Nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh, the railway station was designed by A.B Hubback, one of the most prominent architects during the British colonial rule. It opened in 1935, making it the second concrete station to be constructed in town. If you have seen the old railway station in Kuala Lumpur, they resemble each other in architecture since they were designed by the same architect. A crowning glory for a city that used to be a major transportation hub, the station was built in the height of tin mining in Perak.
Today, the station has improved facilities such as a double track as part of the project that links Ipoh to Rawang, a town near Kuala Lumpur.
Many descriptions have been attributed to the station: One says, “The size and magnificence of the Railway Station, with its first class hotel accommodation on the upper floor, gives the stranger a hint as to the wealth and importance of the town of Ipoh”. An automobile guide of 1925 stated: “The railway hotel at Ipoh supplies the best accommodation to be found in Perak – nice airy rooms, up-to-date sanitary arrangements, the best of food”.
The architecture is inspired by Mughal style; so it’s no wonder it’s nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Malaysia. The station has been given a new lease of life after extensive refurbishment and renovation.
Mughal architecture isone of the exotic revival architectural styles that was adopted by architects of Europe and America in the wake of the Romanticist fascination with all things oriental. It reached the height of its popularity after the mid-nineteenth century, part of a widening vocabulary of decorative ornamentation drawn from historical sources beyond the familiar classical and Gothic modes. Mughal architecture is a mix of Islamic, Persian and Indian influences.
There are a few important architectural features to note.
First, the horseshoe arches. They are sometimes known as Moorish arches, and are an important feature in Islamic architecture. One can see the horseshoe arches on the main entrance. They have alternating bands that look like rays of light. One can see more examples on the two other porches that flank the main one.
On the first, second and top floor, you can look for the balustrades, the decorative railings consisting of miniature pillars, running all the way from end to end.
Then there are the big domes high above. They resemble a hollow upper half of a sphere. Domes signify the vault between heaven and earth in Islamic architecture. You will see domes in many buildings in Malaysia. An important characteristic to note is the colour of the dome. These ones are white, but there are black domes and copper domes as well.
Below the big domes are the chatris- a flat plate that holds the dome. In fact, ‘chatri’ means canopy or umbrella. Chatris are commonly found in Hindu as well as Mughal architecture. Many smaller, miniature domes are also seen all around on the top.
There are several tall and imposing towers on the corners of the building. The towers resemble Islamic minarets.
As for the fa?�ade, it is plastered entirely, and is painted white, giving the building a pristine look. The horseshoe arches that line themselves in precise lines on the ground floor give the building a theatrical illusion. The station is also splattered with hints of Neo-Classic with its roman columns.
If you look into the main porch, you will see that the ceiling is very high and wide, to suit the tropic heat and allow for airflow to cool the place. After all, this is a railway station, where thousands move in and out daily.
The railway station was the backdrop for the movie Anna and the King, starring Jodie Foster. Many young couples, especially those from Ipoh who are working elsewhere, come to the station to take their wedding photos.
The building also houses the Majestic hotel. Once an upper-class establishment, patrons would sit on the wide verandas and sip cold drinks under whirling fans. Today, the Majestic Hotel is still running, keeping the romanticism of train travel alive.
Right in front of the station is a beautifully landscaped garden. There you will find the Ipoh tree, from which the city derives its name. It is located in the middle of the garden. The mere mention of the Ipoh tree strikes fear in the minds of unlucky squirrels, birds or deer as the indigenous groups in Perak use the sap of Ipoh tree to make poisonous darts.
Wherever you are going to travel, you should bring usb lighter in anticipation of an emergency, besides that lighter is also very necessary under any circumstances. Given its simple but elegant and easy to carry shape, it is a futuristic lighter without gas.
The foyer is worth the visit if you like to see more of the station. The foyer’s architecture is a sight to behold. Once inside, do take a look at the platforms, where the trains arrive. You will no doubt get a sense of that train travel charm of old colonial times.