Updated: Sep 18
After Penang started the street arts craze in Malaysia, Ipoh was the next to jump on the bandwagon. Street arts started popping up in the old town. Among them is an official set of murals known as the "Art of OldTown", which was a collaboration between OldTown White Coffee and the City Council of Ipoh and created by Ernest Zacharevic, the same Lithuanian street artist that stirred up the art craze in Georgetown.
The "Art of OldTown" is a collection of 7 murals scattered around the old town. Apart from sipping the famous white coffee when in Ipoh, these murals are not to be missed too.
1. Old Uncle with Coffee Cup
Since the murals are designated by OldTown White Coffee, the first artwork is naturally on the wall outside Ipoh OldTown White Coffee cafe. Might as well start the day with breakfast and a nice cup of Ipoh's famous white coffee in the cafe.
2. Paper Plane
This can be a little difficult to find if you make a wrong turn. It is quite near to OldTown White Coffee cafe and you have to look up "to the sky" when looking for it.
Kopi-o means "black coffee" in Hokkien. This 5 packets of coffee hanging on a wall can be missed easily as they blend in with the dark-molded old wall (to be fair, the mold was not so thick when the mural was painted). Try holding the string of a coffee bag with your thumb and forefinger when posing for photos.
This is really easy to find. It is near to the "Kopi-O" mural in the adjacent car park. A fence, that used to segregate the two car parks, was removed so you can just walk across to the "giant" hummingbird.
This huge painting depicts the tin mining industry that once allowed Ipoh to flourish for about 100 years. While you are here, check out Han Chin Pet Soo (闲真别墅), the first Hakka tin mining museum in Malaysia. The museum is situated in the second unit behind this wall.
Admission to Han Chin Pet Soo is free but a donation of RM10.00 is suggested for the upkeep of the historical building. Also, for comfort and safety, the museum can house up to 40 guests at any one time, so it adopted an appointment system for scheduling of visits. The museum closes on Mondays except public holidays. You can find the latest information about the museum and make reservations at ipohworld.org.
While all the murals above are wall paintings, this artwork has a real trishaw cut in half and cemented to the wall. The mural shows a man collecting recyclable items, like carton boxes and probably tin cans in black plastic bags, on the trishaw. This is a common practice in Asia where rag-and-bone men (karung guni in Malay) collect and sell recyclable items for money.
The official title for this mural is too undescriptive. The girl is actually standing on several real thick books and plastic chairs to try to reach a real cage. There are paintings of bird in the cage. (Photo below was taken in 2015).
Out of the 7 art pieces of the "Art of OldTown", the "Girl" mural changes the most after two years. The second photo below was taken in 2017. Note the changes in the chair and the girl's dress after Ernest touched them up. The dark mold have also engulfed all the birds in the cage and a large part of the cement below the ventilation slits had fallen off, damaging the mural.
When you are at the "Girl" mural, you will be somewhere amidst the 3 Concubine Lanes, where most of the actions are. The streets around here are full of local fares, shops, and fun. Do try the local food in the coffee shops.
If you don't like hunting for street arts in the blind, check out the map for locations of all murals in Ipoh Old Town.
The blue route is the shortest path to the "Art of OldTown" murals. Try this route if you are short of time. You can start from either end depending on where you enter the old town. This route is just a suggestion.
Apart from Ipoh white coffee and wide varieties of local food, let the "Art of OldTown" kick-starts your mural-hunt in Ipoh!