Taiping is nestled in a beautifully rainforested valley between the well known Ipoh and Penang. For this reason it is overlooked by many and only briefly visited by the few. On a whim we decided to go there as we weren’t sure about heading to Ipoh and we loved it. Taiping is in our eyes the hidden gem of Malaysia and probably one of our favourite places in this truly brilliant country.
Taiping has a very long history, rising to prominence as a tin mining region. This attracted many Chinese Immigrants and later caught the eye of the British Colonial authorities. Therefore the city grew very quickly and was the State capital until 1937. Taiping continued to grow and was an important city where the first museum, railway station and city park in Malaysia would be built. Today it is a much sleepier town with all administrative and other functions having moved to nearby Ipoh or Penang. All this history however has left an interesting and beautiful melting pot of cultures to be explored in a day.
Getting to Taiping
Given Taiping is the sight of the first railway station in Malaysia, arriving by train would seem like the appropriate option. Given it was school holidays when we arrived, we were lucky to be able to get the last few tickets on the KTM ETS Gold train from Butterworth to Taiping. But there are many ways to get to Taiping including train, bus, taxi or private vehicle.
The train is in my eyes the best way to arrive in Taiping. Not only is the train system in the city steeped in history, the Malaysian trains are comfortable, clean, quiet and cheap. There are two categories of train that stop in Taiping. The KTM ETS and the KOMUTER. We took the ETS Gold Standard Class, the journey took 2 hours and only cost 21 MYR (~3.80 GBP) each. You will get a reserved seat to use, everyone seems to respect the ticketed seat system. See more of our journey in our vlog on Youtube.
The KTM ETS is the long distance inter-city service, stops in fewer locations and spreads through most of peninsula Malaysia. The route is from further south than Kuala Lumpur and north up to the Thai border. There are 6 services per day from penang, 12 from KL (including 2 that come from Gemas in the south) and 6 from the Thai border at Pedang Besar in the north. For many; these trains will be the only option, however if coming from Penang it is possible to take the below KOMUTER option. See below for information on the Penang Ferry.
The KOMUTER service is a local “commuter” service which from Taiping south for only one station. To the north the train runs as far as Penang Sentral Butterworth. These trains are a little slower, less comfortable and it isn’t possible to reserve a specific seat, but you can walk in and buy a ticket on the day and they add an alternative departure time if coming from Penang.
NOTE: Most of the time you should not need to book tickets further in advance than a couple of days, but Malaysia is on school holidays for the entirety of December so it is a good idea to book in advance then and during other holidays as well.
As with the rest of Malaysia the buses to and from Taiping are comfortable, clean and generally on time. When you compare the buses and trains with other countries in South East Asia, the Malaysian options are miles ahead.
Booking tickets in advance is not normally needed so you can normally just turn up and buy a ticket, but if you are tight on time or want a specific departure time you can book in advance in many places. We have used Bus Online Ticket multiple times and it has been very easy to book. In this case, the only option is travelling with Starmart express. We had bad luck with them so we cannot recommend this company directly, but there may be other options at the bus station.
Provided that Penang is an Island; if you wish to take either the bus or train you first will need to get to the mainland. The Rapid Ferry travels from Georgetown to Butterworth every 20 to 30 mins, it costs 2-3 MYR (~0.40 GBP) when travelling from Butterworth to Georgetown, Penang and is free in the other direction. The journey time is only 10 mins and so is the best way of travelling from Penang to the mainland unless you have your own vehicle.
Private Vehicle / Taxi
Of course if you are willing to pay, it is possible to drive to Taiping and the city is located conveniently along the AH2 highway. As with a lot of infrastructure in Malaysia the roads are of good quality, clean and are easy to travel.
What we loved in Taiping
It would be possible for us to publish a whole post on the qualities of Taiping, so to keep it short I will just list out a few of the key highlights in the city.
- Wander the streets: the roads between Jalan Stesen and Jalan Panggung Wayang are a great example of the British colonial and Chinese styles
- Visit the Taiping Lake Gardens: Start at Taman Tasik Lotus Pond and make the walk through the park into the city
- Sample some of the delicious Chinese influenced foods: Tamin Tasik Food Centre and Pusat Penjaja Taiping are good options
- Visit the old railway station: The oldest in Malaysia
Our accommodation was also a real love for us in Taiping. We stayed in “Reserve the Cozytainer” which was a fun hotel where each room was actually a shipping container. This was a fun stay for us, was well maintained and reasonably priced with excellent wifi. Definitely worth a look in, even though it is a way out of town, it is a short and cheap grabcar into the city centre.
Hope you enjoyed this post about Taiping. Please let us know in the comments below whether you have been there or intend to go! This was really one of our favourite locations in Malaysia. See more of our time in Taiping in our vlog on Youtube.
Speak again soon,