Limestone cliffs dominate much of Perak giving rise to rugged landscapes and mysterious cave temples.
During British colonial days, the region was a tin mining powerhouse. The legacy of this boom period remains in Ipoh and Taiping’s stunning architecture.
Beach-lovers relish at the chance for a night on Pangkor Island. Wake to coastlines void of tourists and gentle waters next to the soft sand.
Throw in forest reserves, white water rafting and Malaysia’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Welcome to Perak: Malaysia’s most serendipitous state.
Crazy Tourist identifies the 25 best things to do in Perak for the best architecture, cave temples and adrenaline-pumping activities.
1. Colonial architecture in Perak’s cities (Perak)
Perak boomed during the colonial era.
The state’s tin reserves enticed entrepreneurs who soon made their fortunes.
Both Ipoh and Taiping, two little-visited cities in Malaysia, are a testament to this prosperous era.
State capital Ipoh has several grand structures. This includes the Railway Station, Birch Memorial Clock Tower and the High Court. Travelers can follow the Ipoh Heritage Trail which leads around 24 colonial-era buildings and monuments.
Former capital Taiping has a British-inspired center, Lake Gardens and Maxwell Hill.
2. Malaysia’s most underrated island (Pangkor Island)
Pangkor Island in the Straits of Melaka has empty coastlines, mountainous jungles and hundreds of hornbills.
Perak state government aims to transform this sleepy island into a tourist haven. But at the moment, Pangkor remains relatively unknown.
This means tourists can enjoy spectacular sunsets, snorkeling and kayaking without the crowds. Find a spot on the beach and you might not see another soul all day.
A handful of guesthouses line Pangkor’s western coast near both Nipah Bay and Coral Beach. More upscale resorts are along the southern coast.
Crazy Tourist recommends visiting the crumbling Dutch Fort, photographing Pangkor Town’s colorful houses and feeding wild hornbills at Sunset View Chalet.
3. A spooky, half-finished mansion hidden in the jungle (Batu Gajah)
Kellie’s Castle is an eerie and allegedly haunted colonial mansion near Ipoh.
An eccentric Scotsman migrated to British Malaya in the early 20th-century becoming wealthy from his rubber plantations. William Kellie Smith commissioned this mansion in Batu Gajah located 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Ipoh.
The colonial structure blends Moorish, Roman and British Indian architectural styles.
Smith suddenly died. His family returned to Britain. The half-finished mansion remained unfinished. Before long, the jungle swallowed it.
Visitors can walk through the multi-storied structure and stand on the rooftop tennis court. Rumors suggest ghosts roam the abandoned hallways. Or the house has undiscovered secret passageways.
Take a cab or Grab Car from Ipoh. Negotiate a price to wait for one hour.
4. The mysterious Perak Temple (Ipoh)
Perak’s cave temples are among the most mystical attractions in Malaysia.
Perak Temple near Ipoh is the most visited.
Religious icons and bronze statues fill the limestone caverns. Murals and calligraphy decorate the cave walls.
Explore the different rooms inside the almost magical environment.
Climb 400 steps to a viewing platform which provides 360-degree panaramic views of Ipoh.
Admission is free. Dress appropriately before entering Perak Temple.
Take Grab Car or a taxi from Ipoh.
5. Perak’s largest cave temple (Ipoh)
Sam Poh Tong is the largest of Ipoh’s three cave temples.
Several passageways and cavernous rooms penetrate the limestone walls. Each room has Buddhist relics on display.
Incense wafts through the damp air. This blends with the colors, statues and chanting creating a hypnotic atmosphere.
Follow the 246 steps to a viewing platform.
Local legends tell of a fascinating story about Sam Poh Tong’s discovery.
A Chinese monk found the cave in the late 19th-century. After establishing a temple, he mediated continuously for two decades until his death.
6. Kek Lok Tong’s manicured gardens and turtle pond (Ipoh)
Kek Lok Tong combines an enchanting spiritual cave temple with tranquil gardens.
If you’ve visited Perak and Sam Poh Tong, you’ll notice the similarities: Bronze statues, religious relics and endless streams on incense.
But what sets Kek Lok apart lies in its award-winning garden. The landscaped area has a pond filled with koi and turtles, tropical flowers and shady areas.
Stroll along the paths to quiet zones used for silent reflection. Find the best vantage points to photograph the temple set inside the green limestone cliffs.
7. Tin, tea and tiny cars in Ipoh’s museums (Ipoh)
Ipoh is Perak’s cultural hub.
The city has several museums covering everything from the history of Perak’s tin to a tea museum.
Taking the time to discover more about the state’s past will give an insight into the city and region today.
Head to the Han Chin Pet Soo, housed inside a former Hakka Miner’s Club, to learn about Perak’s tin mining. Check out Han Yan Hor dedicated entirely to tea.
Miniature Wonders Art Gallery uses miniature figurines to depict scenes from Ancient China. The owner used dough to handmake every single model.
Crazy Tourist recommends the Geological Museum, Dream Big (model cars) and an art gallery devoted to film director Yasmin Ahmad.
8. Street Food in Malaysia’s unofficial food capital (Ipoh)
Hundreds of restaurants line the streets in both old and new Ipoh serving Chinese, Indian and Malay food.
Ipoh’s culinary scene is on par with the best of Penang or Kuala Lumpur.
Check out Dai Shu Geok for Hakka Chinese food. Or have a Perak-style breakfast inside a Kopitiam (Malaysian-style café).
Try curry noodles at Yee Fatt Dry where the family has used the same recipe for more than 40 years.
Central Point Food Court near Parkson Ipoh Parade shopping mall has a huge selection of street food too.
A meal for one costs a few dollars.
9. Perak’s most controversial building (Ipoh)
Birch Memorial Clock Tower is shrouded in controversy, which 99% of visitors aren’t aware of.
The origin of this story starts at the turn of the 20th-century.
British colonialists mined tin in Perak leading to disputes with local chiefs. Rising tensions culminated with Dato Maharajalela assassinating First British Resident of Perak, James Birch.
The Birch Memorial Clock Tower opened in 1909 to commemorate the colonial hero’s sacrifice.
But this didn’t go down too well. Malay villagers saw Birch as the enemy and Dato Maharajalela as a freedom fighter.
Flash to the present. Perak’s authorities in defiance named the streets next to the memorial after Birch’s murderers, their national heroes.
The three-tiered white-washed structure is both splendid and a controversial topic.
Birch Memorial Clock Tower is near Ipoh State Mosque.
10. Ipoh State Mosque: Perak’s largest mosque (Ipoh)
Perak’s state mosque stands elegantly outside Ipoh Railway Station.
The two-floored white-washed building opened in 1968. With a total of 44 domes and a minaret soaring to 38 meters (125 feet), it’s an imposing sight in old Ipoh.
Look out for the intricate mosaic patterns decorating the exterior façade.
The Sultan Idris Shah II Mosque has a function room, wedding facilities and a library inside.
Crazy Tourist recommends visiting the mosque as part of a self-guided walking tour on the Ipoh Heritage Trail.
11. Photograph Perak’s spaceship-like tower (Ipoh)
On first appearance, Ipoh Square (Dataran Ipoh) might not appear much to look at.
Government buildings surround the green manicured space. A giant Malaysian flag flies in the center.
But aside from its stately appearance, the park houses the unusual MBI Clock Tower.
The three-legged tower stands like a tripod and looks like something out of an old sci-fi movie.
After dark, the area lights up and transforms into a favorite hangout spot for young locals.
12. Rugged landscapes in Gunung Lang Recreational Park (Ipoh)
Mount Lang (Gunung Lang) Recreational Park a few kilometers north of old Ipoh showcases the best of Perak’s nature.
A patchwork of green blankets the limestones cliffs surrounding the central turquoise lake. Rocky outcrops point haphazardly towards the sky in the distance.
Follow the boardwalks to a cascading waterfall, lookout towers and swampy habitats. Watch out for tropical birds, flying foxes and macaques.
The recreational park provides a slice of nature within reach of the cosmopolitan city.
13. Neolithic cave painting in Tambun Cave (Ipoh)
Tambun Cave near Ipoh has approximately 600 cave paintings.
Archeologists date the crude pictures of humans and animals to the Neolithic era. This means they’re somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 years old.
It was only in the mid-19th century when a British soldier stumbled upon these ancient images. They became a National Heritage in 1986.
Follow the road towards Tambun and stop at the Caltex Petrol Station. Walk along the lane that leads to the field in the distance. Cross the bridge and you’ll find signposts marking the way.
Sadly, some of the lower paintings have been vandalized. The ones on the upper rock face remain as they were thousands of years ago.
14. Aerobics in Malaysia’s oldest public park (Taiping)
Taiping Lake Gardens is a sprawling 160-acre park in central Taiping.
The British turned the former mining pit into a public park in 1880 creating Malaysia’s first public garden.
Today it has a total of 10 man-made lakes, a lotus pond and several bridges.
Rain trees believed to be more than 100 years old arch over the path on one side of the lake. The trees, hills and often overcast weather teleports visitors to England for a few brief moments.
Follow the jogging path around the lake. Or head to the nationwide famous Taiping Zoo.
Regular events take place in Taiping Lake Gardens including free aerobic classes.
15. Explore Perak’s finest collection of colonial architecture (Taiping)
Taiping rarely features on Malaysian travel itineraries.
But the former capital of Perak has a rich history closely tied to the region’s lucrative tin mining industries.
Taiping was among the first British towns in Malaya (the old name for Malaysia). Many of the early colonial architecture remains.
Taiping Heritage Trail covers approximately 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) taking tourists on a journey through the town’s past.
Stop by West Malaysia’s first modern railway (Taiping Railway Station). Head to Malaysia’s oldest museum (Perak Museum). Discover the ’33 firsts in Taiping’.
Each monument has a detailed information board providing context in English.
16. Malaysia’s oldest museum (Taiping)
Perak Museum opened in 1883 becoming Malaysia’s first museum.
The museum in Taiping has thousands of exhibits and collections. Some of the natural history displays feature specimens collected more than 100 years ago.
Others are more geared towards ethnography and Perak’s ethnic communities.
Orang Asli, Malaysia’s aboriginals, are well-represented inside the museum. Malaysia’s Orang Asli have lived in West Malaysia for more than 40,000 years.
Perak Museum is an architectural masterpiece. Admire its eclectic blend of Moorish, Victorian and Neo-classical styles in its façade.
17. Colonial bungalows in Malaysia’s first resort (Taiping)
Maxwell Hill (known locally as Bukit Larut) is Malaysia’s oldest resort.
The British established Maxwell Hill as a hill station back in 1884. With an altitude of 1,036 meters (3,399 feet) and Taiping’s damp weather, it resembled England’s summertime temperatures and climate.
A handful of Taiping’s residents still live in the dozens of colonial-like bungalows. Cooler temperatures and vegetable gardens show a different side of Malaysia.
Maxwell Hill is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northwest of central Taiping.
Hire a 4×4 jeep to take you to the top. Cars aren’t allowed on the road.
Hiking usually takes more than four hours.
18. Explore the eerie mangroves (Matang)
Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve sprawls across a vast area along Perak’s west coast.
Stretching for more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from top to bottom, its Malaysia’s largest mangrove reserve.
Mangrove trees are used to make charcoal, which takes place in approximately three-quarters of the reserve. Strict regulations control its biodiversity and ecosystems.
River cruises navigate the narrow tunnels through spooky environments. After nightfall, fireflies glow and dance in the inky black sky.
Boardwalks pass around the reserve to viewing platforms. Look out for migratory birds including herons and stalks.
19. Malaysia’s Leaning Tower (Teluk Intan)
Italy has the Leaning Tower of Pisa; Perak has The Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan.
Standing at 25.5 meters (84 feet) in Teluk Intan, the tower is a statewide monument.
The pagoda-like tower opened in 1885 as a water tank. Over time, its weight caused one side to sink into the soft ground.
Today it has a slight leftwards tilt and serves as a clock tower.
Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan is just under 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Ipoh.
Stop by while traveling to or from Kuala Lumpur.
20. Ipoh’s Kinta River waterfront (Ipoh)
Perak’s Kinta River meanders through the craggy limestone landscapes for more than 100 kilometers (62.1 miles).
Kinta, a major branch of the Perak River, divides Ipoh into two. Old Ipoh stands on the one side while the more modern city dominates the other.
Stroll along Ipoh’s Kinta riverfront and watch the muddy water tumble past. LED lights decorate the waterfront after dark.
Snap photographs of Ipoh’s Guan Yin Temple with the Kinta River in the foreground.
21. Perak’s birdwatching paradise (Batu Gajah)
Kinta Nature Park in Batu Gajah covers 9 square kilometers of protected habitats.
Following years of restoration and renovation, the park has reopened. But this time it has public facilities including boardwalks and observation decks.
The 14 former tin mines have become serene lily-filled ponds.
What makes Kinta Nature Park special are its birds. Over 150 species live inside the protected area. Swampy marshlands provide habitats for different types of egrets and herons too.
Kinta Nature Park and Kellie’s Castle are near each other in Batu Gajah.
22. Trek in Perak’s ancient rainforest (Ipoh)
Located 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) from Ipoh, Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve gives a taste of the jungle within 30 minutes of the city.
Towering dipterocarp trees surround well-maintained boardwalks which lead through the dense forest.
Some paths lead to mangrove habitats. Others towards prime picnicking spots and waterfalls.
Follow the path to Tanjung Rambutan Waterfall and watch the white water tumble down the rocks.
Viewing platforms provide postcard-perfect images of Perak’s landscapes.
Expect to spend up to four hours in the forest reserve.
23. Have an adventure in one of West Malaysia’s largest caves (Gopeng)
Where there are limestone cliffs, there are usually caves.
Tempurung Cave extends for approximately 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) making it one of West Malaysia’s largest.
Unearthly stalagmite and stalactite formations fill five vast chambers. Millions of bats squeak somewhere above in the blackness.
Travelers can choose between two types of guided tours.
‘Dry tours’ navigate the easier routes pass through the chambers. ‘Wet tours’ are more like an obstacle course with gaps, waist-deep water and sliding down walls.
Book your tour before turning up.
Tempurung Cave is about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Ipoh.
24. White water rafting surrounded by jungle (Gopeng)
Perak’s Kampar River is West Malaysia’s thrill-seeking center.
The cascading river has a total of 14 rapids varying from Class I to Class III. Meandering through the lush jungle, it’s among Malaysia’s most scenic regions.
Beginners can learn with an instructor who guides them over the gentler stretches. The experienced can crash down the roaring rapids.
Typical sessions start in either the morning (9:00am) or afternoon (1:00pm) lasting for three hours.
The Kampar River lies approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) south of Ipoh.
25. Scale one of West Malaysia’s toughest peaks (Perak)
Standing at 2,180 meters (7,152 feet), Mount Yong Belar dominates eastern Perak’s skyline.
West Malaysia’s third largest peak in the Titiwangsa Mountains demands the highest level of fitness.
Hikers need to navigate tough terrain. Most spend the night near the summit. Expect lots of mud, steep trails and stifling temperatures.
But it’s a rewarding challenge for those who can.
The trail starts in Kampong Raya located 69 kilometers (43 miles) from central Ipoh.
Those who aren’t up for the trek can still take a day trip to see the majestic beast rising above Malaysia’s jungle.