I’d been wanting to visit Ipoh since my first trip to Malaysia when I heard it was a foodie paradise. It probably is, but not for vegans! As I wasn’t able to eat much in the city I only stayed around for a few days to visit a few temples and spot street art. Ipoh may be the biggest city in Peninsular Malaysia’s central Perak state but it feels more like a quaint town. Here’s where to explore, eat vegan, and stay in Ipoh.
HOW TO GET TO IPOH
Ipoh is located about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Many people visit as a day trip but with plenty of other cities to see along the route, I suggest taking a least a week to get between both cities so that you can visit Melaka, Ipoh, and Cameron Highlands. You can easily get between the cities via luxurious A/C buses. I always book my tickets on Baolau as they allow foreign card transactions and have options with a variety of bus companies. I took the bus from Melaka to Ipoh and then onwards to Penang which was seamless.
Grab is available in Ipoh and is a lifesaver on hot days when you want to explore places that aren’t reachable on foot.
WHERE TO STAY IN IPOH
There are many accommodation options in Ipoh but I was surprised that the nightly rates for budget places were a bit higher than other places in the country. I spent my first night at Winggarden Murals House so I could wake up early to explore the Buddhist Perak Cave Temple and enjoy the in-house 3D mural gallery.
I then moved into the Old Town and took up a short residence at De Cafe & Rest House. The darling boutique hostel is one of the coziest dorm rooms I’ve ever stayed in with ultra-soft beds and privacy curtains. The location is perfect for exploring all of the Old Town murals.
Browse available rooms for your trip to Ipoh on Booking.com.
VEGAN FOOD IN IPOH
Ipoh is known as Malaysia’s culinary capital but sadly this doesn’t extend to plant-based eaters. However, there are some traditional restaurants and modern cafes that do have at least one vegan-friendly dish on the menu. Hawker food markets pop up at night where you can custom order iconic Malaysian dishes—be sure to ask for no fish sauce or egg. A safe bet is the Malaysian-Indian restaurants such as Sri Anadha Bahavan and Krishna Bhawan. Outside of the Old Town, there are more vegetarian restaurants so if you have a car or don’t mind paying for a taxi add Vegan Life, Loving Hut Ipoh, Fung Lai, and Fu Tien Vegetarian Restaurant to your list.
The modern Vegan Delights Café (GoogleMaps) is outside of the city center but the closest vegan eatery. They have a gigantic menu of Asian and Western dishes as well as decadent desserts like a vegan coconut cake. This ginger broth soup was literally just what the doctor ordered for me full of medicinal plants and spices. Other fan favorites include the vegan mushroom burger and vegan rendition of carbonara. Vegan Delights is also an ethical business due to their employment standards as they create job opportunities for members of the disabled community. Some waiters are deaf so be sure to use the paper to order and keep your voice low while enjoying plant-based food at Vegan Delights.
There are many hip cafes in Ipoh but sadly most of them don’t have a single plant-based thing on the menu. Plan B (GoogleMaps) is an exception, but barely, as they have a few salad options. You’re better off going here for juice and coffee and the decent WiFi if you’re looking for a space to cowork. Plan B is located in the Kong Heng Square industrial creative hub that’s home to other hip businesses including some boutiques, a barbershop, and museum. If you’re in town on the weekend there’s a great market here that even has knife massages.
LIM KO PI
Lim Ko Pi (GoogleMaps) was the only local restaurant in Ipoh that was able to make me a vegan curry. It was delicious but super spicy, for me at least. The old school dining hall serves traditional Ipoh foods and has wonderful kind staff.
WHERE TO EXPLORE IN IPOH
SPOT ALL THE STREET ART
Ipoh has a collection of murals by the same artist who made George Town so famous for its street art — Ernest Zacharevic. The Lithuanian street artist painted the town in 2014 and left behind several murals in Ipoh: A Yellow Hummingbird (GoogleMaps), A Paper Plane (GoogleMaps), Old Uncle Drinking Coffee (GoogleMaps), Kopi Break (GoogleMaps), A Single Bag of Coffee (GoogleMaps), and Trishaw (GoogleMaps).
Unlike George Town, in Ipoh, you won’t have to wait in line to snap a picture of your favorite murals as there are significantly fewer tourists here.
There are also many vibrant murals around town that depict life in Ipoh and were painted by locals, especially in the Mural Art’s Lane (GoogleMaps) district. Dozens of paintings of all sorts of subjects, colors, and sizes are found in the area. Take a stroll and see how many of the below pieces you can find — double points if you know what cultures and festivals they’re portraying.
STROLL DOWN THE LANEWAYS
Many of the historic laneways in Ipoh Old Town once organized merchants and traders but have transformed into cultural hubs with cafes and interactive street art installations. Concubine Lane is the most popular with many beautiful cafes. Market lane is where you’ll find the hanging umbrellas and the Trishaw street art mural by Zacharevic. Some of the picturesque townhouses you’ll see were actually once opium dens and brothels.
ENJOY THE BEAUTIFUL FACADES
Similar to Melaka and Penang there are many old heritage buildings in Ipoh. They’re crumbling apart, which shows the decay of time and lack of funds for conservation but are still hauntingly beautiful. Some places of interest to see in Ipoh include Chung Thye Phin building (GoogleMaps), Ipoh Railway Station (GoogleMaps), Birch Memorial Clock Tower (GoogleMaps), and the High Court (GoogleMaps). From Chinese shophouses with shabby chic shutters and British Colonial architecture, you’re sure to find some aesthetically pleasing buildings in Ipoh. To find more buildings to check out refer to the Ipoh Heritage Trail map.
PERAK CAVE TEMPLE
Perak Cave Temple (GoogleMaps) is a limestone cave with a beautiful ruby entrance that leads to the fascinating cave that boasts many religious Neolithic cave paintings — which are some of the oldest in Malaysia. Within you’ll also find many Buddhist shrines. I wasn’t able to do it do to my asthma issues but I heard climbing to the top for the panoramic views of Ipoh is well worth it.
Apparently, this is the most visited cave in Ipoh but it was empty during my early morning visit which goes to show how much under tourism there is in the city.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN IPOH
I didn’t know it at the time but I had pneumonia and lacked energy so didn’t get out much in Ipoh. Some of Ipoh’s best attractions that look fascinating are the abandoned Scottish Kellie’s Castle(GoogleMaps) and the many cultural museums such as the 22 Hale Street heritage museum (GoogleMaps) and the Han Chin Pet Soo (GoogleMaps) house museum.
The otherworldly landscape has many other caves to explore such as Tambun Cave, Guanyin Cave, Sam Poh Tong, Gua Tempurung, and Kek Lok Tong. Noteworthy temples include Nam Thean Tong Temple and Ling Sen Tong Temple which are also worth visiting. Kuala Kangsar is a traditional sultan home and about a 30-minute drive from Ipoh.
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