Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Revisiting Ipoh #2: A Quarter Day Old Town Tour

The hipster revolution has hit Ipoh. Well, at least a part of Ipoh old town from what I saw, as a random breakfast session at the famous Thean Chun (known for its egg custard pudding and shredded chicken noodles) turned into a half day tour session around historical sites in Ipoh. It's good to have a part time tour guide as your sister, to be honest.


they say the gods visit this place for their shredded chicken noodles and egg custard pudding


It has been a while since I last step foot in Ipoh old town, mainly because there's nothing much to see last time except old shops, abandoned buildings and filth filled back alleys. So you could say that I was pleasantly surprised to find at least a few parts of Ipoh's old town remodeled, with hispter cafes, souvenir shops and even an art exhibition in its place, waiting to greet travelers.



this set up (and yes those are books) was sitting innocently behind Thean Chun restaurant, the place where I ate shredded chicken noodles


the art gallery that is also located near Thean Chun, nestled in a sort of abandoned building, which gives it the ever more authentic feeling


one of the last things that I would expect to find in Ipoh, a hipster souvenir shop, with bicycle rental


yes, you can sit down and relax here if you want to


I don't know who is the brilliant mind behind the remodeling and repackaging of Ipoh's old town to give it a a new breath of life, but I sincerely admire this person because it is heartening to see part of our culture and history preserved in such a way. Before I left Ipoh five years ago, these places were nothing but abandoned buildings, crumbling as the years go by, with nothing inside them but rubbish, wild plants and stink. Now I am amazed at how something that seemed so lifeless a few years ago filled with vibrancy and class today.

Along Jalan Sultan Yusuf, old shops are being turned into cafes where you can enjoy a cup of coffee amidst the decoration of earlier years. Old signboards are preserved while the red coloured tiles are left alone, and it's like stepping back into the past as you enter the cafes, only that they are air conditioned.


the interior of Burps and Giggles, one of the refurbished cafes located in one of the old shop lots


the exterior of one of the cafes


Four such cafes now stand along the road, next to Plan B, located slightly behind the four cafes, and next to the art gallery and souvenir shop, with more to come, according my sister. It seems like Ipoh is trying to emulate Penang in promoting its historical buildings, which is a good thing from what I see, because at least the buildings won't go to ruin, and at least a part of the soul of the city is preserved.

The town council seemed to being doing something too, because further up, historical buildings like the town hall and the JWW Birch Memorial Tower now has plaques explaining their history, with some newly paved walkways to guide your path.


my two companions taking picture near the newly erected Jejak Warisan (Heritage Walk) pavement, underneath the JWW Birch Memorial Tower


the birch memorial clock tower, along with one of the many black signboards explaining the history of the structure


the famous Ipoh railway station


We walked the entire journey on our short little trip, and to be honest it's nice to see some long deserved development finally coming in to preserve the old town of Ipoh, which in my opinion has so much history to it. There's the concubine lane, which can be traced back to the 1890s and reminds me of Haji Lane in Singapore, and other colonial buildings, some older than my grandparents, with their own history to tell.


the concubine lane, which according to my FIC tour guide is where men keep their mistress in the past, hence its name. i just find it oddly familiar to Haji Lane in Singapore, which is like the must go tourist spots in SG. the concubine lane is still relatively abandoned for now, but there's a lot of potential for it


Perhaps the next time I come back the entire area would be turned into something different, who knows? But as of now, it was a short sweet trip to be able to walk amongst the shops and buildings that I used to pay no attention to when I was young. And perhaps like Penang, Ipoh should put more effort into preserving the buildings along the old town area and its surrouding (St John's Church, St Michael's Institution, the town hall, Ipoh's Railway Station, the city mosque and the Birch Memorial can be so made into a UNESCO site), as they are so full of history and legacy.

My sister herself mentioned about the architectural features of the different buildings, talking about how a certain roof design represents a certain group of people who built it, which I think is something that we should all learn given how many buildings in Ipoh are now plain dull boxes of rectangle. As for me, I personally find things like the below picture interesting.


can you guess what is this? i have "chocolates" for the correct guess


You know what Ipoh needs? A one day tour to all historical sites in the old town area (my sister had the privilege to undergo the tour with the vice president of Ipoh's Heritage Society), and a UNESCO recognition. Or at least a historical lesson on the area. Cause you'll never learn how to appreciate something until you have come to understand its history. Ipoh is a great city, and it's would be a shame to let everything rot or crumble away.


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