Taiping was the center of Perak’s lucrative mining industry for decades.
British and Chinese miners extracted vast amounts of tin. Many became overnight millionaires transforming Taiping into a boom town.
Increased wealth led to increased investment. The legacy is Taiping’s collection of British colonial buildings.
But despite active tourist campaigns by Perak’s state government, the city remains under the radar.
Only a few travelers find out Taiping’s ‘33 claims to fame’ in Malaysia. Even fewer appreciate the region’s role as a Southeast Asian powerhouse for charcoal.
Crazy Tourist uncovers the 25 best things to do in Taiping including its architectural masterpieces, where to go hiking and Malaysia’s oldest museum.
1. A former mine turned into Malaysia’s first public park
Taiping Lake Gardens opened in 1880 becoming Malaysia’s first park.
Since opening, the park has been maintained at immaculate standards for almost one hundred and fifty years.
The former tin mine has ten artificial lakes, a jogging track and houses Taiping Zoo. Mist-covered hills dominate the horizon.
Follow the paths to bridges, Lotus ponds and viewing points. Embrace the colors, sweet aromas and shady areas to sit. Feel the resemblance (minus the heat) to the English countryside.
Taiping Lake Gardens is about halfway between Taiping Zoo and the city center.
2. Taiping’s oldest and strangest trees
The gigantic Rain Trees, or Pukul Lima trees, stand in the southern part of Taiping Lake Gardens.
Branches curve over the street towards the water. From a distance, they appear to be bending to drink from the lake.
A British officer planted the trees in 1898. Today the trunks have colossal circumferences.
The Rain Trees are a favorite site for wedding photographs in Taiping.
Head down in the cooler evening and watch local families and lovebirds relax while rollerbladers speed by.
3. Night safaris in Malaysia’s most ecofriendly zoo
Taiping Zoo is among Taiping’s most well-known attractions.
After opening in 1961, the zoo grew to house more than 1,200 animals.
Orangutans, crocodiles and rhinos are among the 140 species.
Unlike other zoos in Southeast Asia, Taiping’s doubles up as a conservation and research center.
Tremendous efforts are made to increase the populations of their endangered species including our orange-haired primate cousins.
Streams, ponds and the flowers recreate the animal’s natural habitat.
Taiping Zoo reopens again after dark allowing visitors to observe nocturnal animals. This is Malaysia’s only zoo that offers a night safari.
4. See dinosaurs inside Taiping’s Rock Garden
A series of artificial rocks form Taiping Lake Garden’s sculpture park.
The small garden opened in the 1970s to entice children with replicas of dinosaurs.
Despite the small size, it provides several quirky photo opportunities. Most tourists spend 20 minutes in the Rock Garden while exploring the Lake Gardens.
Wander through the mysterious sculpture park and feel like you’re back in prehistoric times.
Continue along the path through the Centuries-old Trees and turn left into the Rock Garden.
5. Taiping’s colonial clock tower
Taiping Clock Tower looks out of place in front of the modern apartment blocks.
The white-washed British colonial structure almost looks like a Far East church.
The original opened in 1881 built entirely from timber. A decade later bricks replaced the high maintenance wooden monument.
Throughout its long life, the tower served as a timekeeper, police station and fire station. Today it’s a tourist information center with maps and leaflets on the city.
Taiping has some of Malaysia’s best examples of British colonial architecture. The Clock Tower is among the city’s most beautiful structures.
6. Explore Taiping’s Chinese and Buddhist Temples
Because of Taiping’s Chinese community, the city has dozens of Buddhist temples.
Crazy Tourist recommends a trip to both Chinese Pagoda and Hosian Temple.
Chinese Pagoda showcases traditional Chinese architecture. Colorful interior rooms mix with a stream of wafting incense. Local Buddhists believe newlyweds should walk past the pagoda for good luck and success in their marriage.
The 19th-century Hosian Temple is among Taiping’s oldest. Chinese artisans crafted today’s temple after replacing the older timber one. Two monks and eight guardians manage the temple.
Look on Google Maps and plot a walking tour of some of the city’s other spiritual buildings.
7. Taiping Municipal’s British-Indian architecture
Covering two floors, the Municipal Building represents Taiping’s most elegant example of British-Indian inspired architecture.
The timber and brick building remains almost the same as it did when it opened in 1891.
Marvel at the artistry and designs on the upper floor.
Today the building houses the Sanitation Board on Jalan Stesen.
Street lamps imported from Britain stand outside the building. A green vintage train is on display nearby too.
Taiping Municipal Gallery is part of the Taiping Heritage Trail.
8. Malaysia’s first railway station
Malaysia’s first railway route connected Taiping and Kuala Lumpur in 1885.
British tin mine owners needed an efficient way to transport their goods to the rest of Malaya (old name for Malaysia).
The original stood near King Edward VII School.
Discover its timeless interior and the old machinery on display. Walls that once burst with colors during Taiping’s boom period now fade.
Taiping Railway Station has a gallery explaining the 33 things that happened first in Taiping. Other parts of the station are cozy cafés.
Trains arrive and depart from the new station next door which opened in 2014.
9. Photograph the Hokkien Association at sunset
The second half of the 19th-century saw a massive influx of Chinese immigrants into British Malaya.
Most newcomers migrated from Fujian province to work in the ever-growing tin industry.
Hokkien Association Building established itself in 1862 to protect the wellbeing of these Chinese workers.
The two-tiered structure uses pillars and arches to create an air of elegance in its intricate façade. Red borders line the shapes giving it a colorful and attractive appearance.
As the sun dips behind, the horizons explodes with color creating magical views of the Hokkien Association.
10. Perak’s oldest church
All Saint’s Church along Taming Sari Street is Perak’s oldest church.
The historical monument opened in 1887 and became a National Heritage Building in 2012.
Both the wooden façade and intricately stained glass windows survived World War Two. The gothic-inspired design contrasts with the rest of Taiping’s grand architecture.
Apart from a few minor restorations, All Saint’s looks the same as it did over a century ago.
The onsite cemetery marks the final resting place of British residents.
Services take place on Sundays.
11. Discover Taiping’s proud ‘33 firsts’
Outside of Malaysia, few have heard of Taiping.
But the former tin mining town played a crucial role in the early history of modern Malaysia.
Taiping proudly proclaims 33 things that first took place in their city.
This includes Malaysia’s first railway station, magistrate’s court and prison. British officials commissioned these when Taiping was their capital.
Perak Museum opened in 1883 becoming the first museum. Taiping Clock Tower was the country’s first of dozens of clock towers.
Maxwell Hill was the first hill station which later inspired the likes of Penang Hill and Cameron Highlands.
Others include the first post office, public park and both Malay and English language newspapers.
Discover the legacy of this little-known city in a galley inside the Taiping Railway Station.
12. The best of Taiping on the self-guided Taiping Heritage Trail
Taiping Heritage Trail covers 11.5 kilometers (7.1 miles) around 40 of Taiping’s historical attractions.
This includes colonial buildings, historical monuments and architectural diversity. When combined, the trail showcases the best of Taiping’s heritage.
Check out Taiping Clock Tower, Anglo-Indian-style Peking Hotel and Taiping Market.
Admire the colonial architecture on King Edward VII School. Discover religious diversity in both Buddhist and Hindu temples, churches and mosques.
Information boards explain each monument in depth.
Break the heritage trail down into two or three smaller walking tours. Get a map and suggestions from the tourist information office inside Taiping Clock Tower.
13. Malaysia’s first hill station
Maxwell Hill is both Malaysia’s oldest and smallest hill station.
Located at 1,036 meters (3,399 feet) above sea level, the mountaintop resort provides a refreshing escape from the stifling tropical heat below.
The British established a small village at the top in 1884. Colonial-style bungalows and a distinct English flair remain.
Back then, the Brits craved the cooler temperatures. The hill station gave them this and an environment similar to English summertime.
Maxwell Hill, or Bukit Larut, is approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Taiping.
Cars aren’t allowed on the road. Most travelers hire a 4×4 jeep which takes them to the top.
14. Trek through the jungle to Taiping’s highest peak
Hiking to the top of Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill) offers a rewarding challenge in Taiping.
Rather than using a jeep to reach the summit, hikers can follow the Gunung Hijau Trail. The route covers about 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) and takes the average hiker five hours to complete.
Several tropical flowers including a variety of orchids grow along some parts of the path.
Bring water and food.
Bukit Larut holds the unenviable title as Malaysia’s wettest place and it rains almost every day. Chances are, you’re going to get wet and muddy.
Almost every hiker will take a jeep back down to the start of the trail.
15. Perak Museum: Malaysia’s first museum
Perak Museum is a significant part of Taiping’s 33 firsts.
The museum opened in 1883 becoming the first museum in Malaysia.
Several galleries have collections ranging from zoological specimens to natural history. Many of the objects on display are more than 100 years old.
Check out the natural history sections and discover Malaysia’s aboriginals (Orang Asli). Admire rare ceramic collections and ethnographic displays.
Architects used a mixture of Neoclassical and Victorian styles to create the outside façade. Moorish elements give it an exotic twist. Photograph the building from the gardens before entering the museum.
16. Taiping’s second (almost secret) version of Lake Gardens
Kamunting Lake Gardens lies approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Taiping.
The public gardens aren’t as big as Taiping Lake Gardens. But fewer visitors make the park feel like you have the place to yourself.
Paths circumvent the 31-acre park passing gazebos, public fitness equipment and open lawns.
Families bring their children to the playground after school. Others exercise in the cooler air.
A trip to this park gives travelers’ an opportunity to see how locals spend their free time.
Take a cab from Taiping to Kamunting.
17. Feel the energy after sunset in Warisan Square
Government buildings surround the 3,500 square meter Warisan Square. A towering 44 meter (144 feet) marks the center.
Taiping’s main square is both stately and elegant during the day.
After sunset, the area thrives with activity.
Families hang around in the early evening as young children speed around in mini-vehicles.
Cross Street Bazaar Night Market transforms the square into a hive of energy on weekends.
Warisan Square is the venue for several public events and performances throughout the year. Search online to find out what’s happening when you’re in Taiping.
18. Taiping’s energetic weekend night market
Taiping’s Cross Street Bazaar is a relatively new addition to Malaysia’s famous night market scene.
After starting in 2014, the market exploded in size and popularity.
Every weekend (Friday to Sunday) at 8:00pm more than 60 stalls open with souvenirs, handicraft and street food.
The night market stretches for more than 300 meters (984 feet) along Alang Ahmad Street.
Join the swarms of people and soak up Taiping’s buzzing atmosphere. Search for bargains and find that perfect memento.
Crazy Tourist recommends trying Taiping satay (kebabs skewered on bamboo) and Malaysian sweets.
19. Discover Perak’s sprawling mangroves
Matang Mangrove Eco-Educational Center opened in 1992 to educate Malaysians on the critically important mangrove ecology.
Over the years, the center evolved into a major ecotourism attraction within 20 minutes of Taiping.
A network of boardwalks zig-zag through the swampy environment to viewing platforms. Various species of birds live in the reserve including rare migratory birds.
Information boards explain the nearby flora and fauna.
Boat trips take visitors through the narrow channels next to the alien-like trees dominating the mangroves.
20. The unusual experience of visiting a prison gift shop
Prisons rarely feature on travel itineraries. Nor do they typically have a gift shop open to the public.
But Taiping Prison is unique in these respects.
The prison opened in 1879 becoming Malaysia’s first detention center. The façade remains virtually unchanged.
Architecture aside, the prison practices an innovative skill certification program. Inmates use their time making handicraft and woodwork.
Visit the Taiping Prison Gallery to see (or buy) some of their handicraft.
Taiping Prison is part of the Heritage Trail near Perak Museum.
21. Take a dip in the natural Burmese pools
Burmese Pool is a natural pool near central Taiping.
According to locals, Burmese soldiers discovered the pools in the jungle. A light jungle trail leads to the area near Batu Teguh River.
Local families make up the crowds at Burmese Pools. Many relax with picnics and barbeques.
Relax and savour the peacefulness of the rainforest.
Take a dip in the refreshing water after sweating in the muggy tropical air.
Crazy Tourist recommends visiting in the morning to avoid the crowds.
22. Spare a thought for those who died defending Malaysia
The invading Japanese army devastated British Malaya during World War 2.
Thousands died in a futile attempt to stop the invasion.
Taiping War Memorial on the outskirts of the city sits in front of the hills. More than 850 men rest inside the pristine cemetery.
Over half have never been identified.
Stroll around the graves and spare a thought to the horrors of World War in Southeast Asia.
The war memorial is approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) northeast of Taiping.
23. Rejuvenate in Trong Hot Springs
Taiping’s first public hot springs consists of five mineral-rich pools. Trong offers a budget-friendly natural spa to Perak’s residents.
Soak in the herbal baths and let the goodness infuse and realivalize your body. Or sit on the edge and rest your feet after a strenuous hike up Maxwell Hill.
Changing rooms, a lounge area and spa facilities are available.
Visit during weekdays – Malaysians flock on weekends making it feel overcrowded.
Trong is approximately 25 minutes south of Taiping in Batu 9.
24. Find out about Perak’s little-known charcoal industry
Charcoal is an essential commodity used for cooking, medicine and countless other things.
Despite its availability and usage, few know anything about its production.
Kuala Sepetang near Matang Mangroves has a continent-wide reputation for its charcoal.
More than 140 manufacturers use 300 kilns in Sepetang to create charcoal from mangrove trees.
Take a day trip from Taiping and find out how charcoal is made. Discover the ins and outs of this little-known industry and why the area upholds a global reputation.
Combine a trip to the charcoal kilns with Matang Mangroves.
25. See fireflies dance above the river
Fireflies often live along certain parts of Malaysia’s rivers and mangroves. Watching the tiny insects dance is both hypnotic and magical.
Travelers can have this unforgettable experience within 30 minutes of Taiping in Kampung Dew. Because of its proximity, this is among Malaysia’s most accessible places to see fireflies.
Boats take passengers out onto the river just after sunset.
Stick around and taste their famous crab mee (crab noodles) in the nearby restaurant.
Visitors typically spend up to three hours at Kampung Dew.