The city of Ipoh is located about 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur. Journey through the North South Expressway (NSE or PLUS Highway) takes a breezy 2 1/2 hours through scenic rolling valleys, palm oil plantations and limestone hills of Peninsula Malaysia. Distances from other major cities: Penang (2 hours), Johor Bharu (6 hours), Singapore (6 1/2 hours) and Kuantan (5 hours).
The railway station is located opposite the state mosque (Masjid Negeri) and the old Town Hall on Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab. It is also a walking distance from the local bus terminal in Medan Kidd. You can also walk to get here from Ipoh Padang. Everyone in Ipoh should be able to point out to this place.
Ah, the Taj Mahal of Ipoh, the crowning glory of the city that used to be a major transportation hub for the tin mining industry at the early turn of the 20th century. As yours truly was born and bred in Ipoh, the railway station holds a special place in my memory. The late night train that I took back to Kuala Kangsar at ungodly hours and the occasional dinner outing with family for the city's best satay joints. The trains operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTMB) still stop here but the sate parlours were no more.
Clearly during my visit, the railway station was undergoing major refurbishment. On the train platform at the back, modern infrastructure has taken its form in anticipation of the completion of the Rawang - Ipoh double tracking project. Soon, KLites can get to this gastronomically delightful city within 2 hours of rail express and the railway station will surely leave a lasting impression on them.
Designed by A. B. Hubback (the same fella whose masterpiece includes the old Town Hall and Kuala Lumpur Train Station), it was completed in 1917. The station boasts an impressive British Raj Mogul style with equally fascinating Moorish-inspired domes and turrets. Hence, it comes to no surprise of its little nickname of the Taj Mahal of Ipoh. Nonetheless, things were not all fine and dandy. The imposing architecture was in a decrepit state for a number of years, but today, things have taken a better turn. The refurbishment project is not completed as yet at the time of my writing, but surely it will be soon, and a new lease of life will be thrown at this heritage site.
Currently, the second floor of the building is hosted by the Majestic Station Hotel. In all honesty, the hotel interior looks fairly average with room rates start at slightly below RM100 per night. Back in the old days, it was said that the hotel was regarded as a first-class hospitality establishment, what more with the tin dollars and city millionaires seeking for luxurious escapade. Who knows, YTL Resort may someday take over the building and operate l'hôtel extraordinaire.
Before I forget, the railway station features a landscaped park with water fountains and walking path. While it may seem like an average city garden, the centre of attraction, well, is at the centre of it. A lone tree stands aloof, with fencing all around it. Yes, you may have guessed it correctly: this is the Ipoh tree! The name that would strike fear in the mind of unlucky squirrels, birds or deer as the indigenous groups in Perak use the latex of this tree to make poisonous darts.
A special place, a special building. The new form has taken shape and hopefully for the better for the next hundred of years.