Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guest Post with J. C. Martin taking us around Ipoh, Malaysia

Good day and welcome to Kuantan! I'm really pleased to introduce you to J. C. Martin, who is my guest today.

J.C. is from Ipoh, Malaysia and currently resides in London, England with her English husband and an impending addition is on the way! She has a black belt in Wing chun kung fu, so don't mess with her! She's also a pretty good writer - her debut novel "Oracle" was released earlier this year. To learn more about J.C. go and visit her blog!

Now J. C. it's over to you . . .

Eat, Pray, Live: 3 Things You Must Do While in Ipoh
By J.C. Martin

Ipoh holds a special place in my heart. Even after twelve years of living abroad, the city continues to draw me home, year after year.  Apart from visiting family and old friends, my annual trip back is a pilgrimage of sorts, with a to-do list of things you should not miss out on when visiting my quaint little home town.


Few would argue that Ipoh is the food capital of Malaysia. Why else would people travel from as far as Singapore to sample the culinary delights of the city? Natives insist that the high alkaline content of the local water (due to the fact that Ipoh is nestled in a valley surrounded by limestone hills) contributes to prime ingredients for the local cuisine.

If you’re ever in town, here are some gems you just have to sample:

Thean Chun

Thean Chun is a coffee house in the heart of Ipoh’s Old Town. Located on Leech Street (now Jalan Bandar Bijih Timah), its name is synonymous with famous Ipoh food. No visit to Ipoh is complete without sampling the original Ipoh hor fun, a dish comprising silky rice noodles, shredded chicken, prawns and chives in a sweet, fragrant broth.

For some scrumptious sides, order a nice popiah, a local spring roll filled with shredded vegetables, shrimps and tofu, cheecheong fun, sliced rice noodle rolls with your choice of sweet, spicy, or savoury topping sauces, and some famous Thean Chun satay, unique because it is made from pork rather than the usual chicken, beef and lamb.

Finally, if you have room for dessert, the coffee house’s velvety caramel custard is not to be missed.

From top: Ipoh hor fun; popiah; satay; cheecheong fun; caramel custard.
(Images courtesy of and Kopi for Copy)

Nga Choi Kai (Beansprouts & Chicken)

This simple combination is made super-special with smooth and moist poached chicken, fat, juicy and crunchy beansprouts, and a fragrant soy sauce. Served with more hor fun noodles, either dry or in a soup, this makes for a simple yet thoroughly satisfying meal.

The secret is in the fragrant soy sauce and oil used to season both the chicken and the beansprouts.

There are several restaurants around the city that sell good ngachoikai, but my favourite has got to be Restoran Cowan Street on what is now Jalan Raja Ekram, although nearby Lou Wong and OnnKee, the more established joints, are also pretty good.


My English husband can attest to the fact that you can happily spend weeks in Ipoh just eating, but there is much more to the city than just the food (although the food is a big part of it!).

Surrounded by verdant limestone hills dotted with caves, the outskirts of Ipoh are green, scenic, and serene. Not surprising then that a number of Buddhist temples have been built into these natural formations to capitalise on the Zen spirituality of the place.

A trip to Ipoh is not complete without a visit to one of these magnificent cave temples. Here are three of my favourites:

KekLok Tong, my favourite cave temple as it incorporates the natural features of the caves into its architecture the most naturally and seamlessly. The rock formations within the cave are a must-see!
(Image copyright © 2012 J.C. Martin)

Perak Tong. Look out for the colony of monkeys inhabiting the temple grounds!
(Image copyright © 2012 J.C. Martin)

Sam Poh Tong, one Ipoh's most popular cave temples. While you're here, check out the tortoise pond where you can feed the terrapins.
(Image copyright © 2012 J.C. Martin)

Of course, not all the caves around Ipoh have been converted into places of worship. To explore the geology and ecology of a natural living cave with its own subterranean river, a tour of GuaTempurung is a must.

Rock formations inside GuaTempurung, the result of millions of years of erosion.
(For more images and information, visit


After filling your belly and finding inner peace, it is time to explore the rest of what Ipoh has to offer, and the best way to do this is to throw yourself into Ipoh life.

Don’t just take pictures of the colonial architecture. Walk the streets of Old Town, converse with the traders in the food square, smell the spices of Little India. Come and meet the friendly and sometimes eccentric inhabitants. Don’t just see the city, live it. And hopefully, like me, you will come away with a piece of Ipoh in your heart.

Ipoh old and new, from top left: Ipoh Railway Station (image source: Wikipedia); St. Michael's Institution (image source: Wikipedia); Kinta City shopping centre (image source: Images of Ipoh); AEON Station 18 shopping centre (image source: Images of Ipoh).

That was great J. C. I really enjoyed your tour of Ipoh! I lived there temporarily and miss it from time to time. The food looks great!

Don't forget to visit J. C. Martin's blog

What did you like about Ipoh?


  1. Thanks for bringing me to Ipoh once babe! I sure enjoyed the food when I was there. Should bring the children next time. :D Lovely post JC Martin!

  2. Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Duncan! I enjoyed writing this, although it did give me a touch of homesickness, and it really make me crave Ipoh food!

  3. Oh, that caramel custard looks delicious. Actually, the rest of the dishes do too. Wonderful photos!

  4. Lovely guest post JC! Ipoh certainly sounds quite lovely. Fantastic photos you have shared with us today. The food looks scrummy! The caves look amazing.I can imagine why you would feel homesick for this beautiful place.

  5. A fascinating look at your city by a famous ex-pat (London resident). Thanks!

  6. Ipoh is one fantastic town to savour and not only for the food. It is still small for one to feel close to it, even though I had been there only on two or three occasions in the past. Not been to the temples though and that is my loss. The next time, soon, hopefully. And Ipoh became etched in my consciousness thanks too to the late Yasmin Ahmad whose first feature length film Sepet brought the town to the attention of a large spectrum of Malaysians. I don't favour Hor Fan though, but I must say, Nga Choi Kai won my heart. Thanks for the tour!

  7. Thanks JC for writing this great post and advertising Ipoh on my blog! And thanks to those who have commented. Your time and visits are always appreciated!

  8. Yes, I love this fantastic post, a great guest, beautiful photos.

  9. The food looks good, and the places beautiful. A great post.

  10. Fidelia: thanks for dropping by! Yes, there are definitely some attractions the kids would enjoy, like Sunway Lost World of Tambun. :)

    Theresa: My cousin took that pic. Just looking at it is giving me major cravings!

    thisisme: Thank you, it is a nice little city, big enough to have all mod cons, small enough to still be cosy, where you can bump into people you know at every street corner. Can't wait for my next trip back!

    Carol: "Famous" expat? Hardly! :P

    ordinarymalaysian: Yes, next time you visit do not miss the caves and temples!

    Leovi: Thanks!

  11. What a wonderful post, everything looks amazing.

  12. So much to see and do there!. J'adore caramel custard.:)


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