A leisurely weekend in Ipoh, the capital of Perak, is always a delight. Firstly, the scenic two-hour drive north from Kuala Lumpur, with majestic views of limestone caves and the Titiwangsa Range from a distance.
Secondly, following the likes of Penang, some old parts of Ipoh have undergone a facelift with a number of hipster cafés and hotels mushrooming in recent years. A thriving town from the tin mining boom in the early 20th century, Ipoh’s charm lies in its colonial-era architecture including the magnificent Ipoh Railway Station and St. Michael’s Institution. The city was also the first in the country to adopt a grid system for its streets, as many of the wealthy tin miners owned cars!
Spend an afternoon in the heritage enclave known among locals as Old Town, and you’ll soon feel like you were transported back to Ipoh in its heyday — where Chinese towkays would gather to discuss deals at Kong Heng coffee shop, while hawkers jostled among each other amid shouts of orders of tea and coffee.
Did we say Ipoh is quite the scene for unique and quirky hotels? Enter M Boutique Hotel, which has a vibe that is both rustic and whimsical. Located just about 10 minutes’ drive from Old Town, M Boutique Hotel is a perfect stay for travelers seeking both comfort and style.
We were already drawn to the interesting details of the hotel upon stepping into the lobby. The hotel’s ceiling-to-floor windows let in ample sunlight to brighten up an otherwise, dimly lit space with dark wooden floors and blue chaise lounge sofa beds — a contrast between the vintage and modern. The reception counter desk is modelled after European-style bars with a wall of drawers behind it. Did we just walk into a Wes Anderson movie set?
We were tickled by the friendly greeting of the receptionist who wore a name tag that says “Star Lord”! Thumbs up for the great icebreaker idea!
The three-storey boutique hotel comprises 93 rooms and each floor’s interior design has a different theme and feel. The first floor is themed “The Adventure”, and its design was drawn from inspiration of safari expeditions. The second floor is themed “The Majestic”, with a design that mirrors the 20th century industrial and rustic vibe. The third floor is themed “The Excelsior”, and is the most colorful and modern-looking of all three.
For our stay, we were given the Superior room with a queen-size canopy bed on the first floor. Following the safari theme, our room has a large poster of an elephant poster hung on a red brick wall, throw cushions in zebra prints and a decorative horse figurine on the dressing table. The soft lighting by the lamps give the room a luxurious feel.
The room comes with two bathrobes, a flat screen TV, bottled water and snacks. WiFi access is available with strong connectivity in the hotel premises. In the room, there are many plug points so you won’t have to fight with your travel partner over who gets to charge their phone first!
The bathroom looks spacious and bright with its cool, black and white floor and ceiling tiles. After a day out in the sun, taking a cool shower in this sleek bathroom is so refreshing!
The first floor is also where most of the hotel’s facilities are located. Here, you can find the common room, gym, meeting room, and the laundry room, which is open for 24 hours if you feel like having your laundry done in the middle of the night. The common room is stylishly decorated, and you can chill, hang out with your friends, read or have a cup of coffee and me-time.
The room comes with a complimentary breakfast. You can opt between local cuisine such as nasi lemak and Ipoh’s signature white coffee at the Old Town White Coffee Grand (separated from the hotel lobby by glass window panels), and continental breakfast at Myth Eatery and Bar at the ground floor for bread, cold cuts and sandwiches. Whichever your choice, you’ll enjoy an unhurried breakfast in a beautiful setting.
Love the complimentary lemongrass-infused toiletries in the bathroom? Don’t just take the small bottles home. Buy the full-sized versions at the lobby! If you want to bring a piece of the hotel home, they also sell t-shirts, towels and home decor items.
Our verdict: The attention to detail in its hotel interior design, comfy rooms and amenities, and friendly staff, makes this a perfect stay for a relaxing weekend getaway. You’ll be happy enough chilling in here, even without stepping out of the hotel premises.
See and Do
But hey, what’s the fun in being cooped up indoors when you can discover street art, eat at traditional coffee shops and shop for trinkets in Old Town? We’ve lined up some new, must-visit places, so you can just go where the coffee flows when you’re in Ipoh!
Have a cuppa at Chang Jiang White Coffee
A trip to Ipoh is not complete without having at least one cup of freshly brewed white coffee. There are plenty of famous kopitiams in Old Town, but we picked one which is slightly further away from the heritage enclave. If you could only visit one kopitiam during your visit to Ipoh, make it Chang Jiang at Jalan Windsor, which is now a kopitiam in a refurbished post-colonial bungalow. It serves not only excellent white coffee, it also has a pork-free menu including kaya (coconut jam) butter toast, wantan mee and rice porridge.
White coffee is pretty much an institution in Ipoh, and according to Lonely Planet, the city is among the top three coffee towns (the other two are Chiang Mai and Tokyo). The name “white coffee” is derived from roasting the coffee beans in margarine, giving the coffee a buttery, aromatic taste.
Chang Jiang White Coffee
Address: No. 7, Jalan Windsor, Ipoh
Opening hours: 8.00am – 6.00pm (daily)
Buy some books at a former bank vault
BookXcess Kong Heng recently opened its doors at the trendy Kong Heng Square inside Old Town. What was once United Asian Bank, it has been converted into a 3,000 sq metre-bookstore with over 15,000 books covering a variety of genres like novels, sci-fi, thriller, literature, young adult titles, business books, and cookbooks. What’s most interesting is that, most of the bank vaults and safety deposit are still intact and turned into bookshelves. It was pretty cool to be browsing for books in the vaults! You could also visit the Yasmin Ahmad Newseum in the basement, where you may watch some of the best television commercials made by the legendary filmmaker, the late Yasmin Ahmad, and read copies of her original movie scripts.
BookXcess Kong Heng
Address: No. 91, Jalan Sultan Yussuf, Ipoh
Opening hours: 8.00am – 10.00pm (daily)
Go through a time tunnel
For a large dose of nostalgia, visit Time Tunnel Ipoh, located just a stone’s throw away from the Kong Heng Square. With its various classic props on display, this place would remind you lots of fond visits to your grandparents’ homes! It would be a fun place to bring the kiddos and show them how things have changed in two generations!
Time Tunnel Ipoh Old Town
Address: Jalan Panglima, Ipoh
Opening hours: 9.00am – 4.30pm (daily)
With such a wide range of accommodation options across the country, it can be a challenge to pick the one that’s best for you. To be in the know when it comes to Malaysia’s stand-out stays, keep your eyes peeled for Traveloka’s ‘Super Stays’ posts, a bi-weekly hotel special featuring our top picks!