Miss out any of these spots and consider your trip incomplete.
Ipoh – a quaint city with its old town’s charm of beautiful colonial-style coffeeshops and well-preserved pre-war architecture, with the occasional flash of street art brightening the weathered corners. Voted 9th of the World’s Top 10 Regions 2017 and 6th Best Place In Asia To Visit 2016 by Lonely Planet, Ipoh has enjoyed a surge in popularity – especially among the younger crowd.
As cliche as it may sound, one of the must-do activities in Ipoh is the heritage walk – simply put, walk around the old town area. Everyone knows that playing tourist game isn’t complete without strolling around the Concubine Lane and Kong Heng Square. These places are nothing new to the tourists – I mean, we have Jonker Walk in Malacca, Armenian Street in Penang, and Chinatown in KL.
Nonetheless, here goes nothing new in the old town of Ipoh – and why you should still go and explore.
1. Concubine Lane
Worth of more than 120 years of history, Concubine Lane is a perfect definition of ‘gentrification done right’. Back in 2015, most tourists would label Ipoh’s Old Town as a quiet and laid-back town with traditional coffeeshops that served original white coffee.
Concubine Lane? Not much heard of.
However, a year later, Ipoh was listed as among Top 10 Best Places To Visit In Asia by Lonely Planet and photos of Concubine Lane started to make an appearance in news articles. Yes, after undergone a drastic change, Concubine Lane reopened.
Going all the way back to pre-independence days, the town was rebuilt with lanes of shops after the fire in 1892. Folklore has it that a mining tycoon, Yao Tet Shin gave away three lanes to his three wives as gifts – hence, the names;
- Wife Lane – Lorong Hale (大奶巷)
- Concubine Lane – Lorong Panglima (二奶巷)
- Second Concubine Lane – Market Lane (三奶巷)
Today’s Concubine Lane is the most transformed (and most popular, too) lane among all three. There’s probably only one house in Concubine Lane left untouched – but the rest is history.
Concubine Lane is the most vibrant on weekends and holidays where many pop-up stalls are opened, selling cactus, colourful iceballs, flower-shaped cotton candy, and souvenirs. During the Chinese New Year season, the lane is more lively with red lanterns, making the street looks a resemblance to the Chinatown.
Despite the scorching-hot day with the crowds making it hard to manoeuvre around, there are loads of interesting stalls to check out along the way, and most importantly, for social media influencer wannabe, lots of Instagram-worthy spots and props worth to take pictures with.
2. Kong Heng Square Artisan Market
Quietly nestled at the corner of Panglima Road, at the first glance, you may not notice its presence there. The building around the square is rather old – or should I say, decaying?
My first thought was of that “there’s nothing to see here”. And, gladly, I was proven wrong.
Whispering the vibe of weekend flea markets and craft bazaars, Kong Heng Square the most breath-taking juxtaposition of ‘old old’ and ‘new old’.
Adding to the bucket list, Kong Heng Square Artisan Market is a perfect example of the retro revival of Ipoh’s Old Town without compromising its history. And for that reason, you must not skip this square when strolling around the town.
3. Ho Yan Hor Museum
Located at Jalan Bijeh Timah – one-block away from Ipoh Kong Heng is Ho Yan Hor Museum. As part of Ipoh’s history since 1941, the pre-war heritage building used to be the home to Dr. Ho Kai Cheong, founder of Ho Yan Hor (now Hovid Berhad) herbal tea. People from all walk of life are welcomed to learn the history of Dr. Ho who began as an operator of a humble tea stall and later emerged as a famous entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Adored by not only by the Ipoh community but by many others, Dr. Ho has set a good example and is known to be the role model for the Ipoh – a true reflection of the town and its people. Dr. Ho’s genuine effort has not only been beneficial to many people from those days until now but also made him the pride of Ipoh.
Ipoh has made its comeback. Based on all the reasons above, your trip to Ipoh is not, at all, complete by just sipping that white coffee off the classic vintage cup.
Walk back in time and be amazed at the nostalgic, retro heritage charms.