Ipoh is one of the largest cities in Malaysia and the capital of the state of Perak. It is about half way between the Cameron Highlands and Penang. I decided to spend 24 hours there just to get the feel of a non-touristy town in Northern Malaysia. As I have done many times before, I made the mistake of not noticing the day I was planning to visit.
Sunday. This picture generally captures the vibe of Ipoh on a Sunday. Oh well! At least the place is known for colonial architecture, and that can’t be closed, so I went for a walk around the historic part of town.
The Birch Memorial Clock Tower, named after the first British resident of Perak, James Birch. He was apparently somewhat arrogant with the local Malay chiefs, and that got him a spear through the chest.
A big Government building. In the foreground, a monument to the victims of the 415 km Thai-Burma Railway, better known as the Death Railway. The railway was built during WWII by the Japanese forces, using South-East Asian slave labor and allied POWs. The POWs were very poorly treated and ouf of 61,700, 12,600 perished. The Asians were treated much, much worse and about 80,000 of the 170,000 did not survive. 2 years ago I visited one of the most infamous sections of that railway, the Hellfire Pass.
Almost all the important colonial buildings are either Government offices or banks, presumably the only institutions which can afford them.
The river Kinta, which runs through town.
Most of the streets in Ipoh have arches like these, which is not at all typical in this part of the world. Is allows you to walk around in the oppressive heat and be, most of the time, at least protected from the sun (or rain).
Central Ipoh is very walkable, but you have to be careful when crossing the streets because vehicles may not stop for pedestrians. More importantly, because of the British heritage, instead of driving on the right side of the road like in America and Continental Europe, they drive on the wrong side. But the bigger problem is motorbikes. As per the law, they should also drive on the wrong side, which would be right. But some drive on the right, which is very wrong! So anyway, make sure to look right and wrong, I mean left, before crossing.
By chance I stumbled upon a very large mural in an alley, depicting various chapters of local history.
The modern era was still being worked on, but the artist was not very chatty.
Eventually I found a restaurant that was open, Kafe Yoon Wah, although it was early and they were still setting up the tables. It turned out to be a crazy restaurant.
I often laugh at the length of some Asian restaurant menus, but this one was over the top. The waitress said there were over 1,000 items on the menu! Here on page 27, you see the first 18 choices of bean curd dishes and vegetable options 161 to 183!
In fact, all restaurants on the city block have been bought by one owner, and he operates them all as one. So except for a hardware store, all businesses on both sides of the street are Kafe Yoon Wah’s, and what you don’t see is that many more tables are set up in alleys on both sides. I ordered a soup and a rice dish and a beer. The waitress punched it in a smartphone and got the beer from one of the restaurants. Minutes later, the soup came from another restaurant and the rice dish from yet another. She told me late at night the place is always packed. In case you’re wondering why I was having dinner so early, let me tell you about my lunch. The theoretically helpful hotel receptionist sent me to a Chinese restaurant he thought would be open. It was, and it was full.
But they served only tea, coffee and, toast! No communication issue here, the place was packed and nobody was eating anything but toast. Apparently it’s the thing among the Chinese locals.
And the next morning I was gone.