CAUTION: BIASED LITERARY CONTENT AHEAD
You know you’ve arrived at the beautiful city of Ipoh when you drive through the enchanting limestone hills of Perak and set your eyes on the huge ‘Hollywood’ styled IPOH sign against its backdrop. In addition to this are the beautiful art-filled walls of roadside cafes, most of them painted by the immensely talented Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian- born artist. The capital city of the state of Perak, Ipoh intrigues you and tugs at your heartstrings for all the right reasons. A prior warning to you all, for the high usage of adjectives in this writing, because it is justified if only the best ones are used to draw a scenic picture of Ipoh!
Guaranteed, not a lot of you have heard of this city before, let alone seen the particular assemblage of these four letters. I don’t blame you, because Ipoh has always run its course modestly, in the humbling background of its culture, consistent weather and geography. What makes it so wonderful is the blend of its ancient past and contemporary present, that you experience on either side of the Kinta River, one of the tributaries of the second longest river in Malaysia.
I’d confidently say that if you gave the people of Ipoh ‘space’ (and I mean that in its most literal form), they’d come up with the most beautiful idea and turn it into something alluring, be it a pleasantly designed restaurant or an inviting little spa. This then becomes your safe haven, your paradise, if you will. Along the same lines, Ipoh’s diners are significant because of the variety of food they offer that screams, ‘Lazat!’ in Malay or simply put, ‘Delicious!’. Again, a no-brainer because of the people’s constant love for experimenting with new dishes eventually attracting large crowds around food vendors.
This most certainly feels like I’m advertising for the city and helping promote it. Truth is, I’d do that repeatedly, which is because I believe that Ipoh is deserving of all the love and warmth it is showered with. This city has always been effortful in conserving its rich history through the existence of its museums, British Colonial Architecture, fests and heritage centres. Proud of its roots and cultures, Ipoh also knows how to have a good time and let its hair down, if any! A fifteen-minute breezy drive from town, “The Lost World of Tambun” is inarguably Ipoh’s favourite family holiday destination, a theme park built around natural hot springs that are surrounded by its overlooking hills.
Apart from amusement parks are bars and resto-pubs such as “Bricks & Barrels” and “Michelangelo’s Pizzeria” to name a few, that caters to every inch of your happiness and outwardly answers any of your existential questions! Besides this, Ipoh’s splendour is depicted through its exotic and diverse ecosystems that include all things good and natural including cave temples, lakes, waterfalls, castles, rainforests and Hot Springs Retreats!
Ipoh’s growth comes from its discovery of Tin, the mineral initially found during the seventeenth century which gradually helped the city build itself around tin industries. This iswhy you may come across plenty of Tin factories and exhibitions showcasing various tin-related memorabilia in and around the vicinity. The city also doesn’t shy away from its absolute love for Cinema in all its languages, given the incredibly diverse multilingual community that dwells here.
Besides Ipoh’s unified interests, what I genuinely believe contributes to much of its uniqueness and speciality is its dedication to moving ahead with sundry trends and patterns, simultaneously striving to remind every individual of its bountiful and respected history.
Consequently, Ipoh rightly captures the essence of Perak’s exotic nature and hence, has every right to belong to a country that is called ‘Truly Asia’! Period.
P.S. If you ever find yourself sitting at a Malay restaurant (especially in Ipoh), don’t forget to order the ‘Tauge Ayam’ or ‘Bean Sprouts Chicken’ and a ‘Kai Zhai Peng’ for dessert!
Words, Radhika Das – @rdas13
Images, Suma Menon & Cecilia Lopez