Exploring Ipoh while on an impromptu heritage walk, I had my doubts on how such a sleepy town could actually be the 3rd largest city in Malaysia. Seeing Ipoh for the first time, I felt like I had stepped into a bygone era when people still traveled by rickshaws and opium dens were the order of the day inside the many Peranakan-style shophouses. The quietness of the old town’s streets coupled with the charming but crumbling colonial architecture only seemed to add to the allure.
the ipoh railway station… affectionately known as the taj mahal of ipoh
Regardless, there’s nary a doubt on Ipoh’s historical significance. The colonial buildings here are some of the most impressive in Malaysia. With the historic Ipoh Railway Station as a natural starting point, I began my walking tour down the compact old town where an architecture buff such as I was in for a treat. From here, the whitewashed Ipoh City Hall was practically staring at me in the face, with its Edwardian Baroque features that I swore bore a strong resemblance to Singapore’s Raffles Hotel. A walked a few more steps down the road and was greeted by more fancy-looking buildings. OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC… Ipoh in its heyday during the tin mining boom, was second only to Kuala Lumpur in importance and had many major banks erecting their own buildings when they set up shop. The original occupants are still there to this day, this time embellishing their ultra-modern logos against the classical structures.