The name Ipoh originated from a local tree known as the pokok ipoh. This particular plant is known for its tree sap, which is poisonous and was traditionally used by the Orang Asli (aboriginal people) in their blowdarts. Ipoh is also known as san seng which means "city surrounded by mountains" in Cantonese. Ipoh is located in the rich tin bearing valley of the Kinta River. It grew up as a mining town. During the British Colonial Era, Ipoh was the second city of Malaysia. Its railway station is an excellent example of the architecture of this period. It is situated in the "Old Town" of Ipoh.
Ipoh's growth has stagnated ever since the development of the country and the closure of the tin mines. This stagnation has prompted many residents to move to other parts of Malaysia, particularly Kuala Lumpur. Ipoh has since been called a dead city and a good retirement city. In spite of this, Ipoh still remains one of Malaysia's largest cities, with a population of 637,200 (2004) and urban area population of 798,800 (2004), placing it in the top five cities in Malaysia by population. Ipoh's food is famous, and comparable to that from Penang. Many people, some from as far as Singapore, actually travel to this city just to taste its variety of great food. There are numerous dishes worthy of gluttons but visitors to Ipoh should make it a point to taste the local fare. Chances are the cuisine here is more varied and likely to be tastier than many other places in Malaysia.
The bus fare from Puduraya bus station in Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh is RM 13.40. The bus fare from Penang bus station in Penang to Ipoh is RM 13.50. The Ipoh bus station is located at Medan Gopeng near Gunung Rapat. Note that the taxi drivers outside the bus station will try and overcharge to take you anywhere.
Ipoh's Sultan Azlan Shah Airport (IPH) is rather quiet. Merpati flies three times weekly from Medan (Indonesia), but all domestic services have ceased.
Ipoh is located on the North-South Highway, to the north of Kuala Lumpur. If you drive by car, you can exit from the Jelapang Exit if you come from Penang or exit from the Ipoh South (Selatan) Exit or Simpang Pulai Exit if you come from Kuala Lumpur. Ipoh is about 2 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur.
There is a daily train from KL (8.45pm) to Ipoh (1.05am), then via Butterworth (6.05am) to Hat Yai (10.15am Thai time). To Hat Yai, berths are 43RM and seats 30RM. For the return from Hat Yai, the train leaves at 2.50pm via Butterworth (9.30pm)to Ipoh (2.15am) and on to KL (6.35am); berths cost 31RM, seats 18RM.Inter-city services to Ipoh will be upgraded considerably when double-tracking to KL is complete. Latest estimates for completion are in 2007, but take even this with a grain of salt, as it was originally supposed to be finished in 2000!
Driving in Ipoh for the unfamiliar can be like going through a maze. The city centre has many one-way streets and road signs are somewhat lacking. On the bright side, city roadmap is easily available at bookstore, tourist centres and even online. It is advisable to have a map handy. Ipoh's traffic is not as congested as other cities such as Kuala Lumpur. However, like any major cities, traffic slowdown is inevitable especially during heavy traffic such as the morning drive to work (around 8-9am), (noon-1.30pm) during weekdays due to lunch-hour & school children being in/out of school and late evening return from work (around 5-6pm). Parking spaces are adequate although finding one may require some patience.
Ipoh is a rather pedestrian-unfriendly city. Walking within Ipoh city centre and Ipoh Old Town is feasible but walking long distance generally is not.
There are no hard and fast rules for cyclists, but you are expected to observe road rules at all times. Cyclists are forbidden from riding on the sidewalk but often do. Helmets are optional but not common.
Also available under your own risk. You must have an authorised driving licence. Please contact this number for more information: 05-5453260 or 013-5304869.
In Ipoh proper
Restaurants often do not display prices. Tourists are advised to ask the price before having meals. Tipping is uncommon in Ipoh and even taxis will usually return your change to the last cent.Cost
Ipoh is inexpensive by Malaysian standards, and even more so for visitors from most industrialized countries: RM50 is a perfectly serviceable daily backpacker budget. Food in particular is a steal, with excellent local hawker fare available for less than RM4 per generous serving. Accommodation is also inexpensive by international standards, with a bed in most hotels below RM100. Top hotels offer rooms at around RM100 to RM200.