3 Best Cave Temples in Ipoh
Ipoh, a large city in Malaysia still lies a bit off the beaten path. If we should name the best things to do in Ipoh, we would for sure mention cave temples, a unique architecture hidden in limestone caverns. We've handpicked three best cave temples you should definitely visit when in Ipoh.
Have you ever heard of Ipoh? The city is the capital of Perak state in Malaysia, and the truth is that this destination doesn't usually make it on travelers' itineraries, simply because there are so many beautiful destinations in this country in Southeast Asia.
For now, Ipoh for sure doesn't get the international attention it deserves, but it is often visited by locals from nearby countries. We discovered Ipoh quite by accident, and could not believe the place is not more often mentioned in travel guides, because its temples or cave temples to be more specific are absolutely gorgeous.
When we were creating our Malaysia itinerary, we had to conditions. First, we wanted to visit those parts of the country neither of us had visited before, and we wanted to avoid the rainy season.
We found Ipoh to be the perfect fit.
We arrived in Ipoh from Cameron Highlands, and when we got off the bus, we were caught by a downpour. Completely soggy we ran inside one shop where we wanted to hide for a while. We soon found out that the shop is a massage center with a very friendly owner who brought us towels, boiled water so we could drink a hot tea, and he offered us to give us a ride to our hotel, as we found out we got off at wrong place.
We were super-happy how people in Ipoh are friendly, and even the fact that the man later told us he couldn't return to his home country because he would have to go to prison did not change our positive experience.
When we found our hotel, we dried out our stuff, found an amazing cheap restaurant just across the road, and could not wait to see the best three temples in Ipoh the next day.
3 BEST CAVE TEMPLES IN IPOH
Believe it or not, there are around thirty temples set in limestone caves around Ipoh.
Chinese immigrants who settled the area a long time ago discovered many empty caves hollowed out in limestone hills, and they decided that the caves thanks to the tranquility would be great places for their religious rituals, meditation, and prayers.
It is impossible to visit all the cave temples in the area, but we've handpicked three best temples you can easily see when traveling to Ipoh.
Perak Tong Cave Temple
Perak Tong is Ipoh's most famous cave temple, and one of the top attractions the city has to offer.
It was founded in 1926, and since then it is an important religious point.
The complex looks pretty outstanding even from the outside as from the main road you will go to the temple via a small garden with one artificial pool on each side, and then you will emerge in front of a large temple with red and white facade sitting under impressive limestone cliff.
As in all other cave temples in Ipoh, you do not need to pay here any admissions, but a donation is expected (sometimes even required).
The inside of the cave is painted with several colorful murals and frescoes depicting Buddhist deities and Chinese calligraphy.
The highlight inside the cave is 15 meters high golden statue of Buddha. In case you have enough time and energy, we recommend you to walk through the temple and walk out to appreciate the greenery in the garden around the temple and great views from a platform overlooking the city.
You only need to climb more than 300 steps to reach the viewpoint, but despite the hot and humid weather, it is really worth it.
Probably the best way how to get to cave temples is by taxi, but we traveled to Perak Tong Cave Temple by bus. First, we had to get to the old bus station in Ipoh, from where we took a bus to Kuala Kangsar which stopped in front of the temple.
Kek Lok Tong Temple
If we should say one thing we remember from visiting cave temples in Ipoh, it would have been the aroma of joss sticks burning slowly and penetrating the humid air in the caves.
Although normally we are not fans of piercing scents we had a feeling that the atmosphere would not be the same without it. We traveled to the second cave temple, Kek Lok from Perak Tong Cave Temple, and although we were told by locals we should wait on the main highway in front of the temple under the large tree for a bus, this plan did not work out as no bus we tried to flag down stopped, so at the end we got to the next temple on our itinerary by taxi.
The entrance to Kek Lok Tong Temple is pretty unique as you won't be going inside via a temple, but you'll directly go inside the cave, which looks a bit like the gate to the hell and not like the entrance to the supposedly peaceful temple.
Kek Lok Tong Temple is half Buddhist and half Taoist and same as in other cave temples, the combination of bronze statues, candles, various decorations, altars and stalactites hanging from the cave's ceiling is very photogenic.
When you'll walk through the cave, all of a sudden you will emerge on the other side of the hill which boasts a wonderful garden lined with green hills where you can find ponds with lotus flower and many interesting trees.
Ling Sen Tong Temple
From Kek Lok Tong Temple we decided to walk 3.5 kilometers via quiet suburb to the last cave temple we planned to visit that day, Ling Sen Tong.
It is for sure much easier to take a taxi, but we wanted to walk a bit. If you decide to get to the temple on foot, grab a stick and rocks because there are quite many strayed dogs in the area.
Ling Sen Tong is completely Taoist temple, and you can notice at the first sight that this temple is very different than the other two you had visited before in case you are following our Ipoh temple itinerary.
The facade of the temple is colorful, actually, it almost seems to be way too colorful for a temple, but once you get used to it, pay attention to details, notable are, for example, 12 statues depicting animals of the Chinese zodiac, stalagmites, and stalactites inside the temple and decorated altars.
WHERE TO STAY IN IPOH
Ipoh offers a good selection of hotels, and it is not hard to find a room if you are backpacking on a low budget or if you are looking for higher standards and touch of luxury.
We've handpicked three best accommodation options for every type of traveler.
Budget| Edm Space - This hostel is simple, but clean, and is located close to the city center. You can reserve here private rooms or dormitories, in case you are a budget solo traveler.
Mid-range | Meru Suites at Meru Valley Resort - Spacious rooms, a hotel set in a lush green valley, outdoor pool, great service, and tasty breakfast are reasons why to choose this place for your stay.
Luxury | The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat - If you are looking for something special, look no further. This resort is set in a wonderful place, against limestone hills and boasts geothermal hot springs and a naturally heated swimming pool.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING IPOH
If your main reason to visit Ipoh is exploring cave temples, remember that traveling to only three best temples in Ipoh will take you more than a half-day.
Here are five essential things you should pack with you for visiting temples in Ipoh.
Ultralight Packable Daypack | You do not need to carry large heavy backpack. We found this daypack pretty useful for half-day, undemanding trips.
Rain Poncho | It can rain almost anytime throughout the year in Ipoh, so remember to pack rain poncho.
Filtered Water Bottle | We don't advice you to drink tap water in Malaysia, but instead of buying plastic bottles, invest in this filtered water bottle.
Canon M50 | Cave Temples are exceptional, and your camera should not stay in your room.
HOW TO GET TO IPOH
Ipoh has a great location, and it is pretty easy to get to the city by direct buses from other popular destinations such as Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands or Penang.
Distances between these places are not great, but sometimes the traffic is not fluent, so expect delays.
SAFETY IN IPOH
Ipoh is a large city, so it has its issues when it comes to safety as any other larger cities.
That means you should watch your belongings, and be aware of your surroundings because bag snatching is pretty common in the area.
Do not wander to dark alleyways and take a cab when returning from a restaurant later at night.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!