Taiping is a small city about an hour’s drive from Ipoh. Like Ipoh, Taiping’s prosperity of the past has faded and the city entered into a decline. A hub of Malaysian-Chinese commerce, the city’s old town is full of old Chinese merchant style shops and warehouses with a smattering of colonial era buildings as well.
After reading that Taiping’s Old Town was being revamped like that of Ipoh’s I was excited to get the chance to check it out as well as see what else Taiping had to offer. Taiping in a small city but there’s a few things to do in Taiping – more than I would have thought! So below is our round of our list of what to do in Taiping.
Taiping, like Ipoh, has an old town full of old Chinese style shop buildings and grand colonial buildings. It is also undergoing a process of renewal with old buildings being fixed up with the aim of making the Old Town centre something of a tourism draw card. Of all the things to do in Taiping checking out the Old Town was the one I was looking forward to the most.
I decided to follow the walking tour mapped out in the Lonely Planet. Taiping’s visitor centre can provide information as well on where to go.
Overall I didn’t enjoy the walk around Taiping like I did Ipoh. Taiping has some great old buildings (the McDonalds towards the Lake Gardens are pretty impressive) but fewer than Ipoh with much more in the way of run down buildings and the Old Town is harder to get around.
To be fair, I made it harder for myself by taking a stroller (not a good idea) but that said there’s simply not as much to see and I didn’t get the sense of enjoyment I got from walking around Ipoh.
This could change, though. On my walk I could see some of the improvement process in action. One day it could be an Old Town to rival Ipoh. For now it is just a working Malaysian city centre with a few nice old Colonial buildings but little beyond that.
Taiping Zoo was easily the highlight of our trip. For a small city, Taiping has an awesome zoo. It’s one of the better zoos I’ve seen (and we’ve visited a lot). For me it was the Taiping attraction to visit and justified the trip on its own. Of all the things to do in Taiping I’d make the zoo priority one.
The Taiping Zoo does a great job of utilising the natural fauna and, in parts, it feels less like a zoo than a set of large exhibits placed into the jungle. The enclosures were (generally) very big compared to other zoos and full of vegetation which is a nice change from most other zoos (although the elephants get a dud deal). The downside is it can be hard to see some of the animals as they easily hide away.
There’s a lot to see with 2.5km of paths. The focus is on native Malaysian animals but there are collections of animals from other regions. The African exhibit was really well done with a whole bunch of animals all together in a savannah like pen – not something I’ve seen before.
Covering everything would take a couple of hours at least. There’s a “tram” which you can take for free that does a circuit through the zoo to help cover the ground. Strollers are fine, too, with wide smooth paths.
The zoo also has a night safari where you get to explore the zoo on a guided tour at night to showcase the nocturnal residents.
The zoo is a few kilometers outside of town, on the far side of Taiping Lake, with the route well signed. There’s plenty of parking if driving. Tickets are 17 MYR for adults, 10 MYR for kids.
There are not a lot of Taiping tourist attractions but the Taiping Lake Gardens are worth a mention (and a visit).
Well known in Perak and beyond, these beautiful gardens around the lake are a great place to chill out for a while and relax or run around. With lots of shade and grass, J and I enjoyed hanging out here for a while to rest for a bit. It was lovely to walk around, too.
There is a lot of green open space on the eastern side of the Old Town, with a smattering of play equipment in a few spots as well. If you are in town with a family then the gardens are a Taiping place to visit for somewhere to relax and play.
The state of Perak has several museums, including one just outside of the Old Town of Taiping. Apparently it was the first Museum established in the whole of Malaysia, dating back to the 19th century. It’s a pity it was just J and myself as it’s the type of museum Z and S would have liked.
Outside there’s a random assortment of historical bits and bobs from dugout canoes to an old railway carriage and coolest of all a F-86 Sabre formerly in service with the Royal Malaysian Air Force. I think Z would have enjoyed that.
There’s also a small shaded playground outside for soaking up any excess energy.
Inside there’s a small but well done natural history section, complete with skeletons of a tiger and an Asian elephant. It covers a lot of the native animals of the region with skeletons or stuffed specimens in a kid friendly way. To the rear of that is a section on the people of Perak and their traditions which I found interesting although it’s probably not as attractive for kids. There was an upstairs section that I couldn’t visit with a stroller.
It isn’t huge but the Perak Museum was interesting and it is a Taiping place of interest worth checking out. It’s cheap and easy to get to (with a car or taxi anyway) as well.
At the time of writing tickets were 5 MYR for adults, 2 MYR for kids over 4. There’s plenty of parking and it has some nice, clean toilets although sadly no baby change facilities. The museum is located about a kilometre from the centre of town on the Jalan Taming Sari, opposite a large prison.
Not one of the Taiping tourist attractions as such, but this solemn place is worth noting for the historically curious like me.
Near the zoo on the road to Bukit Larut is a small Commenwealth War Cemetery that is the resting place of several hundred soldiers who died resisting the Japanese invasion of the Malay peninsula. Most of those interred here were British but there are graves for Australian and Indian servicemen as well.
It is a quiet and probably seldom visited place and the neatly kept grass with rows and rows of white tombstones along with the memorial wall proclaiming “Their names shall not be forgotten” give it a peaceful and almost sombre atmosphere.
The cemetery is divided in two by Jalan Bukit Larut and lies a couple of kilometres from the Old Town of Taiping.
There was no parking at the cemetery or place to park on the side of the road alongside it either. I parked at a small group of buildings 100 metres or so down the road and walked up.
It’s not on the same level as Penang or Ipoh but Taiping has its own reputation as a great place to find Peranakan food or to enjoy Malaysian style street side restaurants.
We didn’t have the time to delve too much into the Taiping food attractions and restaurants around the Old Town but there are plenty of quality Chinese and Malay restaurants. Little India has a few Indian restaurants as well.
Kuala Kangsar is located an easy 45 minute drive from Taiping making it perfect for a half day trip. It is a small town that packs a big punch thanks to being a royal capital. Kuala Kangsar is home to some of the most impressive buildings we have seen in Malaysia particularly Ubudian Mosque (pictured above) and Istana Iskandariah, the official residence of the Sultan of Perak.
Ipoh is worth a stop in itself but it’s also possible to have a day trip to Ipoh from Taiping. It’s only about an hour’s drive.
The Old Town in Ipoh is quite special. There are lovely laneways with fun street art. It’s quite trendy and we loved just wandering around.
There’s also the Lost World of Tambun theme park which is lots of fun.
Taiping has few kid focused attractions of note. It’s not the place to come for a long stay if you’re looking for a family friendly destination. Nor is it the place if you’re after a family friendly Malaysian cultural experience. However, if you are in the area or passing through then Taiping may be worth a stop for half a day or so to enjoy what it does offer.
Taiping’s zoo isn’t the biggest I’ve been to but it is one of the better ones. Baby J was a bit tired to get excited but this well done zoo should appeal to young kids. Taiping’s branch of Muzium Perak isn’t somewhere I’d go to spend hours on end but it had enough that I reckon S (at age 6) and Z (at age 5) would have joined me in exploring and enjoying the exhibits.
And if you are passing through or in a need of a place to relax while your kids run around then the wonderful gardens are as lovely a spot to break up a road trip or stopover as I could think of.
Taiping does not have as many options as larger cities nearby but it does have a reasonable selection, including ones that should be suitable for families. Most hotels of note are in or close to the Old Town.
One of the more luxurious options in Taiping and also one of the best suited for families. The Hotel Taiping Perdana has family suites available sleeping up to four, with two queen beds. The rooms (of all types) are mostly well sized and not cramped.
There isn’t many but this is also one Taiping hotel with a swimming pool for kids as well as adults.
It’s not flush with facilities but it is generally clean and comfortable (although some reviews have complained about the level of cleanliness). It has enough: a restaurant, room service (including breakfast) and those pools to make multi-night stays easy. It’s also nicely located 500 metres south of the Old Town and about 1 kilometre from the Lake Gardens.
If you are after budget or cheap hotels then Taiping has a few although quality does vary. One of the cheaper options that maintain a good level of quality is the Louis Hotel. It has a range of rooms that are small but really well priced per night. Larger “VIP” rooms are available but they only have one (queen) bed.
There’s a range of three and four people rooms that are small but should suit a family – although maybe not for a long stay. The rooms are simple but have the basic facilities and wifi to make it comfortable enough.
The Louis Hotel is really well located just north of the Old Town and has a lot of eating options within a short walk. There’s no restaurant on site but there is room service if you need it.
Small rooms aside, the Louis Hotel is one of the best options in Taiping.
An older hotel located a few hundred metres north of the Old Town, this Taiping budget hotel is another option for families looking to stay. The Beverly Hotel is popular choice. Being a budget hotel it hasn’t got the range of facilities of more expensive places but is clean and well maintained.
The Beverly Hotel has family rooms with two queen beds made to sleep four people although the rooms themselves can be on the small side. Extra beds can be added (at a price).
If there’s a downside it’s that the hotel can be quite loud, due to its location close to a major road.
There’s no family rooms at the Legend Inn but they do have a “Junior suite” room with beds for three (a queen and a single) as well as extra space. Most rooms are pretty spacious. Kids under five are free if not using additional bedding (or you’ve brought your own bed).
Like most Taiping budget hotels the Legend Inn does not have a lot of facilities but the rooms come equipped with everything most hotels would have (like a safe, bar fridge, free water).
The Legend Inn is a little bit more expensive than the Louis but still well priced. The location is excellent, too, being about 100m west of the Old Town and close to lots of shops and places to eat.
Taiping, for us, was a mixed bag. The Old Town was not as good to explore as I had hoped. However, that may change in the future to be more like Ipoh’s regenerated gem of an Old Town. As it stands Taiping is a great place if you’re after the “real” Malaysia without any tourism induced artificiality.
Balanced against that Taiping did have some interesting sites: the museum was well done, the Taiping Lake Gardens and surrounds were lovely and the Taiping Zoo is impressive and one of the better zoos we’ve visited around the world.
I’m glad I got to check out Taiping even if I left a little disappointed. I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a destination for a multi-night stay but Taiping made for a good day trip and could be a nice place to break up an overland journey.
Have you been to Taiping? What did you think?
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