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.

Ipoh Food

Ipoh is a city which is famous with its old town, food, and limestone caves. About nice food, plenty of them. We stayed at Ipoh for two days, and it's better for us to share about Ipoh's food chronologically. We started with the supper at "Tong Sui Kai", or the dessert street. Located at Sultan Ekram Road, opposite of Sam Tet Chinese School. The street is around 1.5 km away from Ipoh Railway Station, but it is just 200 m away from the hotel we stayed, Excelsior Hotel.

We tried several types of desserts, such as the shaved ice with fruits, wheat and barley porridge, wantan noodle, Ipoh char kuey teaw, and noodle soup with pork and offal.

A scene at the dessert street. This photo was taken at 10:15 pm, with a large crowd of Ipoh's food lovers gathering at the street. According to Livien (our volunteer tour guide :p), the street is one of the favorable supper site at Ipoh. Most of the stalls there are owned by Chinese. The stalls operate until midnight.

Kelly (LS's sister) with a bowl of shaved ice with mix fruits (upper left) on our way back to our hotel. The shaved ice can be served with many combination of fruits. Ice kacang (upper right) and wheat and barley porridge (lower left) are nice as well, but we like the shaved ice with mix fruits the most.

Chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll), some pronounce as Chu cheong fun at Ipoh has different appearance and taste from other places in Malaysia (upper left). Bee hoon with pork and offal (upper right), char kuey teow (lower left), and wantan noodle were the food that we took at the dessert street.

One of the grandmaster chef of "hum dan" (fried flattened noodle with egg and cockle).

Saturday morning, we woke up early to go for Ipoh dim sum. The shop, Ming Court Hong Kong Dim Sum, located at Leong Sin Nam Road, is just 30 m away from our hotel. 7:30 am, there were not many customers in the shop yet, so there was no problem for us to secure a table. Anyway, more and more customers were coming as the time passed. By the time we left at 8:30 am, it was a full house, with no empty table. Many customers had to wait to be seated. Our advice, if you wish to have a relax environment while you are enjoying your nice dim sum, please be early.

Many types of dim sum are available. For this dim sum shop, we just need to settle down and we will be served. On the other hand, Foh San dim sum shop requires self service.

We reached early around 7:30 am. There were many empty table for us.

This photo was taken at 8:30 am, when we were about to leave Ming Court. The shop was full with customers, with many of them standing, awaiting for empty seats.

Wishing for a enjoyable breakfast and a sense of leisure morning? Then you need to be early. You won't feel good if there is someone standing beside you, awaiting to take your seat, while you are flipping for the headlines after your meal, will you?

On our way to old town area, Livien and Bryant suggested that we make a snack stop at yong tau foo (or yong to fu) shop. The shop, Jia Bing is located at Kampung Paluh area (1.5 km away from the old town area). Although our stomach were really full, still we accepted the suggestion.

Picking the food with a full stomach required more effort than doing the same thing with an empty stomach.

Various Ipoh yong tau foo.

Ipoh yong tau foo can be served in soup (left) or to be fried (right). The price, in average, was RM 0.70 per item.

Original Ipoh old town white coffee comes from Sin Yoon Loong at Bandar Timah Road (formerly Leech Street). The shop was established in 1937. For the past 70 years, it served Ipoh with its famous white coffee. Today, it remains as an old coffee house, serving nostalgic white coffee, brewed from freshly roasted coffee bean.

Can you imagine how good is the coffee here? The customers keep on coming, even though it was almost 5 pm.

After being standing and waiting for 10 minutes, we found a place to sit. The taste of the original Ipoh white coffee didn't let us down. Not sort of legendary taste, but, with RM1.30 per cup, it definitely beats Starbucks coffee in many ways.

Ipoh bean sprout chicken. Somebody told us that, if we ever missed Ipoh bean sprout chicken in our  trip, then we couldn't be considered had ever visited Ipoh. That was serious. So, to conclude our Ipoh trip, we visited Onn Kee Restaurant, one of the best bean sprout chicken shop in the town. Onn Kee Restaurant is located at Yao Tet Sin Road (in Google Map is Yao Tet Shin). Another famous Ipoh bean sprout chicken shop, Lou Wong is just beside Onn Kee. Again, we would like to mention that it is just a few hundred meters away from our hotel.

Onn Kee Restaurant is located side by side with Lou Wong. Both restaurants. No matter they are friends or enemies, both of them serve delicious bean sprout chicken (we tried Lou Wong before, on our previous trip to Ipoh).

Mouth watering kampung chicken (upper left) served with Ipoh home grown bean sprouts (upper right). According to the locals, the bean sprouts are grown using natural mineral water from the limestone hills in the vicinity of Ipoh. So, the taste is better than the ordinary tap water grown bean sprouts. The portion served was more substantial compared to Hainan chicken rice at Melaka. One whole kampung chicken was enough for 7 persons. The price, together with all other dishes (lower right) was about RM10 per person. Instead of chicken rice, we can choose to have Ipoh hor fun together with the bean sprout chicken.

Lunch with Bryant, Livien, Livien's parents, and Kelly (cameraman).

Lastly, tau foo fah at Ipoh. Tau foo fah (or to fu fah, or to fu fa) is a traditional Chinese food made by soy bean serves in sweetened syrup. We tried Ipoh tau foo fah at two different shops, one is Funny Mountain at Theatre Road, which is a block away from Lou Wong and Onn Kee, another is Woong Kee at Dato Onn Jaafar Road. 

The nice food in Ipoh are quite scattered. However, we are lucky as we stayed in Excelsior Hotel. Tong Sui Kai, bean sprout chicken, Ipoh dim sum, and some tau foo fah shops are within walking distance from our hotel. So, if you wish to try some nice Ipoh's food, you can consider to stay in Excelsior Hotel, or somewhere nearby. 

To all our readers, if you have some recommendation about nice food in Ipoh, please share it in your comment. A big thank you to all of you.

Now, let us go to visit some Limestone Caves in Ipoh.

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

Ipoh Limestone Caves

Limestone caves, together with the food and the old town, are the icons of Ipoh. People might say, if you missed certain types of food, then you might not consider yourself have ever being to Ipoh. We would like to add the limestone caves into the list.

Ipoh is a city built at the valley of limestone hills. Many of these hills are blended into the city's landscape.

The limestone hill beside the road. We have to turn left after the KFC signage if we want to visit Kek Lok Tong, or go straight if we want to visit Sam Poh Tong.

There are several famous limestone caves at Ipoh, which include Sam Poh Tong ("Tong" means cave in Mandarin), Kek Lok Tong, Tambun Cave, Perak Tong, Tempurung Cave, and many other small caves. Many of these caves have become the setting ground for temples and places of worship for Buddhists and Taoists. We visited one of the most beautiful limestone caves- Kek Lok Tong. "Kek Lok" means the "Greatest Hapiness" or "Bliss". The temple in the cave was built in 1970's, but the cave itself had been used as a place of worship as early as 1920's. What makes this cave special is the collection of bronze statues of Buddha. The well landscaped gardens outside the cave are attractive as well. The opening hours are from 7 am - 6 pm, including public holidays. Admission is free. The official address is Kek Look Tong, Gunung Rapat, Ipoh, Perak

Our photo at the entrance of Kek Lok Tong. The cave is quite seclusive, hidden behind Mount Rapat. In order to visit the cave, we need to drive through the residential area beside Raja Musa Mahadi Road (Taman Endah Jaya). Lack of signage at the last few junctions, first timer might need to stop and ask the locals for  direction.

The entrance of the cave. The stairs lead to the first level of Kek Lok Tong.

Some of the bronze Buddha statues on the first stage of the cave. We can feel the cold blowing wind from this stage onwards.

The naturally carved stalactites offer wonderful view in the cave.

The nicely landscaped garden on the other side of the cave, surrounded by the hills with a pond in the middle. The picturesque scenery is an element of surprise to the visitors.

We tried to visit Sam Po Cave as well, but had mistakenly took Ling Sen Tong and Tian Lan Tong as Sam Po Cave. From a tourist's perspective, Kek Lok Tong is far more attractive than Ling Sen Tong and Nan Tian Tong. 

Ling Sen Tong is located 3.5 km away from Kek Lok Tong, and it is located just few hundred meters away from Sam Po Tong.

 The temple of Ling Sen Tong.

 A view from a tower at Ling Sen Tong towards Nan Tian Tong.

 Nan Tian Tong is located side by side with Ling Sen Tong.

A view inside Nan Tian Tong.

Overall, we had a wonderful experience in visiting the limestone caves around Ipoh. We will definitely visit other major limestone caves around the city in future.

More information about Kek Lok Tong (or Kek Look Tong) is available at its official website. Just a reminder, as Kek Lok Tong, Ling Sen Tong, and Nan Tian Tong are places of worship, so please act accordingly and keep these places clean.

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

TravePhoto @ Malacca

Melaka has always been considered the starting point of the Malaysian Sultanate Dynasties, which many of the Sultans of the states today share the same family tree with Parameswara, the founder of Melaka. Melaka has influenced Malaysia in many ways. The Official Religion of Malaysia- Islam, is one of the legacies from the sultanate of Melaka.

We has been to Melaka for several times, and wish to share some of our photos on Melaka with all of you. Hope you enjoy them!

Special Notes:
-Please click on "Show Info" at top right corner of the slideshow to see the caption of the photos. If you can't find the menu, press "control" key and scroll "up" your mouse to enlarge the font size.
-While keep the slideshow playing, keep your mouse out of the slideshow "screen" to see the "full-screen" photos.

These photos can be viewed at highest resolution on Ling Shing's flickr.

Go back to Our TravePhoto page. Or get more sharing about our experience in Melaka at: