From sleepy city to international draw

Tourist magnet: Ipoh’s mix of old world charm and modern attractions has proven popular with tourists the world over.

PETALING JAYA: In the past, many youths risked being laughed at whenever they told people that they were from Ipoh.

This even brought about the term Ipoh ma-li (I come from Ipoh), said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang.

“But now, people from Ipoh can beam with pride as tourists are flocking to their city to savour its food, fruits and white coffee,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Perak capital was featured in a New York Times article titled “Why Ipoh, Malaysia, Should Be On Your Travel Radar”.

The article detailed how the city was staging a comeback to become Malaysia’s hippest destination.

“Ipoh is now roaring back in style,” it said.

It also featured a list of hip cafes and eclectic boutique hotels in Ipoh, a town that was formerly a hotbed for tin mining activities.

It was also previously reported that Ipoh had welcomed 31,785 international tourists in last year’s first quarter, a 20% increase from 22,095 tourists in 2016.

In 2016, Lonely Planet ranked Ipoh as the sixth best destination in Asia, ahead of all other South-East Asian cities.

“Not many people know that Perak receives the second highest number of domestic tourists after Johor. This is more than Pahang and Selangor.

“In recent years, more foreign tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur or Penang have crossed over to Ipoh due to its proximity or for a stopover during travel between the two better known cities,” said Tan.

In 2016, Perak received 7.2 million domestic tourists.

Visitors could experience contemporary street art, traditional coffeeshops, art cafes and colonial masterpieces in its town centre, bird-watching in the Kinta Nature Park, white water rafting near Gopeng, trekking to clifftop temples and the fragrant Gaharu Tea Valley, said Tan.

The conversion of old buildings, shophouses and bungalows into cafes and boutique hotels had turned Ipoh into a “hipster town”, he added.

“There are also more homestays, service apartments and Airbnb accommodations.

“The increased number of electric train service (ETS) trips to Ipoh has also helped to bring in more tourists,” said Tan.

Perak Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi said it was exciting to read about Ipoh in international media.

“It will be added value for Ipoh in terms of tourism because the city is now on the international roadmap,” she said.

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