Perak main city Ipoh was until now mostly known for its food, its beautiful rail station – nicknamed Malaysia ‘Taj Mahal’ and its school institutions, some being among the best in the country. For architecture lovers, Ipoh has one of the most striking British colonial heritage in Malaysia.
But now, Ipoh is turning into the “Hipster” Town. According to a report from Malaysian national news agency Bernama, And the craze for the Hispter style, a trend which came from the United States a few years ago, is now turned into an asset to lure tourists. The Hipster subculture was mostly initiated by a middle class 25-40 year old who live in urban areas -mostly in gentrified districts. The lifestyle is a mix of organic food, indie and alternative worldmusic, vintage fashion and design.
Hipsterism became a popular subculture among young Malaysian adults in 2010. It made quite an impact on fashion, music, lifestyle and dining trends, among others. The city of Ipoh has decided to capitalise on the trend and use it as a means to boost tourism. The city with its numerous streets of century-old Chinese shop-houses is indeed an ideal playground to hipster tribes.
The phenomenon is reaching now political circles with Perak Premier, Dr Zambry Abd Kadir recently declaring Ipoh a ‘Hipster Town’ following the boom of such businesses by youths there, a development that has been recognised by local and international media.
“I am proud of their efforts and achievements in developing the concept in Ipoh. Before we realise it, Ipoh has already become a hipster city that is so successful in its businesses that it has been featured in magazines and newspapers,” he said.
According to Perak Premier, opening an outlet with a hipster concept did not require investors to dole out much money. Rather, inexpensive, old and used items worked best, as they were either repurposed or used as decorative pieces. “The premises itself does not need to be big or fancy. In fact, the older it is, the more appealing it becomes,” he said.
Displays of this unique concept can be seen on the various businesses that have popped up all over Ipoh including cafes, boutique hotels, street art, antique shops and barber shops which highlight the hipster culture.
The old world charm of Ipoh town has long been an attraction to tourists. The late popular filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad often chose Ipoh as the shooting location for her films such as Sepet, Gubra and Muallaf. A museum has been opened on Jalan Sultan Yusuf to display her work.
Artist Ernest Zacharevis has also chosen Ipoh as one of the locations to display his 3D artwork, which can be viewed in small alleys around Jalan Bandar Timah and Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Another emerging area has been Concubine Lane (Lorong Panglima), a charming area of old shophouses. Wealthy Chinese merchants and British officers had their mistresses in the area. It has been partially renovated and welcome some trendy coffee shops, restaurants and clubs.
Panglima Lane is near to Jalan Sultan Iskandar which is now an area under renovation and has many art murals. The hipster street also prompted the Ipoh Mayor Datuk Zambri Man to come up with ways to highlight the concept at the People’s Park on Jalan Sultan Iskandar. “In the next four to five months we will spruce up the place and turn it into a thing of beauty, especially at night, by putting up lights along the sidewalk next to Sungai Kinta from People’s Park to Taman Dr Seenivasagam (Taman Dr),” he said to Bernama.
The Ipoh City Council is also working with UiTM lecturers and students on a mural at the park, among others, in the bid to turn the area into a tourist attraction and a spot for family recreational activities. A bicycle lane is also being created along People’s Park. The mayor said they were also in discussion over bringing in food trucks to People’s Park. Majority of the food truck businesses are run by youths.
“This is one of the places that could bring them revenue, and I have asked my officers to study and evaluate the feasibility of the idea,” he said. Upon completion, the area will allow the public to engage in recreational and entertainment activities as the city council is also working with the State Arts Department to hold performances there every weekend.