Ipoh has always been a unique concoction of culture and art and limestone and soul, a magnificent microcosm of modern Malaysia.
While the adornments may not be entirely original – even largely derivative as a lot of modern art and popular culture tends to be, Ipoh puts its own sublime spin on what it means to be a Malaysian metropolitan landmark city.
With extravagantly large visuals (you’ll notice Ipoh is noticeably larger in print on road signage) and splashes of colours between heritage colonial buildings, Ipoh is evolving out of the umbra of its larger brothers that flank it to the north and south.
Easily compared to Penang and Melaka, Ipoh has always been that hub town on the road down to KL or Cameron Highlands. But I’m afraid that is no longer the case.
While retaining its former identity as a British colony and tin mining town, Ipoh is rapidly blossoming into a tourist city rife with vivid colour and character.
Ipoh has a strange phenomenon where existing narrow terres townhouses have been extended upward. You can still see the remnant of the original roof poking out between crushed concrete.
And like any tropical town, Ipoh is alive with green and vegetation, tying it back to its simple Malaysian roots.
And of course it wouldn’t be a modern city without some swanky street art!
Remnants of the colonial era stand strong against the tropical elements.
This is where the lines blur a little, where white and black become grey, where two seemingly incongruous objects collide at the speed of light and from the resulting explosion you have this:
Sorry, I meant this:
What is this, you might ask. I will tell you! This is a most intriguing shop, where art and bicycles and paint meet. And it all takes place on Penang’s scandalous Love Lane!
Scandalous you say? Why, that’s the magic word! Now that I finally have you attention (what were you doing the past few paragraphs exactly?), time for a bit of a history lesson! No groans? Oh yes, you’re still hooked on the scandals.
Legend has it that Love Lane used to be where the sailors and soldiers and other manly professions of old came to, you know, find love in Penang. Wink wink. Standard red-light district stuff – yawn. But wait, there’s more!
It was also believed that the many opulent double-storied townhouses along this street were home to the fine ladies clandestinely held by their lovers just one street over. So whenever they needed, these wealthy businessmen would pop on down the road to reassure their lonely ladies that they were there for them. And they all lived happily ever after. Teehee.
There’s even a wire frame sculpture named “Cheating Husband” erected on this little lane that attests to the story. Frankly, I feel for the poor chubby man hanging outside his window. He never gets to go back inside. Sniff.
All this talk of love and riding has certainly whet my appetite for some…cycling! And that’s exactly what you can do when you visit Love Bike! As the name suggests, it is a cozy little shop that houses many a bike for hire. But wait, there’s more!
The bikes for rent aren’t just any ordinary type of bicycle. They’re true-blue, restored vintage bicycles! Don’t worry, they come in other colours too. Here’s a prominent one right outside the shop!
They come in all shapes and sizes, but mostly the steel vintage shape and size. And they’re cheap and reliable and great for coasting around the UNESCO Heritage zone, which incidentally Love Lane is a healthy part of.
Did I mention the owner is a stunning, charismatic guy with a major artistic flair? I think I mentioned the artsy bit. This creative tauke (local Hokkien slang for “boss”) goes by the name Thomas, and he’s been churning out exquisite, bite-sized pieces of art ever since he got a hold of a paintbrush. It doesn’t stop there: you can even turn these unique little canvases into the perfect postcard! If you ask nicely, he’ll even mail it out for you! I’m fairly certain he’s a regular at the post office by now.
The way I’m hard-selling him, you’d think I’m his marketing biatch. Well, I’m not; I just met him. It’s not every day you encounter such an interesting merger: an old heritage shop lot awash with bikes and postcards and watercolours.
So if you’re visiting the town area and you’d like to have a cycle and look at some art, and maybe pick up a postcard or two, then Love Bike has got you covered. If you’re heading down Love Lane, you definitely can’t miss it! You can get more details on this website.
I like how Love Bike is so symbolic of the two areas that Penang is really booming in right now: cycling and the arts. Ever since the wall murals across Georgetown and the rising investment in bicycles, Penang has become alive with activity, and everyone is keen to join in the fun. Encouraging people to cycle while giving them a glimpse of local art? I think we’ve got a winning formula right here.
So go visit Love Bike and ask for Thomas, and let him tell you all about Love Lane and how his story has unfolded. Who knows, he might even draw something special for you!