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- 27 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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Ipoh is tucked away in the foothills of Malaysia's cool, green-blanketed Cameron Highlands. The once-colonial city has had a makeover since the last days of tin mining in the 1980s. Now, arty cafés and fashion boutiques fill the romantic, British-style mansions, and huge swathes of street art cover whitewashed alleys. Pockets of history scattered around Ipoh tell the stories of this region's many visitors and residents over the years.
Hostels in Ipoh reflect its eclectic nature. Find stylish courtyards decorated with fairy lights, and a former laundry house with quirky, industrial fittings. Many Ipoh hostels have communal kitchens, although some are just a stroll from the night markets, where you can grab a bowl of freshly prepared kai si hor fun (shredded chicken noodles). Some hostels have outdoor terraces and TV rooms for relaxing. Look out for an Ipoh hostel that offers bike rental or has free breakfast.
The Kinta River divides Ipoh into the old town in the west and the new town in the east. Admire the grandest examples of colonial architecture in the old town, with the train station and town hall being highlights. Here, kedai kopi shops brewing the city's signature white coffee sit among kitsch boutiques in restored Chinese shop fronts. Across the river in the new town is where you'll see Ipoh's modern revolution through street art, shops and entertainment.
One way of seeing the sights of Ipoh is on a food tour. Its 'hawker' stalls fill the air with the aromas of bean sprout chicken, spicy curry mee and the famous kopi putih coffee. Make the new town's Central Point Food Court one of your stops to try a bit of everything. Peer at tiny scenes of Chinese life at Miniature Wonders Art Gallery, or visit 'haunted' Kellie's Castle – a mansion abandoned to the jungle. Ipoh is surrounded by decorative Buddhist temples carved into the cliffs – check out Kek Lok Tong for its dramatic entrance.
You can get to Ipoh's Sultan Azlan Shah Airport from either Singapore or Johor Bahru; a taxi from there to the old town takes around 15 minutes. However, most visitors arrive by bus into Terminal AmanJaya (the main bus station) outside the city. It connects to Ipoh Railway Station in the centre of the old town by an hourly bus (taking between 1 and 2 hours). The old town is compact and easy to walk around, but for sights out of town it's easiest to hire a taxi for the day.