Perak is one of the top 10 offbeat places to visit this year, according to Lonely Planet.
Old meets new is a romantic notion that perfectly describes Perak. From its thriving capital to majestic caves and historical structures, a journey through the second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia will unveil layers of charming history and dynamic character.
Stroll through its capital Ipoh, and you will sense excitement amidst beautiful dated buildings. Surrounded by beautiful limestone outcrops, the old town is also legendary for its silky soupy noodles called Sar Hor Fun and Hainanese chicken rice. Also not to be missed are the Tambun pomelos.
Once you have sampled the glorious food, it’s time to hit the road for some amazing sights. About 5km south of the town is the Sam Poh Tong Temple, a Chinese Buddhist cave temple situated within a natural limestone hill. It has a gorgeous decorated pavilion and fish pond, and also offers an excellent elevated view of Ipoh.
More spectacular views can be found at the Gunung Lang Recreational Park. It was developed against a scenic backdrop of the limestone hills of Gunung Lang and Gunung Bilike. Outdoor lovers will surely appreciate the man-made cascading waterfall atop a limestone hill, a 2km broadwalk over the swamp, and lookout towers.
Alternatively, head to the Royal Belum state park to enjoy more than 146,000ha of virgin forest. This precious rainforest is believed to be 130 million years old – older than the Amazon rainforest! Here’s where you can take a dip in the Sungai Ruok waterfall and may chance upon the famous and rare Rafflesia flower.
More nature pursuits await at Kuala Sepetang, a thriving fishing village that boasts an impressive sustainable mangrove ecosystem.
The Matang Mangrove wetland is home to rich and diverse habitats. You can watch birds, farmers harvesting cockles and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the Chinese White Dolphin swimming along the river mouths.
With its vast wilderness, Perak is ideal for adventurous outings. Over at Gopeng, the Ulu Geruntum falls offers a 20m single drop – great for those who wish try waterfall-abseiling. Gopeng is also where you will find Gua Tempurung, the largest cave in Peninsular Malaysia.
Part of the cave has been developed as a show cave, with electric lighting and walkways. There is also a range of tours of different lengths and level of difficulty. A fine river cave, the river courses through about 1.6 km of the hill. If you really don’t mind getting wet, whitewater rafting at Sungai Itek and Sungai Kampar guarantees excitement.
But if it’s a good ghost story you seek, then Kellie’s Castle warrants a visit. Rumour has it that the property built by the late Scottish planter William Kellie Smith is haunted. If it looks dilapidated, that’s because work on the property halted in 1926 with the sudden demise of its owner. Still, the mansion – with its six-storey tower, wine cellar, stately columns and Moorish arches – provides a fantastic backdrop for photography.
On the subject of grand buildings, Istana Iskandariah at the Kuala Kangsar royal district is surrounded by beautiful structures and is the landmark of this royal town. The scenic rolling hills on the embankment of the Perak River, with its crystal clear waters, enhances the peace and tranquillity of this place.
Another royal venue to visit is the Istana Kenangan Royal Museum. Originally built as a palace in 1926, its architecture is traditional Malay and the only one of its kind in the country. Don’t let this be your only museum visit in Ipoh, though. Stop by the Lenggong Archaeological Museum that’s located on a Paleolithic-era archaeological site.
Of course, one can’t forget Taiping. Once the first capital city of Perak, Taiping sits on a coastal plain at the foothills of the Bintang Range. Bukit Larut, or more famously known as Maxwell Hill, is a heaven for trekkers who love the beautiful sight and sound of the flora and fauna.
Taiping is blessed with plentiful rainfall that makes it fertile ground for century-old rain trees whose branches arch down towards the Lake Garden water’s edge.
While you’re here, a visit to the Taiping Zoo is worthwhile. It’s a friendly zoo during the day and a night safari after the sun sets. It provides a golden opportunity for visitors to witness the behaviour of some of the nocturnal animals.
With many places of interest to visit, the only question is “Where first?” when you’re in Perak.
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