The city of Ipoh is located about 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur. Journey through the North South Expressway (NSE or PLUS Highway) takes a breezy 2 1/2 hours through scenic rolling valleys, palm oil plantations and limestone hills of Peninsula Malaysia. Distances from other major cities: Penang (2 hours), Johor Bharu (6 hours), Singapore (6 1/2 hours) and Kuantan (5 hours).
There are two ways to determine where exactly is the Old Town of Ipoh. A good rule of thumb should be the precincts along the riverbank of Kinta River, although things really are not set in stone. The other way is to use the three bridges that cut across the Kinta River as the marker that separate the "Old" and the "New" parts of the city. The bridges are located on either Jalan Leong Boon Swee - Jalan Datoh - Jalan Sultan Yusuf, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah and Jalan Sultan Idris Shah.
As the proliferation of tin mining companies and supporting industries flourished in the old Ipoh, areas along the riverbank were developed to cater for the business needs. The Kinta River was once the main artery of transportation for the city often dubbed as "The Town that Tin Built". As the mining industry began to wither, so was the overall development of the old town. Organic urban growth eventually expanded the city precincts to areas like Greentown, Bercham, Tasek, Simpang Pulai, etc., and the old town remains mostly as it was tens of years earlier.
The old town hosts a great collection of pre-war shophouses commonly seen in Georgetown or Singapore. Most of them are in sorry states of disrepair but efforts were put in for partial refurbishments of certain buildings in the old town. Truly, almost each row of shophouses has a name (e.g. Jan Sahib, Chung Thye Pin, De Silva, etc) most likely of its previous owner from the day of yore. It was said that the Rent Control Act 1966 that prohibited owners to extort expensive rental rates in the old town was the main culprit of the abysmal state of the area.
Be that as it may, there are sections of the old town that offer architectural marvels that very few places can rival in Malaysia, mainly around the enclave of the Railway Station and Ipoh Padang. Walking along the streets of these almost century-old buildings is like being transported back in time. Near the Ipoh Padang (on Station Road) are a number of the old town's most exquisite buildings - the Mercantile Bank (1931) with wonderful art deco design, the Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China (1902) which is now a Standard Chartered Bank branch, the Straits Trading building (1907) that emanates an Italian Renaissance construction that now hosts an OCBC Bank branch, the Hong Kong & Shanghai building (1931), the Kinta Electricity Distributor (KED) building, etc.
Really, the old town has retains its old-world charms. I just hope these eclectic buildings will remain wonderful for the next hundreds of years.
Literally a walk down the memory lane, especially for those born and bred in Ipoh like yours truly.