OLD is gold is a good description of Ipoh Old Town.
Many people flock to the area, especially during weekends, for food and also a stroll around the area.
“My parents used to bring us (with her siblings) here for yum cha (breakfast in Cantonese) when I was a child,” said a 65-year-old woman who was queuing up to buy an ice-ball (crushed ice shaped into a ball) from a stall there.
“Ice-balls only cost five sen each when I was a child. There were two flavours, red syrup and sarsi.
“My sister and I will share the ice-ball each time so that we can taste different flavours.
“Five sen was a lot of money those days and we cannot have ice-balls so often,” she recalled the good old days.
Recently, she paid RM3 for an ice-ball that was the palm size of an adult.
The price is 60 times what she paid decades ago, but the contentment on her face was priceless.
It is about reliving the happy past.
But for Ye-Li, 22, the ice-ball is just another food experience in Malaysia.
“It tastes like syrup,” said the South Korean girl who chose one of the three flavours which came with fanciful names of fruits.
Yes, the experience of a walk down memory lane and also the architectural designs of the past era are the business concept for a revival of sorts in Ipoh Old Town.
Many young people who came across as locals were seen posing for pictures with the old shoplots as the backdrop.
It is also a popular place for wedding photo shoots.
Meanwhile, foreign tourists appeared to be more intrigued by the old buildings; taking a closer look at them and recording them with their electronic gadgets.
Ipoh is synonymous with good food and its reasonable pricing, and the old town is a food haven.
The coffee shops and traditional Chinese restaurants are always packed.
A bowl of sar hor fun (koay teow noodle soup) costs RM5 and goes well with the crispy fried bean sprouts at the Kong Heng coffeeshop there.
Asked to rate the dish, Ye-Li gave it a thumbs up or 90 upon 100 marks!
Across the road is the famous Koh Kee Restaurant.
People were already queuing up waiting for it to open at 11am.
I was made to understand that many of its patrons do not know the name of the restaurant.
Located along the ‘Concubine Lane’, some Ipohans just say “lunch at Concubine Lane”.
The alley has been nicknamed ‘Concubine Lane’ because it was a place where rich Chinese men and tin miners housed their mistresses many decades ago.
Today, people are simply drawn to the lane by Koh Kee’s delicious food and affordable pricing.
There is a quiet understanding among its patrons though.
For instance, the patrons, mostly regulars, would vacate their tables once they finished their meals.
I had lunch there with my family before.
I noticed that the person who took orders was doing it at lightning speed.
“We must be considerate for others and not let other patrons wait too long,” said H.Y. Lai, who likes to bring his family for lunch there during weekends.
It was also a place to have lunch with friends and business associates provided that they were not in a hurry, he added.
Lai said the cook and workers had been working there for a very long time and that perhaps explained the good food they served.
He said the restaurant was famous and had a few signature dishes, like its crispy fried chicken.
Thanks to the big lunch crowd, the glutinous rice ball seller who operated at the entrance during weekends also enjoyed good business.
The rice balls rolled into the size of a marble and mixed with ground peanuts are going for RM2.50 for a pack of about 10 pieces.
Spending a few hours, including having breakfast or lunch in this part of Ipoh Old Town over the weekend, is increasingly popular among the locals and people from outstation as well as foreign tourists.
It is a place to watch.