For digital nomad Gael Hilotin, 32, Ipoh was a rather elusive city to visit!

The Filipina who blogs at thepinaysolobackpacker.com and contributes regularly to Yahoo! Southeast Asia Travel as well as other travel publications, recalled, “I have visited Ipoh several times since then, but the one visit that has stayed in my memory was a solo backpacking trip around Malaysia in 2011. I arrived in Ipoh in the middle of a ferocious thunderstorm, so much so that I decided to hop on the train again and headed north to Penang instead.

“Returning to Kuala Lumpur from Penang, I made another attempt to visit Ipoh but it was still pouring and I had difficulty looking for accommodation. It turned out that I was reading my map upside down! I ended up in Pangkor Island, where I met an elderly lady who was also travelling alone. When she mentioned that she was returning to Ipoh, I followed. I took it as a sign that Ipoh beckoned for me to give her another try, even though it would only be for a day.

Gael (in red glasses) with travel blogger friends in front of Ipoh Town Hall

Gael (in red glasses) with travel blogger friends in front of Ipoh Town Hall

“I went walking around the city by myself and then took a bus to Batu Gajah in search of Kellie’s Castle. The bus driver was very helpful and called a taxi for me upon arrival at the Batu Gajah bus station.”

According to Gael, the book “Rough Guides for Malaysia” had recommended Ipoh as one of the must-visit places in Malaysia and she has no regrets heeding its suggestion. “I consider Kellie’s Castle the highlight of my trip. It was totally unplanned, so I didn’t know what to expect. You can imagine my excitement at “my” discovery!

“I was the first among my travel blogger friends to set foot in Ipoh, so I had plenty of information to share with them. I later returned to Kellie’s Castle for a second visit with a few travel bloggers and our new friends from Malaysia. I was able to explore more of the ruins of the Castle, areas that I had missed out during my first visit.

“I love the heritage buildings of Ipoh, the new trend in artsy cafés and the food! The meal of chicken rice and Ipoh white coffee served at The Lost World of Tambun was one of a kind.

in Cameron Highlands

in Cameron Highlands

“At a glance, it does look like the urban mass of Ipoh dominates everything but this city actually oozes with delights waiting to be discovered, like the oasis of green amidst the concrete jungle, its remarkable heritage mansions and quaint shops in narrow lanes such as along Concubine Lane.”

Getting around Ipoh could be a challenge for those who do not have their own transport. For Gael, it was no different. She observed, “Ipoh is huge, therefore, public transportation should be improved upon. Taxi drivers refuse to use meters and it gets tiresome having to negotiate the fare each time. Therefore, stricter enforcement on the use of meter is required.

“Also, I read that pickpockets and motorcycle thefts are prevalent, so the presence of police personnel in popular landmarks and attractions will help make tourists feel more secure. Having said this, Ipoh is pretty safe in my experience, even when I was a lone female visitor.”

Note: An edited version of this article [Oasis amid GROWING CITY] was published on 31st October, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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