The City That Tin Built
About Ipoh

Ipoh is the capital city of Perak, situated 205 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur and 170 kilometres south of George Town, Penang. Strategically located in the heart of Kinta valley, the city lies on the river banks of Kinta River surrounded by breath-taking limestone hills and lush greenery terrains. It covers 643 sq. kilometres with a total population of 702,464. Majority of the population are from Chinese, Malays and Indians. Ipoh is slowly catching up with Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bharu in terms of the development, and now Ipoh is the fourth largest city in Malaysia. The city is one of the fascinating tourist destinations in the Peninsular of Malaysia splendour with heritage, culture and nature.

Ipoh, city, Peninsular (West) Malaysia, on the Kinta River. Surrounded by steep hills, except to the south, it lies on a flat alluvial plain in the Kinta Valley. The name comes from a local tree, whose poisonous resin was once used by Aboriginals for hunting. The modern city dates from the 1890s when British tin-mining companies transferred operations from around Taiping to the rich Kinta ores. Immigrant Chinese were brought in to work the tin deposits, and their descendants now operate the open-pit mines and dominate the city.

The countryside around Ipoh is pocked with large sandpits from which the ore is extracted, either by dredging or by washing with high-pressure hoses. Beneath the Kinta gravels is a limestone structure riddled by solution; north and south of the city limestone rocks rise through the alluvium with gigantic caves that are used as Chinese temples. In addition to tin, rubber from foothill plantations is marketed.

The Chenderoh Dam on the nearby Perak River, together with diesel generators, supplies electricity for the Tasek Industrial Estates (more than 40 factories). Ipoh has a spacious rectangular layout, and in the suburbs are imposing residences of wealthy mine owners. As the country’s mining capital, Ipoh is the most important station on the Kuala Lumpur–Butterworth railway and the focus of highways across the valley. A small airstrip links the area with other major west coast cities.

Source: Ipoh Legacy of The City That Tin Built (book)


The Kinta River divides the historic centre of Ipoh into two parts: Old Town and New Town. The history of Ipoh begins with the Old Town during the tin rush. “During the era of the Malay Rajas, Ipoh was only a small village. When the British colonial government ruled Perak, that is around 1877, Ipoh was transformed into a town and came in droves, especially the Chinese who came to seek their fortune so many Chinese subjects came here from Penang.”

“Dato Panglima Kinta Che Muhamad Yusop bin Dato’ Panglima Kinta Lassam built shophouses, while Raja Ringgit Dato‘ Laksamana Che Hussain bin Dato’ Besar was ready to finance those he trusted to build the shops in Ipoh. The Chinese towkays who ran gambling and opium farms also built shophouses and through such agents, Ipoh grew and grew.” – A. Talib bin Haji Ahmad, Riwayat Kinta, 1959.

The tin rush picked up in 1884, causing the town to swell. In 1886, Dato‘ Panglima Kinta himself laid out the town with “broad, straight streets”, most likely beginning around Panglima Street. Between 1905 and 1914, Yau Tet Shin expanded the town across the Kinta River. By 1908, he had built 216 houses in this “New Town” of Ipoh,
including a theatre and food market. Ipoh’s geographic location in the rich tin-bearing valley of the Kinta River made it a natural centre of economic growth.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the town continued to grow rapidly, largely as a result of tin mining and rubber production in the surrounding region. Ipoh was invaded by the Japanese on 15 December 1941. During the Japanese Occupation, Ipoh was made the capital of Perak, in place of Taiping. After liberation in 1945, Ipoh remained the capital of Perak. Ipoh gained Municipal status on 31 May 1962 and was granted City status on 27 May 1988.

Ipoh City Council

Ipoh City Council is the body responsible for managing and administering the Ipoh City. It is also the local planning authority under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 (Act 172). Covering an area of 643km2 with a population of over 850,000 people (estimated in the year 2017), Ipoh City Council is directly responsible for the design and implementation of development planning policies based on appropriate localities.

The small village developed into Ipoh

The City of Ipoh began in 1874 with a Malay and the Sakai aboriginal people village, developed with approximately 100 units of attap houses and a small village market. With the effort of Dato’ Panglima Kinta who developed his land in the meeting of Kinta River and Pari River, Ipoh a strategic transit point which simultaneously connected Ipoh with the adjacent areas as well as attracting many residents.

The Origin of name

These are two versions recording the origin of Ipoh’s name. According to the first version, the name is said to be taken in conjunction with “Epu tree” which grew in abundance in the area, issued by McNair in 1878 in the book entitled Perak and the Malays. The second version quoted that the name is derived from the Chinese word for ‘Paloh’, a water pump device used for tin mining.



10 Ipoh First

Ipoh has the distinction of being among the only town in Malaysia which can claim to a number of ‘first’. Not many people

know that what are now ubiquitous features of many Malaysian towns and cities, first made their debut here in Ipoh.

  1. The 1st restaurant in Malaya with the opening of F.M.S Bar in Brewster Road in 1906
  2. The 1st motor vehicle registration centre in Malaya was established in 1911.
  3. Ipoh Town Plan exhibition which was the Malaya’s first town planning plan was held in September 1927.
  4. In 1937, the Malaya’s 1st installation of traffic light at the Tambun Road/Hugh Low Street and Gopeng Road/Brewster Road intersection.
  5. The installation of the Malaya’s 1st sodium vapour street light in Malaya along the Tambun Road in 1938.
  6. In 1957, Malaya’s 1st Geological Survey Department building complex completed its construction at Tiger Lane.
  7. 1st local authority to install parking meters at Sheikh Adam Road, Ipoh Old Town in 1961.
  8. In 1962, the 1st multi-storey car park was constructed in Malaya with a cost of RM 100,000.
  9. In 1962, the 1st local authority to manage a public library in Malaya.
  10. In 1988, the Ipoh City Council was 1st local authority upgraded to city council and conferred its city status under the Local Goverment Act 1976, Act 171.
About Ipoh
The City That Tin Built

The Growth of the city

1820 – Tin mining activities began in Kg. Epu, undertaken by the Malays traditionally by using panning method.

1880 – The development of the Old Town focused on Hugh Low Street (Jalan Sultan Iskandar) and Brewster Street (Jalan Sultan Idris Shah) with a few short lines

of the single storey thatched roof buildings, including 310 houses with a population of approximately 11,000 people.

1920 – The highlight of the tin mining era. Towkey Yau Tet Sin led the building of a new town with the construction of 216 buildings. The municipality continues to grow with the development of Birch Bridge with the first open spaces in Ipoh which is Ipoh Padang and followed by People’s Park.

1960 – Pekan Baru developed rapidly with housing development in Jalan Tambun and Jalan Gopeng.