Culture Lifestyle

7 ways Ipoh 2015 no longer feels like Ipoh

IPOH DAAAAAAAAMMM HAPPENING EH NOWADAYS! Every single holiday season I’d see my friends all travelling to my hometown Ipoh, posting on Instagram their super mengada poses next to Ipoh’s murals (you can see more of them here!) as well as super-filtered pictures of taugeh chicken, nasi ganja and white coffee.

Filtered nasi ganja. Pic from

Filtered nasi ganja. Pic from

This quaint little city in the middle of Kinta Valley was founded way back in the 1800s but only started making a name for itself in the 1920s and 30s when mining became a huge economy in Ipoh. Often called ‘Paloh’ by the locals, the city went through several phases of development throughout the 20th century up until the end of the tin mining boom in Ipoh during the 1980s.

Hugh Low Street, Ipoh waaaaay back in the thirties. Image credit:

Hugh Low Street, Ipoh waaaaay back in the thirties. Pic from

There was a lack of development in Ipoh for quite a while after that. However, there has been rapid growth as of late in Ipoh, like SERIOUSLY RAPID GROWTH.

Ipoh now. Pic from

Ipoh now. OMG TALL BUILDINGS. Pic from

In fact, the state of Perak had one of the highest growth of GDP among the Malaysian states for 2012.

Waaaaa, syabas Perak! Screencapped from Department of Statistics, Malaysia. Click to view report.

But how are the LOCAL fellas taking it? What do they think of when they look at their once little town growing into a big city?


1. Hipster cafes…. Hipster cafes everywhere….

Who knew Buzz was from Ipoh

Who knew Buzz was from Ipoh

“Walao eh all I wanted was a curry mee and kopi xi kosong why all I see on the menu all French food one!”

No but seriously though, there’s been a recent boom in cafes in Ipoh that can even rival the mining boom of the 1920s. I can’t find a place in the city center where there isn’t a upper-scale cafe or fancy restaurant in sight.

There’s so many cafes in Ipoh I even found an article listing down 81 cafes to visit in Ipoh! EIGHTY ONE? I didn’t even know that many existed in Ipoh, AND I’M FROM IPOH.

I mean, when did these….

Typical Ipoh kopitiam. Pic from Flickr.

Typical Ipoh kopitiam. Pic from Flickr user Yew Chee Kuo.


Burps and Giggles, Ipoh. Pic from

Burps and Giggles, Ipoh. Pic from

Meanwhile, the coffeeshops – aka ‘kopitiams’ – aren’t exactly dying out, but similar to the situation in Subang and in Georgetown, it’s losing a good proportion of customers to these cafes. While most of the middle age and senior citizens still spend most of their breakfast and lunch times at these kopitiams or even mamaks, the young ones especially are somehow willing to fork out more for these new ‘trendy’ food joints.

There are positives from this new assortment of food culture in Ipoh though. These new cafes give the Ipoh people new flavours and new foods, as well as boosting Ipoh’s reputation as a popular spot for people to go to when they seek to eat to their heart’s content.

Speaking of people coming to Ipoh for the food, the more established locations in Ipoh known for the food have now seen it become a tourist attraction. Locals seem more willing to head to the lesser known eateries instead of the tourist hotspots to avoid the traffic jams and parking nightmares at these established eateries. You’re more likely to find outstation people at Ipoh’s femes restaurants instead.

Walao so many people the chicken free issit! Pic from

Walao so many people the chicken free issit! Pic from

But what else has led Ipoh folk to stop going to these places?


2. Err how come our food dropped standard already?

“This used to taste so much better, damn sad laa….”

There’s also some Ipoh locals complaining about the deteriorating quality of Ipoh food. Some say it could be because of the food operators lowering the quality of their food to be able to produce more, while others believe it could be due to the second or third generations not having the skills to make food as good as their predecessors.

Ipoh food now compared to when I was a kid

Ipoh food now compared to when I was a kid

Another common reason that Ipoh fellas use to explain worsening food quality in Ipoh has been the major influx of foreign workers. Some say that with food operators unable to handle the large number of tourists heading into Ipoh for food, and have resorted to getting cheap labour to help them make more, and by doing so lowering the tastiness of the food.

This is similar to when Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called for a ban on foreign workers cooking and preparing food in an effort to preserve Penang’s food heritage, claiming that the foreigners are not cooking because they have the passion for the local cuisine but rather because their bosses had asked them to. However, it must be stated that having locals rather than foreigners cook and prepare the food DOES NOT necessarily mean that it’ll taste better.

If only the foreigner cooking was this guy. Pic from The Guardian.

If only the foreigner cooking was this guy. Pic from The Guardian.

Speaking about foreigners…..


3. Walao why so many mat salleh wan?!

The last time Ipoh saw this many mat sallehs still pre-war weih. Pic from

The last time Ipoh saw this many mat sallehs still pre-war weih. Pic from

“Fulamak since when so many angmoh sia?”

Ipoh has always been one of Malaysia’s top sites as a tourist attraction with it having so many cool pre-war buildings and stuff, but it was only until recently that this sector started to thrive.

Using ‘heritage’ as a selling point for tourism isn’t something unique to Ipoh, as Penang and Malacca have been using it for years now. However, Ipoh is seemingly ramping up their heritage appeal, as even the Lost World of Tambun theme park has attractions based on Ipoh’s tin mining history!

That's right kids, your great-great-great-grandfather used to do this too! Pic from

That’s right kids, your great-great-great-grandfather used to do this too! Pic from

New developments mean that along with all the heritage sites as the tourist attraction, there is now modern infrastructure to accommodate the new tourism boom, such as the improved public bus system, the Electric Train Service (ETS) and newer hotels such as the Kinta Riverfront Hotel. There’s even new malls and new theme parks like the recently opened AEON Klebang and the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) which is expected to be ready for opening in April 2016.

Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suite, Ipoh. Unedited pic from

Wait, I don’t remember all these buildings even existing bout a decade ago…….


4. So many buildings now, WTF?!! (Wahh Twenty Floors?!!)

Ipoh's skyline.... Not as powerful as Nissan's.... Pic from The Malaysian Insider.

Ipoh’s skyline…. Not as powerful as Nissan’s…. Pic from The Malaysian Insider.

“Siao ah cannot see sky dy laa like this!”

Ipoh has NEVER been known for high-rise buildings, that is something anyone from Ipoh can tell you.

This was mainly due to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) having set up guidelines about the maximum height of buildings in the city due to the closeness of the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport. However, in recent times, the DCA has been allowing developers a little more freeway. Several major projects have either already been carried out or have already been planned for development.

However, not everyone has been a fan of the recent development, especially when it means the demolishing of the heritage buildings. One such issue involved the demolition of the Majestic Theatre on Chamberlain Road. It was torn down in 2012 to make way for a new building known as the Majestic Tower. Some locals weren’t too happy about it, with it previously being gazetted for preservation.

Majestic Theatre back in its heyday. Pic from

Majestic Theatre back in its heyday. Pic from

The brand new Majestic Tower in Ipoh. Pic from The Malaysian Insider.

The brand new Majestic Tower in Ipoh. Pic from The Malaysian Insider.

These new buildings and developments in Ipoh however represent a good indication of progress in Ipoh. No longer would Ipoh be considered backup to Kuala Lumpur or Penang in the minds of investors.

But all this development good or not ah? Obviously there are pros to it, but with rising development also comes INFLATION, which brings me to the next point…


5. What happened to my RM3 noodle?!

Remember when a decent bowl of curry mee only cost RM3? Pic from

Remember when a decent bowl of curry mee only cost RM3? Pic from

“What the heck I go outstation not even one year everything naik harga dy?!”

Typically, you’d find people moving from the big cities to smaller centers like Ipoh in a bid to lower their expenses. However, Ipoh’s rapid development as of late along with the inflation the rest of the country is going through means that the people of Ipoh must now deal with prices going up at crazy rates, with rent alone up 30% from last year.

“Rental for a home in Ipoh that was going for RM1,000 a year ago is now between RM1,200 and RM1,500.” – Harpreet Kaur, as quoted in The Malaysian Insider



It seems that the folks from Ipoh have it even harder as they fork out less for daily expenses as compared to their KL counterparts, yet the portion of their salary being lost to daily expenses are a lot higher. This is likely because wages in Ipoh are lower than wages in Klang Valley, with the average monthly disposable salary at time of writing for Ipoh fellas LESS THAN HALF of what KLites earn in month.

HOWEVER, it should noted that with these developments in Ipoh, it may mean better jobs and better pay for Ipoh people which would allow them to cope which rising costs.

But what about the retired ones?


6. Can’t afford to retire in Ipoh liao!!!

Harga naik, rent naik, pension tak naik...

Harga naik, rent naik, pension tak naik…

“Son ah, I think your ma and I need move to your house dy ah…”

Did you know that in 2014 Ipoh was voted as one of the world’s best places to retire in? It is said that the lower rent and living costs as compared to the rest of the nation often made Ipoh a place where people could spend their final years in, enjoying the slower paced life.

Despite this, rapid development in Ipoh has seen a HUGE increase in rent and living costs, and as mentioned earlier, rent is up by 30% from last year. This could mean that retirees may seek to move elsewhere in a bid to eke out a comfortable living from the little pension they get.

The younger ones however are benefiting a lot from these developments. It’s often noted that Ipoh was a city that ‘exported it’s people‘, as it is common for the younger ones from Ipoh to move to bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur or Penang once done with getting a degree. However, Ipoh now has SEVERAL options for quality higher education, with universities like Quest International University Perak (QIUP), Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and Petronas University of Technology (UTP) able to provide good education without the need to travel so far (okay I know I’m cheating a little with the last two).

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman's Kampar campus. Pic from

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Kampar campus. Pic from

There’s also many new job openings in Ipoh. I mean, with all those new buildings someone’s gotta fill ’em up right? With the younger ones now staying in Ipoh, they’d then also be able to look after their elders, so win-win laa kan. And with all the new shopping malls and cafes around, the younger ones can be sure that there won’t be a lack of options for leisure as well.


7. Heeyyyy we’re cool now yo.



“#Eh #you #know #ah #I #Ipoh #Mali #2 #cool #4 #u #hashtag”


Well with all the young ones staying in Ipoh, combined with the new ‘hipster cafe movement’, there’s been almost an evolution of cultures in Ipoh. A once quiet little town is slowly becoming a new hub for creativity and the arts.

Look out for Yasmin at Kong Heng, a museum that showcases the late Yasmin Ahmad’s work, or head on down to the Sepaloh Art Centre, which opened in early 2014 and has held multiple exhibitions since.

Yasmin at Kong Heng. Check out their Facebook page for more info. Pic from

Yasmin at Kong Heng. Check out their Facebook page for more info. Pic from

Ipoh is also slowly being expanded as more and more people of all generations look at Ipoh as their new home, with the property market in Ipoh gaining a lot of attention. Areas like Bandar Meru Raya especially have seen a lot of development as of late, with even more investment into Ipoh planned for the near future.

Ipoh in 2050...? (I can dream right?) Pic from

Ipoh in 2050…? (I can dream right?) Pic from


Just…. don’t forget the original old town 🙂

But despite all these developments in Ipoh, spare a thought for the previous generation of Ipoh. It’s important to remember and retain what exactly made Ipoh so famous and great in the first place. Ipoh doesn’t need to be the next Kuala Lumpur, a city slowly losing it’s cultural roots. Even it’s most historical and cultural heritage sites like Petaling Street is having it’s cultural background eroded away with all the development in the city.

Luckily, there have been calls and efforts to preserve Ipoh’s oldschool cultural heritage. Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir has already asked for pre-war buildings to be better maintained in an effort to preserve Ipoh’s old structures. Meanwhile, arts and culture group Kakiseni organised a recently-concluded festival called ‘The Other Festival’ that celebrated the good ‘ol days of Ipoh.

Ipoh shouldn’t have it’s old look changed a lot, all it needs is a little brush up here and there.

Let’s all hope the usual sight of an elderly man sitting in a kopitiam reading his newspaper on a Monday morning wouldn’t disappear anytime soon k?

Good ol' days. Pic from Flickr.

Pic from Flickr user Hairi Akmal

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