Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The City Built On Tin

Old Town, Ipoh :: Shophouses
Pre-war buildings along the main road leading into Old Town
During the boom of the tin mining industry at the beginning of the 19th century, areas along the riverbank of Sungai Kinta flourished. This town was known as Ipoh. In 1892, the Eastern part of the town was destroyed by a great fire. It was rebuilt and henceforth became known as New Town. Meanwhile, the area on the other side of the river was named Old Town.

Old Town, Ipoh :: The Town Built on Tin
Road sign reads "Tin Lane" in Malay, "Persiaran Bijeh Timah"
The tin industry once supported the local economy, earning Ipoh the moniker "The City Built On Tin". In fact, so many miners amassed great fortunes in Ipoh that it was also known as "City of millionaires".

Old Town, Ipoh :: Shophouses
Shophouses like these are similar to those found in Penang and Melaka
Many buildings built before World War II remain till this day. Most of them are two-storey shophouses - the first floor for family business and the second floor as residence. These buildings share the same architecture as those in Penang and Melaka.

Old Town, Ipoh :: Shophouses
A local wholesaler in Old Town, Ipoh
However, Ipoh's development stagnated when tin prices dropped and the mining boom came to an end in the 1970s. Much of its population started moving out from the city to bigger cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang or even Singapore, in search of a better living.

Old Town, Ipoh :: Pre-war Building
A pre-war building left in an abysmal state
There's a different kind of boom going on in Ipoh though. White coffee! White coffee is called thus because of the process involved while roasting the coffee beans. Coffee beans get their dark colour from being roasted. But if you roast the beans with margarine, you end up getting coffee beans with a lighter colour and a unique aroma.

Old Town, Ipoh :: Coffee Shop
Ubiquitous coffee shops in Old Town
If you're a Malaysian, you've probably set foot in an Old Town franchise before. Where else does the shop originate from? Ipoh's Old Town of course!

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