Living in Malaysia on a Budget: Week 18 (Ipoh)

This week we ignored the holidays and stayed within our $50/day budget! If you're looking for a place to relax, make some local friends, eat tasty food, and watch the afternoon rain roll in over a good coffee, Ipoh, Malaysia is the place to be. Highly recommended for digital nomads who want to get away from the craziness of cities but still want access to good amenities, reliable internet, and safe transportation.

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Our goal: $50 per day total, including transportation, accommodation, visas, and bills back home. For two people.

In every budget update I will add a prorated estimate of our bills back home (loans, phone plan, etc. which may vary slightly by month), to include in our $50/day travel budget. I am not including travel insurance -- this would add about $5.75 per day to our total.

  • Days: 7
  • Location(s): Ipoh, Malaysia
  • Avg. spending per day: $36.57
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $39.77
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $46.06
OH hai tiny laughing Buddha!
So what are our living expenses in Ipoh this week?
  • Conversion rate: 1 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) = US$0.25 (4 MYR to $0.98 US)
  • Accommodation: $160.99 
  • Transportation: $0
    • Shout out to our new Couchsurfing friend Mei for bringing us to the caves (see below). Otherwise, we wandered on foot. Ipoh has good sidewalks and crosswalks in Old Town and New Town (downtown) so unless you want to go farther away, there is a lot to explore by walking.
  • Food and drinks: $94.95
    • I waxed poetic about Ipoh food in one of our first weeks in Ipoh. This week, we also tried out some new fruits: durian, soursop, and pomelo. Durian isn't terrible but we certainly don't love it like Malaysians! Soursop and pomelo are much better.
Monica is all up on that durian. Warren wasn't so into it... either way, our hands were smelly for like 8 hours. 
    • We had a few nights out with friends that we set up via, so we spent a bit more than usual on beers at dinner, since y'know, socializing is "good".
    • Snacks... we went snack crazy for Christmas. Brownies and cookies and cheesy things... all Malaysian, and all delicious.
  • Entertainment and misc.: $0
    • FREE ENTERTAINMENT! Basically we were pretty relaxed this week (no snow or holiday travel for us!) but we got out a bit. Otherwise, it's been a Netflix and long walks week.
    • Check out our pictures below from caves! Mei took us to four different cave temples in southeast Ipoh, which are free to visit and lovely. The temples are built into natural limestone caves, and some are surrounded by gardens, so they're very pleasant to visit even if you aren't normally into temples.
    • There are lots of amazing statues and paintings inside, but the pictures were terrible.
    • First up was Ling Sen Tong temple, which is a Taoist temple with lots of bright statues.

The stunning landscape and entrance
SO MANY incense! The larger ones are lit when people are praying for their families. For personal prayers the regular stick incense suffice.
Personally I loved the different media. The left monkey god sculpture had fur on it. There were so many styles of sculptures and paintings and etchings and carved/painted tiles... really fascinating.
Multiple trees were covered with small individual prayers.

More incense. These ones (and this statue) were HUGE. Luckily the incense were all purchased there, so they all had the same scent.

This guy scared me.

Pray for ya love
    • Next we went down the street to the Chinese Buddhist Sam Poh Tong temple. It's not as colorful as Ling Sen Tong, but it's got great gardens, caves, statues, and TURTLES.

Great entryway. I love the dragons/lions! Which one are they???
It's hard to capture gardens on film. At least, I'm not great at it.

This extended out into the garden pond. There were so many fish in there!
Go through the caves and you'll find this stunning temple.
Warren loved this fish guy.

Turn around from that beautiful building to check out THE TURTLES. I've never seen so many turtles. The water is FULL. You can buy turtle food if you want, to throw them some long beans.
    • The final temple that was all in a cluster with the other two was the Taoist Nam Than Tong temple, where I found my spirit animal.

The eight immortals

I loved the 3D sculpture murals

It was also painted inside on the cave wall in a much more majestic way.
    • We drove over to the Kek Lok Tong temple which was huuuuge, full of small and large statues and sculptures and has a beautiful garden with a path, through the temple.

Epic entrance
Sometimes scale is difficult. Warren is 6'4"!
Walking out the back of the cave: wow!
Down by the water you can appreciate the geology.
Limestone folds
This place was FULL of statues. I liked this bird.

One of two ponds, looking back towards the caves

We tried and failed to appreciate this reflexology path. It seemed like torture to me.

Curious about Malaysia? Find out more below:

Ipoh, Malaysia is lovely and has some really beautiful caves. It's known for its coffee and food, partly because of the excellent water from the surrounding mountains. The produce is famously great! It's easy to live in Ipoh on a budget, and being only 2.5 hours away from Kuala Lumpur, it's a perfect weekend getaway.


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