THE red and white umbrellas hanging like a canopy in a narrow lane in Ipoh Old Town are eye-catching.
Visitors are usually drawn to the sight, and on Christmas Day, some were seen snapping photos or coming close to see the umbrellas.
It is indeed a creative business idea, as it leads to a noodle shop along the narrow lane.
Ipoh Old Town has become a busy area since a few years ago, and the business in the area has picked up fast since then.
The place, which used to be dominated by Chinese patrons, is also seeing many visitors from other ethnic groups, as well as local and foreign tourists these days.
Apart from food, the visitors — locals and foreigners alike — are also attracted to the rich history of the old town.
Damien Chee, 14, said the young were interested to learn more about the past and visiting the place was a good way to discover more.
“The foreign tourists, in particular, will find this place (Ipoh Old Town) very interesting,” he said when met at his mother Nisha Foo’s fresh fruit juice stall along Lorong Panglima, nicknamed Concubine Lane.
The two rows of pre-war shophouses along the lane were used by rich tin mining tycoons to house their mistresses, hence the nickname.
Meanwhile, Foo, 33, said her stall, Healthy Juice@Concubine Lane, which started operating on Dec 2, sells juices made only from local fruits like pomelos, mangoes, watermelons and lime.
“This is a good way to promote local fruits to tourists, especially the foreigners,” she said, adding that business was good over weekends and public holidays when there are many tourists.
Another interesting addition on the way to Ipoh Old Town is the Lou Wong Taugeh Chicken.
Visitors to Ipoh Old Town will find the shoplot with its bright yellow facade hard to miss.
The unit is undergoing renovation and is scheduled for opening early next year.
Interestingly, it is just a door away from Thean Chun coffeeshop, which is very famous for its taugeh chicken.
Thean Chun, located along Jalan Bandar Timah, is also a landmark in Ipoh Old Town.
Modern cafes are also mushrooming in this place, alongside the traditional coffeeshops.
There is certainly an air of optimism in the tourism industry, in Ipoh in particular and Perak in general.
The silver state came up tops in domestic tourism in the country in 2012, with a record of 5.8 million in tourist arrivals that year.
Apart from tourism dollars, the industry is also a catalyst for development in other sectors.
Some people from Kuala Lumpur, for instance, are buying properties like apartments in Ipoh for use as weekend homes.
Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur are just a two-hour drive along the North South Highway, toll to toll.
The mushrooming of serviced apartments, which can be used for homestay business and budget hotels, are also signs of a healthy and thriving tourism sector in Ipoh.