Best of George Town, Penang Island, Malaysia

I arrived at Penang at 4:30 in the morning and was still dark, at this time there’s no public transports so I took a taxi to the city center (30RM), it was an awesome experience to walk around the Old town when the city was empty, calm and quite and the sun started to rise.

I could feel the city coming alive and starting to pulse, and I realised that there were more wonderful and interesting places to visit than I expected. To start with, Georgetown is an architectural gem and a fantastic mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay people. And despite the differences all these ethnic groups have found a way to live and grow together. This cultural pot makes George town a richer place with an incredible exotic melange of old and new.  

Georgetown¬† is located on¬†Penang island in the north-west of Peninsular Malaysia and it’s listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site like Melaka.

When walking around  town you can explore Penang’s colonial architecture, and also seek for the street murals and wrought iron caricatures.

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George Town is well know for the street art and I can’t recommend it enough. It is a great way to explore the city hunting for art across streets and¬†alleys (more information and photos here ūüď∑)

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The Blue Mansion built in the 1880s, is an impressive piece of architecture and was based on Feng Shui principles.

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The bus 203 and 204 takes you to  Kek Lok Si Temple, a Buddhist temple outside the city centre.  This impressive temple is situated at Air Itam and its huge statue of Guan Yin can be seen from miles away in good weather conditions. The Temple is well maintained and a great place to visit, so reserve enough time to explore it properly, and climb its many levels, and you will be rewarded with a stunning view of Penang island.

The¬†Kapitan Keling Mosque, it’s a monumental structure beautiful from the outside but quite simple inside.

Other temples are abundant around town, the oldest one is a Taoist and Buddhist temple the Kuan Yin Teng  (Goddess of Mercy).

The¬†Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple, it’s an Hindu temple set beside the Penang Bird Park. Curiously the temple is located at the¬†Street of Harmony, called that because it’s home to various temples, including¬†Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, and Chinese.

Little India is colourful and vibrant and is filled with multi-coloured shop houses, and has great places to eat.

Bus 10 takes you to the botanic gardens, a beautiful, clean and well maintained place, more frequented by locals then tourists. Just bare in mind that the garden is packed with monkeys. This immense garden is filled with all sorts of plants from hundreds of species, we also found turtles, snakes, many bird species and lizards.

The Jetties, Weld Quay Clan,  found along Pengkalan Weld are home to many Chinese families, its nice to check out these humble, rickety wooden jetties to see how the houses along the jetties over the water are built.

George Town is probably my favourite place in Malaysia;¬†Penang,¬†is definitely worthy of a visit..¬†It‚Äôs colourful, quirky, multi-cultural and historic… you can’t really ask for more ūüôā¬†I hope you have found this post useful, and let me know ¬†if you have been to George Town! thank you for reading ūüôŹ

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photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

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Street Art ‚Äď George Town, Penang

Street art is for sure one of the big highlights in George Town, and stroll through different streets hunting for art, can be actually pretty fun. George Town  is located in the North East of Penang, and along with Melaka is since 2008 a UNESCO World Heritage site.

George Town displays huge murals that adorne sides of buildings, interactive art installations that allows visitors to insert themselves into the scenes, and wrought iron structures, that tells the history of various streets, quality of life and historical facts about the city in a amusing way.  Basically the street art in Penang is an art lover’s dream! The street art makes the city more interesting and impossible to forget.

There are almost a dozen of murals done by the amazing Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic (facebook.com/Ernestzachas), that was commissioned to do a series of public paintings in central George Town for the 2012 George Town Festival. Unfortunately some pieces are already fading and soon they might disappear.

All of this add to the city’s architecture, traditional crafts and food, are more than enough reasons to visit and fall in love by Penang. Most of the art is focused in the Old George town Streets.  If you’re serious about catching them all  here’s a map of where to find the murals and caricatures.

Bare in mind that walking around trying to find the street art in Georgetown is an amazing free activity. But renting a bike is also an option.

I will leave here some pictures of what I found around the city… Let me know if¬†you have been to Penang and which is your favourite piece..

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

Perhentian Island, the underwater paradise

Kuala Besut is¬†a small seaside town on the east coast of Malaysia where you¬† pick up a speedboat to the perhentian islands. It’s a crowded touristic place that unfortunately you can’t avoid if you want to pop in to the Perhentian¬†islands off the North East coast of Malaysia.¬†But try not to spend much time around.¬†To buy the boat tickets avoid the pier shops, we bought our¬†ticket for¬†50RM.

Not everything is bad, there are many good eating places in Kuala Besut¬†and better food than on the Perhentians!¬†Just before you go take cash with you because there’s¬†no ATMs on the islands and plenty of¬†suncream, I learnt it the hard way :/

The Perhentians are divided by two different Islands called Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar. Kecil, the smaller islands is a walhalla for backpackers, and¬†Perhentian Besar,¬†the biggest one¬†it’s¬†calmer, very beautiful and perfect for to relax and enjoys what mother nature has to offer…¬†¬†so better¬†suited¬†for me ūüôā

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The island is just a peace of paradise on earth, with powdery sand, white beaches, crystal-clear water, palm trees, no concrete or cars, great atmosphere, lovely sunsets, luxurious¬†jungles‚Ķ it‚Äôs all¬†too¬†perfect, and kind of¬†magical, that’s is hard to believe that is real.

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There’s not much to do in the island, what is just perfect, so we spent our time, walking around, relaxing, enjoying ¬†the beautiful beaches, sunsets, ¬†hiking through the¬†jungle, spotting wildlife like monkeys, birds, spiders, flying foxes and reptiles. And of course¬†discover amazing deserted beaches and friendly locals.

Lizards are a real thing in the island, and being so close to them is kind f scary, so when you have a huge¬†lizard¬†that decides that your front door is good place to be, is kind of uncomfortable ūüôā

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On top of that, ¬†you have an¬†immense blue ocean full of life to be discovered. I did here¬†the best snorkelling trip of my life, what a shame I didn’t have a waterproof camera, the¬†visibility was extraordinary, and I was so¬†lucky with all I¬†saw.

In this trip I saw the most incredible fishes species, they were so so many all around me, with different vibrating colour, shapes and sizes, just extraordinary. After this trip I just bought a waterproof camera so I will not miss a shot of a place like this ever again.

Just don‚Äôt forget to do snorkelling with a t-shirt, I only put suncream¬†and wasn’t enough at all, I mean I just got a¬†biggg sunburnūüė≥.

For the first time in my life I swam with giant turtles, black tip reef shark, clown fish, blue-spotted stingrays, titan trigger fish, ¬†parrot fish, moray eel, and many other ¬†brightly coloured fish that I don’t know the names.

I was lucky enough to be able to swim in waters where you can still see colourful reefs, which unfortunately are despairing because of pollution, climate change  and worrying  lack of environmental awareness and care for the state in which we will leave this Earth when we die.

Kayaking is also a must do, and a great way to explore by your own other parts of the island. We got a kayak for a day and we paddle around the island discovering  a couple of deserted beaches.

In the end of our amazing¬†stay we left this paradisiac island behind and we got a boat back to¬†Kuala Besut,¬†and from there we walked to the bus station( around 10 minutes). Nearby there’s plenty of drink and food stalls and a market behind the station.

Be kind, have fun and protect the coral reefs ūüíö

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

INTO THE RAINFOREST: Jerantut – Taman Negara – Jungle train

Jerantut is the best starting point¬†if you want to go to Taman Negara.¬†As the town doesn’t see many tourists the¬†accommodation is much¬†cheaper and has great¬†connections by¬†public bus and train. On top of¬†that¬†has many great and cheap food options.¬†Jerantut is a nice, colourful and quite town, perfect to relax and¬†stroll around.

Taman Negara is the biggest rain forest and National Park in Malaysia and the¬†oldest in the world. And I will start to say that can’t be any easier to make your own visit, without spending crazy amounts of money in an organised tour.¬†My first tip is to¬†get there very early¬†to¬†avoid the crowds.

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The local bus from Jerantut to Taman Negara departs at 6.30am (7RM) and stops at the park entrance. Before you enter the park you have a few street stalls where you can take your breakfast.

Rather than booking a tour I suggest you to do it yourself.¬†Walk down the road to pick up a boat to cross the river (1RM), and at the park entrance pay the¬†1RM fee plus 5RM if you want to take photos.¬†The park is very clean, organised and well signposted so you will not get lost ūüėÄ

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We start doing the Lubok Simpon path, this place can be a bit crowded, but if you get there early in the morning you will have, like us, the place for yourself. After a refreshing swim we start our way  to the canopy walk, amble around and spotting the wildlife, watch out for the monkeys, tree snakes, monitor lizards, spiders, jungle squirrels and the mousedeer.

For the¬†canopy itself ¬†they apply a 5RM fee.¬†It was¬†truly an experience!!¬†It‚Äôs hard to keep the¬†balance and¬†feels like you can easily fall ūüôā but I¬†would definitely recommend it.¬†Some points are quite high what gives a completely different perspective of the forest.

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There are buses from Taman Negara to Jerantut at 8am, 10am, 3pm and 6pm.

After a relaxing day spent at Jerantut we catch the Jungle Train at 6:30am. We went in 1st class carriage with beds (30RM).¬†The train is very comfortable, the bed clean and luckily very slow, I think if it was any faster would flip over, at least felt¬†like it would. The ride is far¬†from smooth.¬†The canopy is so dense and close to the tracks it feels like we’re moving through a tunnel of green.

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This train really makes justice to his name, it really crosses a very thick and lush jungle. Despite most of the travel be at night, you still get to see the jungle scenery, and some  stunning views of karst formations and muddy rivers after the sunrise. Unfortunately the windows were to small to take photos.

 

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha¬†

 

The tranquil Pekan

We got a bus from Mersing to Pekan,¬†a small town on the bank of the Pahang River,¬†and far away from the touristic route, but still with a few things to¬†do and visit, once is a¬†popular destination¬†between locals.¬†Mostly because Pekan is the¬†official residence of Pahang’s royal family.

We just spend 2 days here what was more than enough to visit the main attractions, markets, gardens, to try the local delicacies and to stroll around this small and tranquil town.

Pekan’s¬†top attraction is for obvious reasons the Royal Palace of Pekan,¬†that¬†doesn’t allow visitors but still¬†attracts lots of local tourists¬†that stand outside the walls to look at the¬†Polo ground and also the horses.

The other highlights are the Sultan Abu Bakar Museum also known as Pekan State Museum that has artefacts related to Pekan and Malay history and culture. The river front street with its old Chinese shophouses.

The¬†Watercraft gallery¬†was¬†another¬†stop, it’s¬†a small open gallery that showcases different types of watercraft and¬†fisherman‚Äôs houses.¬†They have a nice display but the pieces are a bit¬†deteriorate because¬†of the lac of¬†maintenance.

The mosques are quite impressive and very beautiful on the outside, and there’s also a few¬†examples of non-Islamic houses of worship in town like the¬†Chinese temple¬†dedicated to the Chinese goddess of the sea.

Pekan has excellent Malaysian street food and extraordinary fresh fruit.

At the time¬†we were the¬†only westerners in town so we¬†attracted a lot of attention ūüôā Making friends with the people is always¬†a great way to know more about this little town and the Malays culture.

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha¬†

How to get to one of the most beautiful island in Malaysia – Pulau Tioman

Mersing is located on the east coast of the peninsular Malaysian and north east of the state capital Johor Baru. The bus costs 13RM for one way.

When you arrive at Mersing you have a shop near the waterfront hotel, that provides a good service and gives great information about the islands and the available accommodation. Here you can buy your boat ticket and book your hotel, if not you need to contact the hotel yourself by email with some time and make all the arrangements.

Messing is not spectacular, so no need to spend the night there, but is a great place to eat and buy food, fruit and drinks,  to take it with you to the island once everything is more expensive there.

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Tioman is the largest of the 64 volcanic islands that form the¬†Seribuat Archipelago on Malaysia‚Äôs east coast. It’s considered by many one of the most beautiful in Malaysia. I need to agree that the landscape is indeed stunning and still with little human presence.

We got a boat to Tioman  in the afternoon (70RM with open return), and we decided to stay at a very calm and less touristic part of the island, the Panuba Inn Resort.  This beach is located in between the famous ABC beach (or Air Batang) and Salang both are more for backpackers and are the most  social spots on the island along with Tekek.

ABC and Salang have some night¬†life, ¬†beach bars and diving schools, But we weren’t looking for that so¬†Panuba¬†was the right choice for us.DSCF4681.JPG

Panuba¬†is isolated, surrounded¬†by lush¬†forest and has ‘it’s own beach’. All the rooms have¬†sea view¬†and the price is quite good (with AC and hot water 95RM, with fan and cold water 65RM).

DSCF4644.JPGThe views from Panuba are magnificent, and the sunset from the pier just amazing. The beach is great to laid down reading a book, enjoying the scenery and swim, but is a bit rocky.

Because we don’t like to be just lying down on the beach all day¬†we did lots of trekkings.

We went to the ABC beach (Air Batang) a couple of times were we saw black squirrels, Monitor lizards (that are literally everywhere in the island) beautiful birds,  a big scaryyy yellow and black snake and a shiny green one on our path.

One day we walked from Panuba  to Tekek near the airport, this tiny town has of course more life and better prices than in our part of the island that was a bit on the higher side. Tekek is Tioman’s largest village and has the only cash machine. We got the felling that Tekek is the main tourist gateway, but still very quiet.

Another great trekking was¬†from the Panuba to the Monkey bay,¬†it’s a¬†rough trail with many¬†monkeys around, so¬†you can’t do it if you are afraid of them. While you are walking you can fell that this jungles has many eyes observing you and it’s very alive, so¬†be careful in case a monkey decides to be ‘funny’! The trail takes around 45 minutes each away.

The beach is just fabulous and paradisiac, the¬†water cristal clean, and there’s no rocks. We were there alone with the naughty¬†monkeys, that tried really hard to still our belongings. We got our bags well¬†tight, and still we have had to run in their direction a couple of time just to keep them away of our shoes and clothes!

Tioman is a great place to do diving and/or snorkelling and I do recommend it highly, the colourful fishes and the corals in the turquoise blue water are just stunning.

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love Ana xx 

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

 

Sabah – Kota Kinabalu

At kuala Lumpur airport we got a flight to Kota Kinabalu. From the airport there are public buses (5RM) to town. Kota Kinabalu or simply called KK is the capital of Sabah,  located in the Island of Borneo on the west coast.

Borneo is all about¬†it’s green lush¬†rainforests, wild jungles, wild¬†animals, high ¬†mountains¬†and countless¬†caves, but for me Sabah was¬†mostly about it’s¬†paradisiac¬†beaches,¬†small towns,¬†villages, markets and the food.¬†We missed intentionally all¬†the sanctuaries,¬†jungle trails and natural reserves, because we did it all in the other part of borneo – Sarawak. ¬†Sarawak is less touristic,¬†unspoiled and cheaper for those kind of activities.

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We arrived at night and I got instantly impressed with all the night markets, lights, smells and  busy vibe. During the day time KK is still picturesque (not as much as Kuching), but still has its own beauty. The best way to know KK is by foot, so walk around and allow you to lose yourself in the city.

I really love markets and KK doesn’t disappoint, at least in number ūüôā The¬†Central MarketPasar Besar – its a great place to explore KK’s culture, it has countless vegetables and fruit stalls and an area that sells homed delicacies¬†and even fresh tabaco. Markets are the life and blood of a city, so they are always a¬†nice place to go if you want to¬†feel it and the local culture.¬†Sellers aren‚Äôt pushy at all so you can just wonder¬†around¬†seeing all the different stalls. Behind this one they have a¬†Fish Market the Pasar Ikan’. ¬†Nearby there’s the Pasar Filipino, that is¬†basically a Salted Fish Market, and a small Fruit and vegetables¬†Market.

Just because I’m already talking about markets, why not to carry on?! ūüôā

The¬†Gaya Street Market¬†opens on Sunday mornings and finishes by 1p.m.¬†is full of souvenirs, crafts, trinkets, clothings and lots of live animals for sale¬†what is¬†very¬†upsetting. Its bustling¬†crowded so the key is to get there early, but don’t expect anything extraordinary.¬†The¬†food¬†and natural medicine products are interesting but that’s about it.

The Handicraft Market has a few workers seating outside sewing, inside all the stalls are selling the same, so nothing special.

The night market,¬†sets up at around 5 pm or so and is¬†located beside the handicraft Market¬†and¬†beneath Le M√©ridien hotel,¬†and it¬†has¬†two main sections ‚Äď one where they sell fresh ingredients, and another where you can eat. The food stalls are more focussed on seafood that anything else.¬†Obviously we don’t eat¬†seafood but¬†we eat¬†seaweed ūüôā ¬†They‚Äôre not like the dried ones I’m used to buy at the supermarket these have a¬†soft and succulent texture and are called sea grapes, sea¬†caviar¬†or Latok. Despite the seaweed that I found extremely ‘exotic’ they¬†have other¬†plant based dishes and delicious treats like fresh fruit and juice, fried bananas, ¬†pancakes filled with peanut butter and¬†sweet donuts.

KK Waterfront, it’s a very¬†sophisticated part of KK¬†¬†and nice for a walk to¬†the mall‚Äôs ocean front¬†mostly during sunset,¬†where boats are¬†docked for the night.¬†Tanjung Aru Beach,¬†its a great¬†place to walk along the beach and to observe the¬†sunset too,¬†(bus from of City Hall or Wawasan Plaza (4RM))

The City Mosque,¬†is picturesque on the outside, again mostly during the sunset but sometimes they don’t allow non religious people in,¬†but that’s fine¬†because¬†there‚Äôs nothing much to see there. Just admire the building and the beautiful lake around it, sometimes looks like the mosque is floating on water. If you are at KK for a¬†short period, give this one a miss.

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Because we didn’t want to do any organised tour we rented a motorbike at ‘gogo’ for 45RM, we¬†ride up the north cost, visiting a few villages and beaches. Its was a lovely day, without plan, so we drove with the wind and stopped as many times as we wanted.

Borneo is truly incredible, If you’re in Southeast Asia, don’t forget to visit!

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

Tunku Abdul Rahman marine Park _ Sabah _ island of Borneo

You are absolutely right¬†when you¬†think about Borneo’s lush rainforests, wild jungles, orangutang, probiotic monkeys,¬†mountains¬†and¬†caves, but Sabah has even more to offer, from¬†its amazing reefs, marine wildlife, paradisiac¬†beaches¬†to the¬†pristine waters.

From Kota Kinabalu you can easily access the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine Park, that  is composed by 5 islands: Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan, Gaya and Sulug. I will leave the feedback for the ones I have been to.

DSCF6799You have two ways to reach the¬†islands, you can get a boat trespassing ¬†the central market (Pasar Besar)¬†where you will find a small smelly jetty, used mostly by locals (and me ūüėä) or¬†at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. Both have the same prices.¬†Before embarque make sure you have plenty of water, fruit and snacks with you.

ūüŹĚPulau Manukan¬†(10RM conservation fee)

Can be a bit crowded near the place you pay the entry fee, just walk a bit and you will find an empty beach. We tried to do snorkelling but the visibility was poor that day, but we still had a great lazy day, laying down, swimming on the warm water and trekking thought the nature trails . It has touristic facilities, an extensive shore and many monitor lizards.

ūüŹĚPulau Mamutik¬†(10RM conservation fee)

Mamutik is the smallest one, and my favourite. After paying the entry fee, just walk a bit to find an empty paradisiac beach with clear cristal waters great to do some snorkelling.

ūüŹĚPulau Gaya

Its really peaceful and less crowded¬†than the others and it’s covered in tropical forest. In the island¬†there are small water villages, with mosques, schools and simple shops built on stilts.

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

 

 

 

Cameron Highlands_ what to do & where to eat

We got the bus from Ipoh to the cameron Highlands (18RM). It’s a beautiful journey but very hard for those who get sick easily, so get ready.

We decided to stay at¬†Tanah Rata just¬†because it has more affordable options of restaurants¬†and hotels.¬†Tanah Rata is no doubt the most convenient place but don’t expect a¬†particularly charming place.

In town there are many shops/hotels offering tours, but we decided to go on our own. We looked at the different options like renting a bike or a scooter, but that turned out to be difficult. So we sticked with the last¬†option available hitchhiking ūüĎćūüŹľ and I’m so glad we did,¬†the people we meet were so¬†nice and gave us lots of great tips.¬†Hitchhiking was perfectly safe.

During the time we spend there we visited the Boh and the Bonet tea plantation were we did some trekking. The surrounding landscape covered in tea is beautiful. You can visit both for free.

If you like to hike there are many great jungle treks with streams and waterfalls to be found. You can also hike to the Peak of Brinchang Mountain and explore Mossy Forest. The views are breathtaking.

EAT:

There are some options available however don’t expect any food heaven ūüôā

At Tanah Rata there are¬†plenty of ¬†indian restaurantes so banana leaf meals and dosas for all ūüėĬ†I specially recommend the Sri Brinchang and the restaurant Kumar both have¬†some variety of¬†vegan¬†dishes and the food is¬†quite tasty.

They also have a small evening market with a few local specialities, like the Apam Balik (pancakes with peanuts).

Nearby Brinchang¬†we found a local not-for-profit vegan restaurant, and a great vegan buffet restaurant near the night market –¬†Fu Guang Vegetarian.

The Night Market at Brinchang its good for cheap local food. They also have a weekend market selling fresh fruit and vegetables.

You can‚Äôt miss Cameron Highlands mostly if you like to hike,¬†the other attractions probably don’t worth the time and money ūüôā

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

IPOH Old Town and New Town

We traveled from Kuala Perlis to Ipho (state capital of¬†Perak)¬†by bus (29RM) and arrived at the terminal Amanjaya at 22pm so¬†there wasn’t any transports (despite the taxi) to take us to Ipoh’s old town. So we stayed for the night at a nearby ‘hotel’. In the next morning we got a bus (2.5RM) and we were instantly surprised with this lovely town, that ¬†has definitely¬†some similarities to¬†George Town (in¬†Penang), one of my¬†favourite cities in¬†Malaysia.

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We stayed for 2 days what was enough to visit and feel the city but not enough to visit the surrounding areas.

Ipoh has a special vibe, great historic buildings, lots of street art and really great food. So, should be a mandatory stop for any itinerary in Malaysia.

Ipoh old town doesn’t look to have many tourists or even many¬†locals walking around, despite being laid back, it’s also creative, trendy and full of things to see and try, like the famous White Coffee.

 

Ipoh centre is split in two, the old town on the west and the new town on the east side of the Kinta River .

In the old town you can do¬†the Heritage Trail¬†(4 miles) and the¬†Street Art walk, for both you can grab a free map, and just lose yourself…¬†The street art ¬†makes it even more interesting to¬†explore the historical city, and it’s fairly easy to find it. Most of the murals belong to¬†the¬†famous street artist Ernest Zacharevic¬†and some other locals.

You can’t miss the Kong Heng square market, an old building¬†full of vine covered ruins occupied now by modern stalls.

Ipoh’s Little¬†India¬†with it’s¬†colourful shops,¬†spices, music¬†and¬†eateries, and the¬†new town on the¬†East side of the river.

The New Town has the best eateries and some more street art, so make sure you don’t miss the Mural Art Lane, that is completely covered in murals showing the Malaysian culture.

Ipoh it’s definitely a must.. have fun ūüėÄ

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha¬†