What To Do in Ipoh in 2 Days? Although there’s always something new popping up in Kuala Lumpur, there are times when you need to get away from the often overwhelming city – at least for a couple days. One weekend, my partner and I decided on spending a couple of days in Ipoh, a charming town in Perak that’s known for hawker fare, colonial structures and a mostly traditional setting.
We chose to drive there, which takes about three hours from Kuala Lumpur, but you can also travel by train if you prefer. The KTM ETS Electric Train Service departs from KL Sentral Station every two hours, with fares starting from RM25 for adults and RM17 for children.
Travel Expert, Writer and Photographer
I’m a small town girl currently living in Kuala Lumpur since 2007. Between 2014 and 2015, I’ve gone on seemingly endless trips to many beautiful cities around the world, including Melbourne, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Hoi An, and Bangkok.
Where we stayed
We chose Brick Box Hotel due to its affordability and convenient location, as it’s situated in the Ipoh Old Town, where some of the town’s popular landmarks are located. A two-night stay in a standard double room costs approximately RM130.
Check-in took us a while as the front desk was servicing another customer, so we took the opportunity to relax in the common area. There were several pamphlets advertising walking tours on display, which the staff asked us to check out in case we needed a guide to explore Ipoh – we declined as we have done some sightseeing here in the past.
Our guestroom was on the second floor, which is accessible via stairs or elevator. The bedroom was very cosy, featuring a double bed with soft pillows, a flat-screen TV propped on an exposed brick wall, two vintage lamps and two bedside tables, while the bathroom is all white with free toiletries provided.
My only gripe was the size of the room – we couldn’t leave our luggage open and, since there’s no wardrobe, we resorted to hanging our clothes on a metal rail that’s fitted close to the TV. Other than that, the room had decent soundproofing so we had a pleasant, noise-free rest throughout our stay.
Day One: Stepping Back into My Childhood
We had departed from KL at 10:00, after breakfast, so that we could arrive in Ipoh for lunch. The drive was surprisingly smooth, considering it was a Saturday and traffic is usually congested with locals heading back to their hometown during weekends. Along the way, we stopped by one of Perak’s many Buddhist temples, aptly called the Perak Cave Temple (or Perak Tong).
Located along Jalan Kuala Kangsar, the temple is set within a limestone cave and houses a gold-coloured Buddha statue that measures 12 metres in height. Colourful hand-painted murals of characters from Chinese mythology decorate the cave walls, while smaller statues of deities are displayed throughout the temple. It was scorching when we got out of the car, but as soon as I stepped inside the cave, the temperature dropped significantly, making me feel relaxed and calm – especially after sitting in the car for an hour.
Afterwards, it was another 30 minutes of driving to the main town, where we checked in to our hotel in Ipoh Old Town. Home to charming walking streets and old-world shops, exploring the town was like stepping back into my childhood, where things like multi-storey shopping malls, huge crowds and bumper-to-bumper traffic were non-existent.
Just around the corner is Concubine Lane, a narrow walkway that has been refurbished into a vibrant commercial area. Flanked by two rows of shop lots, it takes less than 10 minutes to walk from one end to another, but you can find many pop-up stalls selling a variety of souvenirs, local snacks, drinks and ice cream.
Hipster cafés are also popping up all over the Old Town, one of which is Burps & Giggles. Occupying a seemingly dilapidated building on Jalan Sultan Yussuf, I loved the way the café is decorated - repurposed lights, antique décor and colourful wall murals – making it very cosy without being pretentious. I ordered an Iced Latte (RM11++) and a Matcha Brownie (RM8++) to share with my partner. If you’re feeling hungry, Burps & Giggles also serves western fare such as pizzas, fish and chips and baked pastries.
We didn’t do much sightseeing in the evening as we were feeling the effects of the car ride, so we grabbed dinner at a western restaurant (the food was so unmemorable that I can’t remember the name) near our hotel before calling it a night.
Day Two: Beans, Eggs and a Stinker of a Drive Home
On our first and, sadly, final morning in Ipoh, we wanted to try the town’s traditional breakfast: Hainan toast with soft-boiled eggs and Ipoh white coffee. The drink’s name isn’t derived from the colour of the drink, but rather the method of roasting the coffee beans. Typically, Malaysian-style coffee (served in most mamak and kopitiam in Kuala Lumpur) is made with beans that are roasted with margarine, sugar and wheat. Ipoh white coffee uses only margarine-roasted beans, resulting in a light roast with a distinctive charcoal flavour.
While there are plenty of traditional kopitiam in Ipoh that claim to serve the best white coffee, our top pick is Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong, which occupies a corner shop lot in Bandar Timah. This iconic restaurant has been serving the local community for over 70 years and there were only a few seats available when we visited at 07:00. If you’re here later than that, be prepared to wait.
I ordered the iced Ipoh White Coffee (RM2++) and a double portion of Crisp Hainan Bread (RM5++) while my partner ordered the hot version and a plate of wanton noodles (RM6++). Despite the crowd, our order arrived within five minutes. What I loved about the coffee here is that it has just the right amount of condensed milk and coffee so that it’s not overpoweringly sweet. On the toast, the bread is slathered with butter and toasted until crispy, then topped with two soft-boiled eggs – or what I like to call Malaysian-style poached eggs.
After our satisfying breakfast, we headed back to our hotel for check out before stopping by at The Happy 8 Café. Part of a boutique hotel chain called Happy 8 Retreat, we were drawn to this café by its rustic, almost whimsical setting – plenty of exotic masks, bamboo walls, drawings of trees and wooden furnishing. We only ordered drinks during our visit, but we made a note to try their food in future.
We left the café at 10:00 as we wanted to stop by another cave temple before the long drive back to Kuala Lumpur. Located 5 km south of Ipoh, Kek Lok Tong Cave Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Perak, occupying a 48,560-sqm site behind Gunung Rapat. The complex is surrounded by greenery-filled limestone karts, with a tall statue of the goddess Kuan Yin by the cave entrance. Like most temples, you’ll find intricate carvings of Chinese characters and deities within the cave, but Kek Lok Tong’s unique feature is its rear garden, which is home to two lotus lakes circled by walking paths.
As with Ipoh’s other cave temples, the temperature here is significantly lower than outside, and there are plenty of visitors taking photos and praying to the many statues. Children were having fun chasing each other, their laughter echoing through the halls.
After almost an hour, we decided that it was time to hit the road if we were to have any hope of avoiding the traffic. Unfortunately, it started pouring with rain about 10 minutes into our journey, resulting in a mind-numbing traffic congestion that lasted about 45 minutes. Initially, we planned on getting lunch once we arrived in KL, but decided to stop at Bidor Town instead.Another small town in Perak, Bidor is not known for sightseeing, but rather its hawker cuisine – especially for duck noodles and local pastries. The most famous place for these is Pun Chun Restaurant, a bustling kopitiam along Jalan Besar that’s over 70 years old. I ordered the Duck Drumstick Noodle Soup (RM8++), which has springy egg noodles, vegetables and a gigantic duck leg served in herbal soup.
I really enjoyed the fragrant broth, which is cooked with a variety of Chinese herbs, such as dried longan, wolfberries and astragalus root. Previous diners have complained about the lack of flavour, but mine tasted very potent, and the duck leg was so tender that the meat fell off without much effort. After our lunch, we continued our journey back to Kuala Lumpur and, with that, our weekend in Ipoh came to an end.
Even though my vacation was just for a couple of days, I find that Ipoh is a good choice to escape the hectic city as it allows me to truly unwind and have a taste of a slow-paced life. The town is also getting more popular in recent years, but still manages to retain most of its rustic charm as its many decades-old local restaurants and coffee shops are still operating to this day.