How to Spend 48 Hours in Ipoh, Malaysia

Visit the touristy Market and Concubine Lane in Ipoh
Visit the touristy Market and Concubine Lane in Ipoh | © NavinTar/Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

Cave temples, colonial buildings, traditional shophouses, and a thriving food scene said to be second only to Penang are just some of Perak’s highlights. Here’s how budget-conscious travellers can spend 48 hours in Ipoh, the state capital, to experience its cultural heritage, delicious food, and a visit to the mysterious Kellie’s Castle.

Before setting off

Ipoh sits approximately 200 kilometres (124 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur and 160 kilometres (99 miles) south of Penang’s George Town, making an ideal city for a stopover. The Kinta River divides Ipoh into the old and new towns. Colonial buildings such as the Railway Station, City Hall and various government offices sit inside the older part. The new town has a modern appearance filled with office blocks, retail outlets and an active entertainment scene. Ipoh itself is relatively small and tourists can easily walk around the city. But the cave temples and Kellie’s Castle are further away. Pro tip: Grab is an excellent and more affordable alternative to relying on taxis. Culture Trip recommends Mari Hostel, which is both affordable and sociable, with beds starting at just RM75 ($19) per night.

Day one

A recent tourism campaign put Perak and its capital Ipoh on the international radar. Visitors arriving in Ipoh will find reasonably good infrastructure. Those arriving at the bus station should be aware it’s located approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the city centre and shouldn’t cost more than RM15 ($3.80) with Grab. The train station is in the heart of the city and tourists can walk to their hotel or hostel.

Ipoh Railway Station is one of the popular landmarks in Perak

Start the day with a cup of the region’s famous Ipoh white coffee at Nam Heong White Coffee on Jalan Bandar Timah in the old town. Breakfast is available here too. Stroll through Ipoh’s old town and marvel at the elegantly designed shophouses with colourful façades and intricate patterns lining the street. Visit Masjid Negara (National Mosque), the early 20th-century British clock tower, Ipoh High Court, and Railway Station. While Ipoh’s colonial heritage isn’t as strong as Penang, the architecture is still elegant and representative of a bygone era. Pro tip: the tourist information office is on the right-hand side of the railway station and it offers a variety of leaflets, maps and information on Ipoh and Perak.

Another iconic building located opposite the famous railway station in Ipoh

Have a coffee or soft drink at Plan B Ipoh on Jalan Panglima before visiting the nearby Miniature Wonders Art Gallery. The small gallery displays scenes from ancient China, including the Terracotta Army with handcrafted models made from dough. Cross the River Kinta and go straight to Mural Art’s Lane, a small path with street art dedicated to Perak’s heritage, food and local family life. Stroll through the new town, soak up the environment, snap a few photographs and buy souvenirs.

Jalan Panglima, or also known as Concubine Lane, has a lot to offer visitors
Get some souvenirs while strolling along Panglima Lane
See the artwork and murals on Market Lane
Capture the best photos in and around Market Lane

In the early evening, order a Grab to the MBI Clock Tower opposite Ipoh City Council. A giant flag flies at the one end of the park as the clock tower stands at the other. After a few photographs, exit on the northern side. Walk west along Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said for approximately half a kilometre before turning right on Jalan Raja Musa Aziz to Seenivasagam Gardens. A jogging area, Japanese-style gardens, and a small lake are inside the park. Next, walk further along the road for a few minutes to the Hindu Kallumalai Arulmigu Subramaniyar Temple and Buddhist cave temple. Be aware of stray dogs.

Clock tower on Ipoh’s town square
Hindu temple along Jalan Raja Musa Aziz

Ipoh doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene. But it does boast an impressive reputation for food every visitor can enjoy in 48 hours in Ipoh. Parade Food Court offers a selection of Chinese-style dishes and serves cold bottles of beer for a quiet drink or two.

Day two

The second part of 48 hours in Ipoh involves exploring the surrounding cave temples and Kellie’s Castle. For efficiency, use Grab to get from one destination to the next or hire a taxi driver for the day. Start early and expect to return in late afternoon.
Start the morning at Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong on Jalan Bandar Timah in Ipoh’s old town for a local-style breakfast and coffee. The first attraction is the mysterious, unfinished and potentially haunted Kellie’s Castle, which is approximately 21 kilometres (13 miles) from Ipoh in Batu Gajah. An eccentric Scottish colonialist commissioned the mansion for his family before suddenly passing away. Kellie’s Castle remains unfinished. Getting here can be challenging and tourists need to be patient if they rely on Grab. Ask the driver to wait at Kellie’s Castle for a ride back to Ipoh in exchange for a small fee or tip as getting back might be time-consuming.

The unfinished mansion located in Batu Gajah, Perak
William Kellie-Smith’s mansion remained unfinished after his sudden death

The afternoon of day two on the 48 hours in Ipoh itinerary focuses on visiting the famous limestone cave temples. Stop at Sam Poh Tong and Ling Sen Tong after returning from Kellie’s Castle. Most tourists spend no more than an hour exploring these two adjacent temples. Use Grab again to reach Kek Lok Tong on the other side of the hill. Finally, visit Perak Tong, Ipoh’s most well-known cave temple approximately 20 minutes away by car. A highlight of Perak Tong, or Perak Temple, is climbing the 450 steps for a view of the city.

The colours around Nam Thean Tong temple
The beautiful garden with a fish pond in Sam Poh Tong temple

Evening and night
After an active day and productive 48 hours in Ipoh, head to St Patrick’s Irish Pub on Jalan Raja Ekram to knock back a few drinks and unwind. Live music and a selection of local and imported beers provide the perfect environment to reflect on Ipoh. Or head to one of the other bars lining Jalan Raja. Tourists will find several restaurants in this area offering mid-range dining experience too.

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