Today, "Ipoh" usually refers to the territory under administration of Ipoh City Hall or Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh, which includes the smaller towns adjacent to the city such as Chemor, Jelapang, Falim, Menglembu and Tanjung Rambutan. Historically, "Ipoh" referred to the Old Town and New Town areas divided by the Kinta River at its heart, from which the city grew. From the late 1980s Greentown, located beside the New Town, was transformed from old government quarters to an administrative and commercial centre of Ipoh, often overshadowing both the Old Town and New Town.
Ipoh was formerly known as "Paloh" (壩羅) among local Chinese, referring to the gigantic mining pump used for early tin ore extraction. It was also called "the Town built on Tin" (锡城) and "City of Millionaires", referring to the vast fortunes made during the boom of the tin mining industries.
Other nicknames include "The Bougainvillea City" and "Shan Cheng" (山城) which means "The Hill City" in the Cantonese dialect.
Ipoh city came into existence in the 1720s as a village on the banks of the Kinta River. It was less prominent at that time as compared to the early mining town of Gopeng, 20 km south of Ipoh. In 1720 Swettenham put forth the founding of Ipoh Sanitary Board which led to systematic planning of Ipoh, which was still seen today.
However, from the turn of the 20th century when more British tin-mining companies were set up in the city, Ipoh gained prominence. Influential institutions such as The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China Limited opened a significant office in Ipoh in 1902. It provided credit to the Straits Trading Company and later the Eastern Smelting Company. More colonial-era firms such as Botly and Co., A.H Whittaker & Co., Chartered Accounts, Evatt & Co., and Estate Visiting Agents Milne & Stevens started to set up offices in the booming town.
Its geographic location in the rich tin-bearing valley of the Kinta River made it a natural centre of growth. It grew rapidly as a mining town, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. A local Hakka miner, millionaire Yau Tet-Shin started developing a large tract of the city in the early 1930s, today known as the New Town section of the city — the area which roughly delineated from the eastern bank of the Kinta River to Greentown.
Ipoh was invaded by the Japanese on 15 December 1941. During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, Ipoh was made the capital of Perak, in place of Taiping. In March 1942, the Japanese civil administration or Perak Shu Seicho was set up at the St. Michael's Institution. After the liberation of Malaya by British forces, Ipoh remained the capital of Perak, to this day.
In the 1950s, Ipoh was characterised by the proliferation of large numbers of cinema halls, amusement parks, cabarets and night life which was unrivalled in peninsular . Two of the largest entertainment groups then, the Cathay Organisation and Shaw Brothers Company had set up chains of cinemas here. Ipoh was also one of the four original towns served by Malayan Airways (now Malaysia Airlines), the other three being Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
With the collapse of tin prices and the closure of the tin mines in the late 1970s, Ipoh's growth had stagnated and resulted in the migration of many young talents to other parts of Malaysia (particularly metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore. Ipoh has since been known colloquially as a "dead" city and earned a reputation as a good location for retirement. Various efforts have been made to redevelop Ipoh into a modern town (refer below for more information). The city is expanding all the time as there are new developments in the suburbs.
Ipoh has one of the cleanest and clearest water supplies in Malaysia, as the source is from the waterfalls in nearby Tanjung Rambutan. The Hospital Bahagia, a well-known mental health hospital in Malaysia, is located in Tanjung Rambutan.
The following towns, suburbs, and neighborhoods comprise the area formally
(and collectively) known as the Ipoh City.
(Source: Ipoh City Hall )
Ipoh still remains one of Malaysia's largest cities. Today, Ipoh is the third largest city in Malaysia.
|Ethnic groups in Ipoh, 2004 census|
Ipoh is famous for its food. Natives claim that Ipoh's water, which is relatively hard (high alkali content) owing to Ipoh's location on top of a large karstic formation, makes the food especially tasty.
Ipoh is famous for food items such as "Sar Hor Fun" (沙河粉; It is a flat white rice noodle which locals believe best served in soup with shredded chicken meat and prawns. Most Ipoh residents, particularly the older generation, indulge in their favorite pastime of enjoying "dim sum" (点心) consisting of various Hong Kong style cuisine includes small Chinese dumplings and hors d'œuvre delicacies; downed with generous servings of Chinese tea. Other favorite dishes includes a variant popular to Ipoh is "Hor Hee" (essentially is flat white rice noodle) served with fish cakes and/or fish balls, "Nga Choi Kai" (芽菜鸡) which is chicken fillet with soy sauce, beansprouts with pepper spread on top of it, "Hakka Mee" (客家面) which is rice noodles (yellow) serve with mince meat (pork) sauce, and "Heong Peng" ((香饼) which is a type of biscuits.
Ipoh is also famous for Malay and Indian cuisine, such as satay (meat on a skewer which resembles kebabs, served with peanut sauce), tempoyak (preserved durian extract commonly eaten with chilies) , banana leaf rice (Indian cuisine serve on a banana leaf), and a variety of northern Indian food.
Ipoh is well known in Malaysia for coffee known as "Ipoh white coffee". It was believed that as the Ipoh township stems from the development of the Ipoh Old Town and many small coffee shops remain in this part of the city, the coffee from Ipoh is given the moniker "old town white coffee".
A 15-minute drive from Ipoh towards Tanjung Rambutan brings you to the foot of a limestone hill where visitors can rejuvenate at hot baths from the Tambun hot spring, a natural spring.
Ulu Chepor is a famous recreational place to relax for picnics and camping in a remote yet nature-friendly place. Ulu Chepor is another waterfall camping area located 10 km from Ipoh city; other such waterfalls include Lubuk Timah in Simpang Pulai and one in Falim.
Another attraction is the Gunung Lang Recreational Park which is 5 km from the Ipoh city center. It has been operated by the City Hall (DBI) with the collaboration of Ministry of Tourism Malaysia since 1999. This park, costing RM 8.4 million, has 3 man-made lakes which was reclaimed from old tin mines and filled in with tropical fish.
D. R. Seenivasagam Park (Coronation Park), located in the heart of Ipoh (New Town), is known for its scenic beauty and recreational facilities. It boasts several recreational fields, an artificial lake filled with various types of fishes, a nursery for potted plants and a children's traffic playground. There are also beautiful arches, modular framework, shelters, pedestrian paths and the Ipoh tree which gave the city its name. The latest addition is the newly landscaped Japanese garden featuring a typical Japanese carp pond. The fresh atmosphere and variety of flora are also part of the main attractions of this park.
St. Michael's Institution along Clayton Road (now Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam) is a building of architectural merit; a La Sallian school opened in 1912 by Father J.B. Coppin. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, the school building had became the Japanese administration headquarters in Ipoh. The Ipoh Train station which has elements of Moorish and Gothic architecture is another famous landmark of this former tin-mining city.
Many olden-day shophouses along Leech Street (烈治街; now Jalan Bandar Timah) in the Old Town still maintain their architectural significance, besides being a popular spot for food and drinks (refer Cuisine).
The New Town houses the Perak Medical University and Ipoh City Hall building, among others.
Ipoh has many limestone caves due to the karstic formation around it. The Sam Po Tong (Chinese 三宝洞; Cavern of Three Precious) temple, is a Chinese temple built within a limestone cave. A pond outside houses many tortoises. Its sister temple, Perak Tong (Chinese 霹雳洞; Perak Cave), has a steep, tall staircase in the interior of the cave rising up to the top of its hill where one is greeted by a panoramic view of Ipoh and its surroundings. The statue of Buddha in Perak Tong was the tallest and largest of its kind in Malaysia when it was first commissioned. Both these cavern temples have decent vegetarian food.
Another sight worth seeing is the Kek Lok Tong (Chinese 极乐洞; Cavern of Utmost Happiness), which is a cave temple that lies on the other side of the same range of limestone hills as Sam Poh Tong. It is accessible through the Gunung Rapat housing area. It has a cleaner, quieter and more cooling environment and has the best scenic cave view.
Limestone hills extend 20 km north of Ipoh and also 20 km to the south. There are many caves in these hills; cave temples are built in some of these caves . Gua Tempurung, near Gopeng south of Ipoh, is a show cave open to the public.
Unfortunately many of the limestone hills are being quarried in the ever increasing demand for crushed stone and cement. Some of the hills under threat contain endemic fauna and flora. One cave, Gua Puncak, contains Peninsular Malaysia's second largest cave chamber and is in danger of being quarried. In reaction to this, the Malaysian Karst Society has been set up in an attempt to save these hills.
The government-owned and operated Ipoh Hospital is located near the Fair Park and Greentown area.
Ipoh is also home to Malaysia's first velodrome, Velodrom Rakyat (The People's Velodrome), costing RM 3.25 million; funds were raised in a country-wide donation drive (led by Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill). In addition, Ipoh also boasts as one of the first cities in the country that has an Astroturf stadium for hockey, the Azlan Shah Stadium.
For golf, the available courses in Ipoh are the Royal Perak Golf Club off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (Tiger Lane), the Meru Golf Club in Jelapang, and Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Club en route to Batu Gajah.
Other sports venues include the Kilat Club in Pasir Pinji, Ipoh Field (Padang Ipoh) in the Old Town, the Polo Grounds, and the Iskandar Polo Club, in Ampang Baru.
Various development activities has been mooted and revived in the city recently, including the revitalisation of projects halted during the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
The Greentown area near the Ipoh City Council Building is fast becoming an entertainment hotspot. The development Greentown Business Center is giving new life to the city center. The general activities in the new development consists mostly of restaurants, food outlets and cafés.
Medan Ipoh (formerly known as Metro Ipoh Baru) located adjacent to Ipoh Garden East is a favorite for younger people. The residents of the city have dubbed the area as Ipoh's very own 'Bangsar' (akin to the hip Bangsar area in Kuala Lumpur). The place is famous for its cluster of nightspots, cafés, coffee shops (serving local food), entertainment outlets, F&B (food and beverage) joints, and more recently cybercafés.
The recently opened "Lost World of Tambun" is expected to gain a certain following as Ipoh's own "Sunway City" (mirroring the actual Sunway City located about 15 km west of Kuala Lumpur). Within the "Lost World of Tambun" is an upgraded and revived natural hot spring, which was very popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
An effort has been made by the city council to re-establish the night market centrally, at Dato' Tahwil Azar Road, known as the "Night Lane". It is a typical Malaysian night market, albeit bigger and with longer operating hours.
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