Malaysia’s third city, Ipoh, rose to prominence in the 1880s, following the discovery in its mountainous hinterland of major tin reserves. This, coupled with the later introduction of rubber by the British, spawned the boom from which its grand Edwardian-Baroque railway station and other colonial buildings date. With lanes of little pastel-painted Chinese shophouses, Ipoh’s central market district retains the feel of this prosperous era, when tens of thousands of immigrants poured in to seek their fortune. On the outskirts, a massive cave temple, Perak Tong, bears witness to the fact that many succeeded. Decorated with vibrant dragon murals and delicate calligraphy, the interior holds a huge golden Buddha donated by wealthy Chinese benefactors.
Another monument to Ipoh’s great boom stands on a hilltop 20 minutes’ drive out of town. Erected by a wealthy Scottish rubber baron named William Kellie Smith, ‘Kellie’s Castle’ is an enormous mansion in Scots-Baronial, Indian and Moorish style. Although work on the building was never completed (because Smith died prematurely), it became a much loved local landmark.
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