Though famous for its Buddhist cave temples, there are many notable mosques in Ipoh, writes EWE PAIK LEONG who also sets out in search of halal fare
IPOH, the capital of Perak, is well-known as a former tin-mining town with famous Buddhist caves temples and excellent Chinese food. There is the misperception that few Islamic attractions exist here. How wrong! Let‘s discover some of its “Islamic” attractions including mosques and halal fare.
The Early Days
Though Ipoh started as a frontier town on the last navigable point on the Sungai Kinta and attracted hordes of Chinese tin miners in the mid-19th Century, it was actually founded by a Sumatran prince in the early 15th Century who married an Orang Asli and adopted the name Kulop Kinta. Thus the “Lord of Kinta” or Datuk Panglima Kinta dynasty was born. The name Ipoh comes from the ipoh tree that was found in abundance in the area. Orang Asli hunters use its sap as poison for their blowpipe darts. Specimens of this colossal tree – which can grow to about seven storeys high — can be seen in the grounds of the Railway Station and in Coronation Park. Enough said. Let‘s go on a tour of mosques in this charming city. Masjid Datuk Panglima Kinta: The grand dame of Ipoh‘s mosques is Masjid Datuk Panglima Kinta which sits on the banks of Sungai Kinta. Built in 1898 by Datuk Panglima Kinta Mohamed Yusof, it is the city‘s first mosque. It combines Moghul and Neoclassical architectural features. A golden dome caps the prayer hall and there is also a pyramid shaped roof. Two minarets in six tiers rise from the sides of the building. Next to the mosque is a dilapidated building which was once the Madrasah Kamaliah, a religious school. Built in the 1950s, it ceased operation in the 1970s. Masjid Datuk Panglima Kinta is located at Jalan Masjid. The easiest way to get there is to travel along Jalan Sultan Iskandar and head towards Old Town. Just before crossing the bridge over Sungai Kinta, turn left and you will see the mosque. The nearest landmark is Ipoh Water Front (formerly People‘s Park) across the river. Indian Mosque: Another notable mosque is the Indian Mosque at Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam. Also known as the Town Padang Mosque, it was built in 1908 by Sheikh Adam to serve the Hanafi sect of the Indian Muslim community. Sheikh Adam was a rich businessman who set up the Kinta Ice Words in 1906 and the Kinta Aerated Water Company. Square in plan, the Indian Muslim Mosque has verandahs on three sides with scalloped archways inspired by the Chitty architectural style of South India. A single pyramidal roof caps the prayer hall, and there are two minarets. A square gateway leads into the compound.
They say that good things come in small packages and the Pakistani Mosque at Jalan Koo Chong Kong is no exception. Though small, it has great historical significance. Originally known as Police Mosque, it was built in the 1930s on elevated grounds and served the spiritual needs of the Punjabi Muslim policemen. After Pakistan was created in 1949, it was renamed Pakistani Mosque. The prayer hall is square and is surrounded by verandahs on three sides. Corinthian columns, timber posts and louvred doors are other notable features. To get there, drive along Jalan Kelab and head towards the main bus station. You will pass City Hall Building on the left and the Railway Station on the right. Immediately after the police complex on the left, turn left into Jalan Koo Chong Kong. Masjid Paloh: Another important heritage mosque is Masjid Paloh. Located at Jalan Datoh, it was built in 1912 by Wan Muhammad Saleh, superintendent of Penghulus and assistant collector of Land Revenue during the Frank Swettenham administration. The present structure has been extensively renovated but the original five-tiered minaret and mausoleum of its founder still remain in their original form. The mausoleum features a two-tiered gabled roof and its enclosure comprises a half-wall with balustrades. It stands next to the mosque. State Mosque: The grandest mosque here is the State Mosque that straddles Jalan Dewan and Jalan Sultan Iskandar. It was constructed in 1968 and named after Sultan Idris Shah II (1963-1984) in 1978 in conjunction with his 54th birthday. Sited on a 2.6 hectare piece of land, it features 125 domes on its roof, and white fretwork covers its walls.
Now let‘s eat! Though popular tourist literature focuses largely on sar hor fun, beansprouts and chicken, Ipoh has excellent halal food. For nasi campur, sup ekor and sup kambing, head for Medan Selera Datuk Sagor at Jalan Datuk Sagor. After a hearty meal, you can take the opportunity to view the Birch Memorial Clock Tower that stands on the complex grounds. It commemorates the assassination of J.W. Birch, the first British Resident of Perak, in 1874. In the city centre, Medan Selera Jalan Tahwil Azar has dozens of stalls specialising in Malay fare. Popiah S.S. Ali is one of the main draws, offering both fresh and deep-fried rolls. It comes with a sweet chili dip. The satay stall here also enjoys a respectable reputation. Other popular Malay hawker centres are Tun Abdul Razak Food Centre in Medan Perhentian and Greentown Food Centre in Jalan Hospital. Jalan Yang Kalsom is synonymous with delicious nasi kandar. Restoran S. Salim has been serving excellent nasi biryani since 1985. Another much-sought stall is housed in Kedai Kopi Yong Suan. Visitors looking for a late night supper can go to the 24-hour Restoran Nasi Kandar Nasmir at the Ipoh Water Front (formerly People‘s Park). This charming spot is a tourist attraction in itself and is popular with locals who come for evening walks. There are night hawkers stalls too in Persiaran Green Hill, near Ipoh Parade. For elegant dining, do not miss Koh Samui Restaurant at Jalan Raja Ekran. Its speciality is aluminium-wrapped seafood and seafood otak-otak. Nasi Lemak Ayam Kampung at Jalan Che Tak is also highly recommended. Its tender deep-fried chicken is the secret to its success. The nasi lemak is served with sambal that is simply exquisite.
What To Buy
Before you leave for home, make sure you buy rendang tok, Ipoh‘s most famous Malay dish. The most popular brand is Tok Rendang Mak Nik, sold in Pasar Besar (Main Market) in Jalan Laxamana and in supermarkets.
Where to Stay
Hotel Seri Malaysia in Jalan Sturrock is highly recommended as it has a surau and a coffee-house serving halal food. Hotel Excelsior at Jalan Clark, Syuen Hotel at Jalan Clarke, Heritage Hotel at Jalan Raja Di Hilir and Casuarinas Parkroyal at Jalan Gopeng are other popular choices.
Source: www.nst.com (28 Juni 2007)