Ipoh, the Land of White Coffee

Our decision to go to Ipoh was last minute. We had planned to head straight to Penang after our Kuala Lumpur worldschool pop-up hub.  But several conversations during the event led us to change our original plans. Given that, we had about a month of travel adjustments to make! We’ve learned so many things on this trip, but one of them is to not book flights too early. 

After an extra week in KL, we decided to go to Ipoh, a small town north on Peninsular Malaysia.  Ipoh was previously known as a tin mining epicenter. Now, it draws tourists for its caves and amazing Chinese food. 

We took the train from KL to Ipoh, which is the best way to travel in my opinion.  Fast enough to get there quickly, but slow enough to take in the sights.  Our first day in Ipoh was rather uneventful.  We did the usual grocery run when we arrive to a new city and ordered pizza for dinner.  We all agreed that it was nice to sit around the table and have dinner after two weeks of eating out in KL!

The following morning, we caught up on school and then walked to the center of town to check out the tourist center.  The infrastructure was the opposite of KL.  No new and shiny buildings in Ipoh.  Everything was mostly run down from the outside but similar to Bali, the interiors are transformed into comfortable or magical spaces.  After gathering maps, we made our way to Concubine Lane, the previous domain of tycoons’ mistresses but now a street filled with tchotchke shops (perfect for Manji) and a few restaurants.  We stopped at a hole in the wall place and the kids binged on chicken nuggets and fries (a treat!) and James and I shared Nasi Lemak

The boys at the entrance to Concubine Lane

Goose and Manji on Concubine Lane

It was sweltering the rest of the day, but we made our way to Kek Lok Tong Cave and Temple, a Buddhist temple just a few miles outside of Ipoh.  When we arrived, it was fairly quiet, and we were able to explore the massive cave and gaze at the giant buddha and Confucius statues throughout the natural environment. 

Goose at Kek Lok Tong Cave

Putting places of worship in areas of immense natural beauty and wonder seems like a genius idea to me.  What an easy way to give thanks for what’s surrounding you.  There were plenty of monkeys to spot as we wandered around the grounds (much to Manji’s dismay), but these were way less mischievous than the ones at the Batu Caves

Kek Lok Tong Cave

Once we perspired to the point of exhaustion, we took a Grab back to our hotel and met the loveliest driver named Kelly.  She offered to put together a tour for us the following day, with all the highlights of Ipoh. So, we decided to take her up on it!

The next morning, Kelly picked us up at 9am to take us to our first destination, Kellie Castle.  The castle was the home of William Kellie-Smith, a Scottish planter.  The construction of the castle was never fully complete because William died from pneumonia. Afterwards, his wife decided to return to Europe.  There was so much history around the entire site and it was a bit eerie to see how the home, which took nearly twenty years of work, was abandoned after being so close to completion.  The kids did have fun exploring each room and deciding which room would be whose if we lived there.   

The kids at Kellie Castle

Following our castle excursion, Kelly took us to Gua Tempurung, a beautiful limestone cave that you can hike.  We spent an hour exploring the cave taking in the stalagmites and stalactites.  We also enjoyed a delicious lunch of peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, our go-to lunch on the road.  What a great spot for a picnic and a nice break from all the rice and noodles!

Hiking in Gua Tempurung

We were ready for a refreshing snack afterwards, so we headed to a local pomelo farm.  We’d seen them hanging in several shops around town and they look much more appealing than all the durian we’d seen in KL! We took a quick tour of the farm and then enjoyed some fresh pomelo, which tastes so much like grapefruit.  It was so good that we even bought some to take with us!

Our day ended with a stop at the A Jie café, where we tried Ipoh’s famous white coffee.  The coffee is roasted with palm oil margarine and then served with condensed milk—delicious and sweet!  Our driver ordered us several Chinese snacks as well and the kids gulped them down! All our palettes have expanded exponentially during this trip.  It has been so cool seeing the kids try things that before would have garnered a quick, “yuck.”  And I pray that the kids stay this open minded about food when we return!

We arrived home exhausted but wanted to enjoy a big meal after our last day of adventuring.  We walked into town and enjoyed an Italian feast of lasagna, pizza, and pasta at Memories.  After all the noodles and rice, it was such a treat to enjoy an incredible Italian meal.  The staff was so kind and even allowed the kids to decorate empty glass bottles. They then placed the decorated bottles under a tree to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year.  

With full bellies, we made it home to finish the movie, “Entrapment.” Overall, Ipoh was a wonderful three day stop for us and a great spot for easy sightseeing with kids.

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