks so FUN! I wish they had a vegan alternative.
Concubine Lane is for sure a fun place to visit and a must-see when in Ipoh!
Get a Foot Reflexology Massage (worth it!)
In need of some relaxation? I feel you! Check out Content House Reflexology (SEE MAP) in the city centre. This worthwhile massage studio is specialized on foot massages, but also offers full-body massages and a nail spa for reasonable prices.
Make sure to not go at the rush hours on weekends (1-5 pm) when half Ipoh is getting a foot massage.
Hiking Kledang Hill
On one of my Grab experiences through town, the driver asked me if I’d been to Kledang Hill yet, the home mountain of Ipoh in the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve. He told me about a very commited group of chinese men at the age of 60+ running up the hill every morning before sunrise to stay fit and healthy. Crazy!
There are several hiking trails for all levels. The most recommended one is the 10 km Kledang Hill Trail Head, which takes you – depending on your fintess level – in 2,5-4 hours to the top of the mountain.
The view is supposed to be gigantic, overlooking the enormous limestone formations that beautifully surround Ipoh. When you’re lucky, you can even watch monkeys in their natural habitat on the way.
Unfortunately I was running out of time, but for my next visit I’m determined to check it out. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been there. 🙂
Where to eat vegan
When travellers think of Malaysia’s best known foodie city, the name Georgetown in Penang comes up straight away. Fair enough. But when you ask locals, Ipoh is considered to be the real foodie paradise. Being home to the famous Ipoh White Coffee, beancurd pudding Tau Fu Fah and endless street food stalls, this city is worth checking out!
Here are some of my vegan favorites in Ipoh to help you plan your Ipoh food adventure.
Address: 184A, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Ipoh – SEE MAP.
Opening hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Simple, but yet full of taste & good quality – I can’t recommend this jewel enough. Well hidden on the first floor, this is the place to get well-thought-out vegan breakfast & lunch options besides fantastic coffee in an open loft-style space. Only open from thursday to sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. – VIEW MAP.
Vegan Food Tip: Try their marinated carrot “salmon” on toast. Fresh onion rings, capers and dill give the dish a northern touch. I needed to come back to eat it again, and again…
YC Vegetarian Cafe
Address: 7, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, Ipoh – VIEW MAP.
Opening hours: 11 am – 7:30 pm, tuesdays closed
The ultimate everyday go-to restaurant! They have a very extensive menu with vegetarian and vegan meals ranging from western to chinese cuisine. Do you fancy veggie satay, dumplings and kimchi tofu soup or veggie nuggets, mushroom steak and french fries? You can get it all here in one stop!
It’s also more than affordable and the waitresses are old ladies, that will sometimes mix up your order, haha. Still cute though!
They use cream & cheese, so double-check what’s in your meal.
Dé Café & Rest House
Address: 25, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Ipoh – VIEW MAP.
Opening hours: 10 am – 7 pm, sunday & monday closed
As the name suggests, this laid-back café belongs to the hostel aka “rest house”, which is just upstairs. The owner studied interior design and has a keen eye for details. Very good coffee with plant-based milk, a cosy seating area as well as a large coworking table with plugs satisfy travellers’ needs. Get comfortable with a (matcha) latte and your favorite book and take it easy.
They offer a few vegan options like fried rice and spicy aglio olio pasta, but the owner promised to expand their menu in the future. So check it out!
Restoran Krishna Bhawan
Address: 8, Jalan Lahat, Ipoh – VIEW MAP.
Opening hours: 9 am – 9 pm, wednesdays closed.
Newly renovated and shiny, this 100 % vegetarian Indian restaurant has plenty of flavorful vegan options like Masala Dosa, crunchy Panipuri or whole sets of different curries and rice. Really recommended!
The owner speeks very good English and gives recommendations when asked.
Ipoh Night Market
Head to the Ipoh Night Market in Jalan Carey Street (SEE MAP) for a truly authentic Malaysian experience. They have different food booths with numbers, locals recommended us number 52-54 if you want to get a good fried noodles or rice dish.
We tried a veganized version of rice noodles Char Kuey Teow (similar to pad-see ew in thailand), a crazy but delicious dessert named Cendol (made with shaved ice, coconut cream, pandang noodles and red beans) as well as tasty Popiah spring rolls.
Vegan Food Tip: Find the food stall that sells crunchy Popiah. Normally this Malaysian interpretation of a spring roll is filled with shrimps & pork, but this one has a vegan filling made of beansprouts, cucumber and more. Ask for the spicy sauce, it’s SO good!
Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fuh Fa
Address: 50, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, Ipoh – VIEW MAP.
Opening hours: 10:30 am – 7:30 pm, tuesdays closed.
Funny name, funny food! Must-try Tau Fu Fah is a silky-smooth, vegan beancurd pudding, that has its origins in Ipoh. So it can’t get more local than that! Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fuh Fa has been running since the 50s and is a real iconic institution.
Try this authentic snack either on its own or – my recommendation – with a brown sugary sauce. They also sell homemade soya bean drinks. Enjoy! 🙂
How many days should I spend in Ipoh?
To get a good first impression and not be too rushed, you should plan to spend at least 2 full days in Ipoh. The Old Town is not overly big, but some worthwhile sights like the temples are a bit out of town. Driving there and back takes some time.
Next, I’ll show you the perfect 2 day itinerary of Ipoh with the best places to see & eat.
Best 2-day itinerary of Ipoh
Day 1: Gut Flora, Perak Tong Temple & Old Town
Start your Ipoh adventure with a delicious vegan breakfast at Gut Flora. This hidden eatery serves exclusively vegan meals, made with an attentive eye and a lot of creativity.
Vegan Breakfast at “Gut Flora“
Address: 184A, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Ipoh – SEE MAP.
Opening hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
From there, get into a Grab and strike off to Perak Tong Temple. Explore one of Ipoh’s top tourist attractions and marvel at the 40 foot high golden Buddha statue and beautiful murals inside the cave.
If you feel energized, hike up to the top of the cave and enjoy a nice view of Ipoh town and the surroundings. The stairs are steep and can get slippery when wet, but it’s doable with an average fitness level. No entrance fee.
Old Town: Mural Art Lane & Concubine Lane
In the afternoon, kick off your Old Town experience at Mural Art Lane for a nice stroll. There are actually several streets with mural art. The best place to start would be Market Lane (VIEW MAP) and then work your way towards Panglima Street (VIEW MAP).
When the appetite kicks in, walk to Concubine Lane and try sweet & savory street food or sit down in one of their cosy restaurants.
Day 2: Kek Lok Temple, Tau Fuh Fa, Foot Massage & Night Market
On day two, check out Dé Café & Rest House (if you haven’t already) and fuel your body with breakfast and an outstanding coffee or matcha latte in a chilled environment.
Then head to Kek Lok Temple and explore this stunning cave temple and its beautiful Zen Garden. If you like, you can even ride a pedal boat on a little lake and unleash your inner child.
In the afternoon it’s time to experience a typical chinese delicacy at Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fu Fah. Tau Fu Fah is a soft & silky pudding made from beancurd. Definetely worth a try!
Beancurd pudding at “Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fu Fah”
Address: 50, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, Ipoh – SEE MAP.
Opening hours: 10:30 am – 7:30 pm, except on tuesdays
After two days of walking around and exploring Ipoh, why not pampering yourself with a relaxing Foot Reflexology Massage at Content House Reflexology? Truly heavenly!
For dinner you don’t have to walk far. Head over to the Ipoh Night Market in Jalan Carey Street (SEE MAP) and indulge in all the local goodnesses you can find.
I hope you enjoyed reading it and you are inspired for your next trip. Feel free to contact me on Instagram (@eat.travel.flow) if you have any travel related questions or simply leave a comment below. 🙂
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