Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ipoh Old Town

We took a two days trip to Ipoh at the end of October 2011, and we found three interesting things to describe Ipoh- old town, food and limestone caves.

Before we talk about the old town, let's start with our itinerary. Friday evening, we reached Ipoh KTM station (train station) at 9:30 pm,  took our supper at "Tong Sui Kai" (dessert street), and checked into Excelsior Hotel. We went to take "dim sum" early the next morning, followed by taking "yong-liu" (or considered as yong to fu in other places) with Ipoh hor fun (flat rice noodle). We strolled around the old town area for nearly two hours before we took a sumptuous lunch at a local Chinese restaurant on our way to Kek Lok Tong, one of the famous limestone caves in Ipoh. We stopped at Sin Yoon Loong, one of the oldest coffee shop in Ipoh for a sip of original old town coffee in the late afternoon, before we spent our night on a friend's wedding dinner.

Sunday, we tried Ipoh well-known "Nga choi gai" (chicken with bean sprout) and bought some white coffee before we departed home at 2:30 pm.

Ipoh old town is full with hundred years old buildings. Many of them are remained functional until today. Ipoh old town is mainly referred to the town area in between S.P. Seenivasagam Road and Leong Boon Swee Road, on the west bank of Kinta River. Ipoh starts thriving in early 1900, when mining companies were set up at the old town, covering an area around 1000 m x 250 m. Instead of monumental buildings such as the town hall, railway station, the war memorial, St. Micheal Institution, and Birch Memorial which all of them located at the northern part of the old town, the rest of the town is just old two storeys and three storeys shop lots. Starting from the tourist's information center at Tun Sambanthan, we took around 2 hours walking around the area.

Standing at the crossroad between Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab Road and Dato Maharajalela Road, the town hall of Ipoh is the most prominent edifice that can be seen. Built on 1916, the building was designed based on neo-classical style, similiar to the railway station and the high court of Ipoh. The first political party in Malaya, Malay Nationalist Party held its first congress in this building in late 1945.

This war memorial is located opposite of the town hall, just in front of the railway station (as we can see from this photo). This war memorial was unveiled in 1927, in commemorating the gallant members in World War One. The original plaque was vandalized soon after the installation, and unidentified drug addicts were accused to be the culprits. The replacing plaques that we can see today stated that the memorial is in memory of those who sacrificed during World War I, World War II, during Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), Indonesian Confrontation (1962-1965), Re-Insurgency Period (1972-1990), and those who sacrificed during the construction of Thailand-Burma Death Railway. Only those died in First World War have their names listed on one of the plaques.

Ipoh Railway Station was built in 1917, designed by the same architect who had masterminded the design of Ipoh Town Hall- A. B. Hubback (additional information, he was the one who designed KL Railway Station as well). This building has often been referred as "Taj Mahal of Ipoh".

Along Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab Road, we saw Ipoh High Court (upper left), built in 1928 and serves as the building of justice until today. Beside the high court stands Royal Ipoh Club (upper left). Established in 1895, the club was the oldest club in Ipoh. St. John Church of Ipoh located at the end of the heritage trail. The church was once the largest church in Malaya. We could only see the backside of the church from the main road (lower left). We have to move ahead and turned into Perak Drive (Persiaran Perak) in order to get into the church's compound.

St. Micheal Secondary School, or formerly known as St. Micheal Institution was founded by Father J. B. Coppin. The school is located at S. P. Seenivasagam Road (formerly Clayton Road). The Gothic style building was built in 1922.

Recently, this historical building was repainted, and its former glory, restored. This school is one of the top rating schools in Perak, in both architectural and performance. The slogan of the school- Quis Ut Deus (Who can compare to God?) and Signum Fidei (A Sign of Faith).

The fine sculptures on the wall of the building can be seen from the main road.

Town Padang Mosque is next to St. Micheal Secondary School. This mosque portrayed special Indian Mogul style, which it's construction was funded by Shaik Adam, a wealthy Tamil Muslim in 1908, with a cost of $500,000. Sheikh Adam Road beside Birch Memorial was named after the Mogul.

Town Padang Mosque is more like a piece of art than a mosque.

We made a right turn after Town Padang Mosque and went down Sultan Yussuf Road (formerly Belfield Street), and we met with this old building of F.M.S. Bar and Restaurant. Some has claimed that it was the oldest restaurant in Malaysia. We were not sure whether the building has been abandoned or, under reconstruction.

Birch Memorial was built in 1909 in memory of J.W.W. Birch. Birch was the first British Resident of Perak, assassinated in Pasir Salak in 1875 by Dato Maharajalela. His death was a lesson to other disrespectful and arrogant British officials. Dato Maharajalela was hanged afterward, but he is sung as a national hero, until today. After the independent, a few roads named after Birch were renamed as Dato Maharajalela Road. The road that next to the Birch Memorial at Ipoh, as you can guess, is Dato Maharajalela Road (ironic, is it?).

HSBC Bank at Sultan Yussuf Road was built in 1931 with neo-renaissance style (upper left). Tenaga National (upper right) and former S.P.H. De Silva building (lower right) were located at the both ends of Maharajalela Road, respectively. Old shoplots like Chung Thye Phin Building are everywhere in Ipoh old town.

Eu Yan Sang is located at Bandar Timah Road (formerly Leech Street, upper left). The shop was found in 1879 by Eu Kong, a tin miner who was selling herbs to cure opium addicts. Then, his son, Eu Tong Sen took over the business and expanded the business into million dollar Chinese pharmaceutical giant, as we can see today. Gabled shophouses (upper right) can be seen at the end of Leech Street. Hawkers are selling their food in front of Sin Yoon Loong (lower right), on the same street with Eu Yan Sang. Famous Ipoh old town white coffee is available at Sin Yoon Loong. Chinese wholesale district is a part of Ipoh old town (lower left).

Most of the shops which are now located in the old town are operated by new owners. Without additional information, there will be no way for us to find out the history of the shops. So, we would like to recommend to get information from Tourist Information Center first before your tour. We found that the leaflets themed "Ipoh Heritage Trail Map 1" and "Ipoh Heritage Trail Map 2" were really helpful for us, in both planning our way through the site, as well as revealing the story behind the buildings.

Our recommended route- Starting from Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab Road, head north until you reach St. John Church. Then, go back to S.P. Seenevasagam Road. At the end of the road, turn right and walk along Sultan Yussuf Road and its vicinity, until Silang Road. The must visit sites are Ipoh Town Hall, Ipoh Railway Station, St. Micheal Institution, Birch Memorial, the finance street along Sultan Yussuf Road, and the old coffee shops along Bandar Timah Road (at the southern part of Sultan Yussuf Road). The whole journey should take one to two hours (without snack stop).

More information about Ipoh old town is available at:
Perak Heritage Society
Ipoh Heritage Trail Map 1 at Ipohworlds.org
Ipoh Heritage Walk at Malaysia-traveller.com
Kinta Heritage Group Sdn. Bhd. @ Facebook

Instead of the old town area, Ipoh is well known for its food. We tried many of them, and most of them are nice. Follow us to know more about Ipoh's food now.

All our sharing about Ipoh and places in vicinity are available too. Please follow the links below.