Like many visitors to Ipoh who stumbled upon this hidden gem of a city, Palestinian Anas Salman has made numerous repeated excursions since his very first trip in 2012. The editor of an Arabic magazine, 29-year-old Salman resides in Kuala Lumpur, and Ipoh is conveniently 2.5 hours north by the Electric Train Service (ETS).
While there are many different aspects of Ipoh to love and enjoy, for Salman, it is the strong aroma of Ipoh white coffee that has kept him coming back. He said, “Although I purchase pre-packaged Ipoh white coffee in bulk, the coffee just doesn’t taste the same when I prepare it myself. To me, the coffee in Old Town is just perfect, if that is possible.”
Coffee is obviously the ‘main ingredient’ for Salman. Nonetheless, his trip to Ipoh is incomplete without a healthy dose of laksa and satay. These are best washed down with what else, but Ipoh white coffee, hot or iced.
“I visit Ipoh regularly not only for its coffee and street fare, though. I love to spend time in Old Town just to jalan-jalan to explore the heritage buildings and their colonial architecture. As a history buff, each building’s background story intrigues me. It is heartening to note that efforts are being made to restore these pre-war buildings, although unfortunately, not every building could be saved. What a shame,” he expressed disappointment.
Living in Malaysia, Salman has taken the opportunity to visit all the states of the country but he still finds Perak the most attractive. “The leaning tower in Teluk Intan, Batu Gajah’s Kellie’s Castle, Gopeng Heritage House, Taman Herba in Kampung Kepayang and the hot springs in the Lost World of Tambun are just a handful of attractions that continue to fascinate me.
“However, one thing I noticed is the lack of signboards to direct visitors to interesting attractions within the city and nearby towns. Unless one has a local friend who does not mind driving a guest around, moving around by public transport is a major pain. So, please make life easier for visitors with clear and conspicuous signage,” he lamented.
With Ipoh listed on Lonely Planet as the sixth top Asian destination to visit in 2016, Salman believes that the position has placed the city in the spotlight among Arab tourists. He added, “The Middle East market is an important one and Malaysia is no stranger to us, although Ipoh has never been our primary choice all these while. Ipoh in particular and Perak in general should focus their tourism promotional efforts to attract Arab tourists, who will be of great value to the state. Perak has plenty to offer, as it stands, but hosting international-level events such as art festivals and sports tournaments would definitely boost the state in the eyes of Arab tourists.
“And of course, as the editor of a magazine that promotes tourism in Malaysia to the Middle East, we are excited that Perak will soon boast three theme parks, first, with Movie Animation Park Studios scheduled to open this December, followed by a water theme park and then a jungle-based theme park. We Arabs love spending family time at theme parks so these parks will be a mega attraction for us.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Ipoh coffee keeps me coming back] was published on 27th August, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.