This is a couple trip my husband and I took to Ipoh. We self-planned everything (no tours, no packages), just a credit card, internet, Malaysian Sim card, passport, some Ringgit, minimal clothes and a taste for adventure.
These are a few very important links or apps you need to bookmark or download if you’re self-planning a trip to Malaysia.
Getting to Ipoh
7h by bus (Easybook) or 1h by plane (Tigerair).
Google maps app
Useful if you’re figuring your way around.
Type in your location, click on Places Of Interest and click on the map option to check out the tourist spots in the vicinity. It works for restaurants and hotels too (but we prefer Booking.com for this).
Accommodation: Plus! Gateway, ShopBack, HotelsCombined
If you normally book your accommodation through travel websites such as expedia or booking.com etc, go to Plus! Gateway or ShopBack FIRST, click on the travel website and make a booking. You can collect Linkpoints or cashback with each confirmed stay.
If you’re in a hurry to find the best deal, try the HotelsCombined price comparison website so you don’t have to compare deals one by one on various booking websites. You can compare prices from the top travel sites (think of HotelsCombined as something like a Skyscanner for accommodation).
My Ipoh Adventure
I didn’t really know much about Ipoh except for its great eats. But after my first proper Ipoh trip, if I had one word to describe this amazing place, it would be “ADVENTURE”.
Adventure 1: Getting lost before our Ipoh road trip started
There are a few ways to get to Ipoh, by car (7h+ drive), bus (7-8h), train (didn’t bother), plane (1h).
We decided to take an overnight bus (booked via Easybook website) and a plane back (which is more affordable flying back into Singapore than flying out).
The most important thing you need to know is that your bus will only stop at Amanjaya (outskirts of Ipoh), even if your ticket address says Jln Bendahara (Ipoh centre).
Apparently buses aren’t allowed to stop at Jln Bendahara anymore, you have to take a shuttle bus from Amanjaya to Jln Bendahara now.
We didn’t know, and being literal, we thought our bus would go to Jln Bendahara after dropping people off at Amanjaya.
But before we knew it, the bus was on the expressway to Taiping. Two other Perak locals were also caught offguard, and we alighted at Taiping half an hour later to get another bus back to Ipoh.
So be warned!!
We ended up having to wait an hour for the return bus trip to Ipoh, so the four of us trooped off to a local coffee shop for breakfast.
That’s my RM3.50 wantan mee below, yummy!
We reached Ipoh Amanjaya late at 1030am, where a very kind staff of the car rental company we were hiring a car from waited for us.
Finally our road trip started!!
Adventure 2: Exploring the ins and outs of Perak Cave Temple
We first drove to Perak Cave Temple, which is an amazing temple built within a limestone cave.
There are many deities you can pray to. Donations for joss sticks start from RM2, and candles from RM15.
We climbed up the staircase to the various pavilions on top of the limestone rock. The view is so-so, very industrial.
But it was nice just to relax at the pavilion.
Must go: 4/5 if you like temples and caves
Adventure 3: exploring the lake and surrounds at Gunung Lang
Within a short drive from Perak Cave Temple, Gunung Lang is a recreation area which you can take your kids to.
There are playgrounds, you can buy RM2 bread or bring your own to feed the various fish and turtles, take a boat out to the other side of the lake and take photos of the scenery.
Must go: 4/5 with kids, or if you like parks with scenery
Adventure 4: Ipoh eats at Kedai Makanan Nam Heong
Parking is tough here, try to park further away and walk.
This coffee shop is famous for its dim sum and egg tarts (which I found so-so).
We tried the prawn mee and Hokkien mee at RM5.50 each, definitely worth a try!
The white coffee is great too.
Must go: 4/5 only if you’re in the area and you are willing to fight traffic (both cars and humans)
Adventure 5: food varieties at Restoran Kam Wan Aneka Selera
This is a food court that we had dinner at.
We tried the popiah (fantastic crunchiness), fried kuay teow (serving was too small) and chee cheong fun (good value but it was too much carbo for me).
You can also try the nasi pandan (long queue though) and many various other stalls (we saw a vegetarian and Italian stall there too).
Must go: 3.5/5 good for groups who can’t decide on a single cuisine to eat, and on a budget
Adventure 6: activities at Ipoh Parade Mall
This mall is pretty big, with a cinema, K Box, bowling alleys, expensive supermarket, Parkson Grand department store, a couple of DIY stores, Popular and a food court at the top floor. A Uniqlo is also set to open soon.
One of my favorite stores here is Mr DIY, which is a mishmash of homeware, sports, school stuff, hardware and car accessories.
You can check out cinema timings at the GSC website and here are the K Box rates below.
Must go: 4/5 if you want an air con shopping mall with things to do
What is Ipoh like?
Ipoh is similar to Penang, just less crowded and the roads are wider.
There are many Chinese coffee shops and biscuit shops to get traditional snacks at.
Weather is hot like Singapore, roads are generally easy to drive with GPS, and it’s a pretty relaxed place except when you’re driving in the city centre.
What I like about Ipoh is that it’s so central.
You can either stay within Ipoh to enjoy the eats and activities, or go North South East West to explore other areas.
It helps that we found a decent car hire company with good service.
If you hate long bus rides, just take a one hour or so flight to Ipoh airport from Singapore.
The airport is close to the city centre also. Like a 5-10 min drive away.
So if you’re looking for adventures, come to Ipoh.
Also published on Medium.