Ipoh attracts tourists for its colonial architecture, limestone cliffs, cave temples as well as its convenient location between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. But aside from the historical and religious attractions, there are also a few speciality museums in Ipoh worth checking out. Here are eight of our favourites.
Miniature Wonders Art Gallery
The Miniature Wonders Art Gallery is one of the more unusual museums in Ipoh. Carefully handcrafted miniature figurines made entirely from dough are painstakingly arranged in long displays depicting scenes from ancient China. The ground floor (free admission) features life in a typical Beijing street. Head upstairs for RM5 ($1.30) and see the ‘Tang Dynasty Banquet’, the meticulous ‘Story of Making of Terra Cotta Warriors’ and ‘Along the River During the Ching Ming Festival’. Each display offers a window into ancient China.
Housed inside a refurbished shophouse with a light blue façade, the Tea Museum covers the story of Ho Yan Hor Chinese Herbal Tea and its founder of the same name. Admission is free and tourists can walk through various exhibits to learn more about the origin and production of this particular type of tea. Expect to spend half an hour learning his inspiring story. Staff also provide samples and an opportunity for tourists to buy tea sets as souvenirs.
The Han Chin Pet Soo museum inside a restored late 19th-century Hakka Miner’s Club opened its doors in 2015. Exhibits and photographs over three floors detail the rich history of Ipoh’s tin mining industry. Well-preserved artefacts and models of miners offer the chance to gain a deeper insight into regional history. Friendly English-speaking guides are available to explain displays and to answer questions on the Miner’s Club, Ipoh and Perak. While admission is free, visitors are asked to make a suggested donation of RM10 ($2.50) for the building’s upkeep and maintenance.
Established in 1957, the Geological Museum in Ipoh belongs to the Minerals and Geoscience Department Complex. Acting as a major centre of geology and geoscience in Malaysia, it consists of seven zones labelled A to G. Exhibits in each of the areas cover the history of the museum, dinosaur fossils and mining activities as well as minerals, crystals and gemstones and their uses. Other parts detail the more industrialised side of geology and mining. Expect to find well-organised displays and easy-to-read information boards in one of the more educational museums in Ipoh.
Dream Big World is a model car museum along Concubine Lane. With an extensive collection of rare models and displays about the automotive industry, a trip to this family-friendly museum in Ipoh promises a treat. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner often speaks to visitors to explain precisely the types of cars on display and to answer any in-depth questions related to their models, engines and mechanics.
The Palong Tin Museum covers the history of Perak and Ipoh’s tin mining industry. Exhibits and displays provide information on mining, offering an insight into how the town developed and grew following the boom years. While this museum in Ipoh is modest in size, it does give an introduction into dredging methods, underground mining and more contemporary technologies.
Dedicated to Malaysian film director, scriptwriter and writer Yasmin Ahmad, this art museum in Ipoh features a collection of exhibits, videos and audio clips. The family-owned museum opens only on weekends and the significance might escape those who are unfamiliar with the director and her work. But for the sake of RM5 ($1.30), it’s worth visiting to learn more about this inspirational Malaysian’s life and legacy.
Wisma Chye Hin isn’t the typical museum in Ipoh, but it does warrant a visit for the curious traveller. Inside the once-derelict building, hand-painted murals by local artist Chin Choon Yau cover the stairwell walls. With an attempt to capture the essence of Ipoh from the 1920s to 1960s, it offers a glimpse into the city’s past. Images include scenes from the barber shop, the dim sum restaurant and the wooden sandal shop. Props and vintage signs make the murals more life-like in this vacant building transformed into an intriguing little-known attraction.