We were picked up from the Frame in the morning by a small shuttle bus. From here we were dropped off at the Komtar station (well a road close to it under one of the malls) where we then transferred to a VERY full minivan, luckily we got placed in the front where we had to just share our space with the driver and the dashboard. The minivan then drove us about half an hour through new Georgetown area to the Sunjai bus station. We boarded a large bus bound for Ipoh. We were actually kind of disappointed that our journey was only 2 and a bit hours as the seats were so comfortable- plush and large like having our own sofa chairs! Great start to transport in Malaysia (31RM for the shuttle to the station and the bus to Ipoh). We arrived at the Armanja terminal, which is a large transport hub about 15km outside of Ipoh. Trying to save ourselves some money we waited around for the local bus instead of getting a taxi or uber as we were also in no rush either. After waiting about for about 40mins we boarded the 116 local city bus (2.90RM to our stop got from the arrivals level). The bus filled up very quickly and we had to sit with all of our luggage on top of us so we were happy when we were able to get off and make our way to the hostel.
We found Mari Hostel (on a second level accessible by stairs or the lift) and they gave us dorm beds for 20RM each per night including breakfast and free tea and coffee. The staff were very friendly and willing to give us good recommendations for local things to see and even put on movies each night. The hostel itself was very well designed with comfortable couches, a small kitchen, maps and the beds were comfy enough. The hostel was much busier than we had expected it to be as we had heard not that many travellers make their way to Ipoh. However, it turned out the majority of the people staying there were young Malaysians on their holidays.
Mari hostel itself is in the newer part of town not too far from the night market but there isn’t a lot to see or do in this area, the main bit people come for is the old town. We found this out straight away when we were searching for lunch as it was late (4ish) in the afternoon and a lot of places were shut or it wasn’t quite early enough for the evening food stalls to be open. Dave was getting a bit “hangry” hating on the town as he was hungry and we were looking at the wrong time of day during Ramadan. Luckily we found ourselves on the night market road where there were several Chinese restaurants open and we sat down at the busiest. Thankfully the food was pretty good and turned out to be one of Ipoh’s local dishes- chicken with bean sprouts and noodles (30RM ish between us for two portions and drinks). After getting food in us we wandered around this part of town a bit more and found a large shopping mall so we definitely had food options if we needed them and they had a Uniqlo so Dave was happy (#missiontogotoeveryuniqloinSEA)!
We spent some time relaxing in the hostel making use of the free coffee as we looked at the things there were to do here and decided we would stay another night. In the evening instead of going for dinner we headed to Hello Elvis (at about 9pm) a dessert/ice cream place Dave had found on trip advisor and we had seen earlier in the day. The place was awesome and you had a number of different choices for deluxe ice cream toppings with chocolates, wafers, candies etc all that were on whipped vanilla or chocolate ice cream presented with dried ice cups for a theatrical effect. I went for one that was chocolate ice cream, cereals, marshmallows and a kinder bueno whilst Dave had a vanilla one with pretzels, vanilla ice cream and cereals (12RM each). The place was full of people, decorated in a retro but fun way and played decent music. The people in there were also lovely.
In the morning we headed out to explore the “vintage market” (on memory lane) which consisted of a few streets of old things-technology, toys, clothes, weapons. Interesting to people watch more than anything. From here we headed towards the old town along the river. We explored the few streets of the old town seeing the old colonial buildings and grand train station. There a few pieces of street art in places and one or two alleyways that are particularly interesting with old Chinese architecture, restaurants and street stalls. We tried a recent phenomenon called a Rainbow Drop (5RM) which is supposed to be likely eating water. It has a jelly like consistency but was actually quite refreshing, the brown sugar syrup it was combined with made it decent though. We found the one street that really seems to be Little India and had lunch at one of the restaurants here, more biryani, rice, naans and ice lemon tea (30RM in total). We maybe spent an hour looking around the old town in total, it was nice enough but just didn’t hold up to Georgetown and there isn’t really much to explore. So after lunch, we made our way back to the hostel via the river path and gardens. Dave got his hair cut too (finally) from a local barber at Debut who didn’t speak much English. We had more dessert for dinner, going back again to Hello Elvis where this time we had sizzling brownies and ice cream (14RM each). We chilled out at the hostel in the evening watching Captain America with other people that were there.
The following morning we checked out of our beds but left our stuff at the hostel. We got an Uber out to Kek Lok Tong cave temple (10RM). The cave itself was pretty impressive and it was decorated with a few different statues. The area the cave was set in was huge stunning cliffs and out the other side of the caves were some peaceful gardens to walk around. If you have spare time in Ipoh this free temple is worth the trip out of town. We grabbed another Uber back to town, had KFC for lunch rather than hunting for food and chilled at the hostel until it was time to catch an Uber back to the bus station. Here we bought tickets to head to the Cameron Highlands.
Ipoh was not the most interesting of places but you can definitely see it trying to develop itself into something like Georgetown. We were both not sure though that it has enough about it to get it there. But if you want to break up the trip to Cameron Highlands or KL from Georgetown then you can spend a solid day here doing the old town and then heading to one of the cave temples.