While many destinations in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Melaka enjoy world fame, the state of Perak is not so much of an obvious choice for international tourists. The Visit Perak Year 2017 (VPY 2017) aims to change that.
Coined as the Land of Grace, Perak Darul Ridzuan, the second largest state in Peninsular Malaysia, is a true gem. The rustic charm of old colonial buildings which are now preserved and repurposed to fit modern lifestyle, outstanding museums and historical sites tracking back to the years during the British colonial period are only one side of the coin. The other distinction that makes Perak a destination not to be missed is its natural beauty. Here you will find one of the oldest rainforest in the world, limestone cliffs full of magnificent caves that date back thousands of years, white sandy beaches and amazing underwater treasures. A few picturesque islands (for example Pangkor Laut resort) round up the touristic offers and are always a good choice for hanging out and relaxing.
The capital of Perak is Ipoh, situated approximately 200 km (120 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur and 130 km (81 mi) south of Penang on the North-South Expressway. Formerly it was known as the “City that tin built” as well as “City of Millionaires”. Visitors by rail will be welcomed by an impressive late-Edwardian Baroque railway station building which this year celebrates its 100th birthday. Designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and affectionately known as the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by its locals, it also houses a station hotel called the Majestic Hotel. Located across the road from the Railway Station is Ipoh Town Hall, another white building in neo-classical style.
But of course not only the British left their marks in the architectural mixture of the city. Most notably it is expressed by the various religious monuments that symbolise the diversity of beliefs found in Malaysia.
The Sam Poh Tong, for example, is a Chinese Buddhist temple built within a limestone cave. It is the largest cave temple in Malaysia and the oldest and most famous cave temple in Ipoh. It contains art work such as a reclining Buddha figure. The temple also offers visitors the opportunity to release turtles into its turtle pond as a means of balancing one’s karma. and is the oldest and most famous cave temples in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. The temple built in raw limestone cave in the mountains which is located about 5 km from Ipoh. The temple facade dates back to the 1950s and a stiff climb of 246 steps will lead you to an open cave with an excellent view of Ipoh and its surroundings. Till today, nuns and monks who dedicate their lives to Buddha still occupy the Sam Poh Tong.
One attraction that should not be missed is the beautifully restored Han Chin Pet Soo, Malaysia’s first Hakka tin mining museum. Originally it was the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893. If you are interested in the history of tin mining, Hakka heritage, or the history of Ipoh itself, this is the place for you. On display are artifacts, collectibles, ephemeras and also photographs from the 19th and 20th century. Make sure to book beforehand because they offer guided tours lasting about one hour. Although there is no entry fee a suggested donation of RM 10 is greatly appreciated.
The second largest town in Perak after Ipoh is Taiping. It was the state capital from 1876 to 1937 before it was replaced by Ipoh. Due to the extensive annual rainfall of about 4,000mm (the peninsula’s average is 2,000mm) it is also known as Malaysia’s wettest city. In Taiping you will find the Perak State Museum, the Taiping Zoo and which was the first zoo to be established in Malaysia, and, most notably, the beautiful Lake Garden. Originally a mining ground, it was the first public garden established during the British rule in Malaysia. It is made up by multiple lakes and features a majestic mountain as a backdrop. It is also possible to rent a little paddle boat to check out the lake.
Speaking of nature, a vast area of virgin rain forest is also located in Perak. Known as the Belum Forest Reserve, it is one of the largest untouched forest reserves in Peninsula Malaysia and one of the top spots for eco tourism. Access is limited and requires registration but various tour operators arrange for the necessary permits, river and road transport and accommodation. Nature lovers will be thrilled by the wealth of flora and fauna, and with a little luck you can spot wildlife like elephants, deer, wild boars, birds, insects and many tropical trees and plants.
With so many attractions in Perak, the state is hoping to draw more international visitors in 2017. Under the branding “Visit Perak Year 2017″ the tourism sector will develop many promotional special offers throughout the year. “We received between 300,000 and 400,000 international tourists every year”, says Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi, the chairman of the State Tourism, Culture, Arts, Communications and Multimedia Committee. This year, the target is 500,000 international visitors. “We hope that we will be able to achieve the target this year in conjunction with VPY 2017,” she said.