In Ipoh Old Town, the infamous Concubine Lane (or Panglima Lima, “二奶巷”, “Er Nai Xiang”) has a history dating back to 1892. After the great fire in the same year, mining tycoon Yao Tet Shin built the Concubine Lanes. The houses on the lanes were given to his three wives.
The locals named the lanes, Wife Lane, Concubine Lane, and First Concubine Lane. There is another common folklore whispered by the locals. Apparently on the houses on the narrow, uneven path is where rich Chinese magnate and British officers kept their concubines and mistresses!
The story of the infamous Concubine Lanes was that of a notorious area for opium dens, gambling shops and prostitution in the 1900s.
Concubine Lane is the most famous and beautifully transformed lane among all three. Today we visit no. 27, Concubine Lane, the first house that is restored to its original state.
As they say, the rest is history.
Big John is from Wigan, a town west-northwest of Manchester, England. John has a terrific sense of humor typical of the “Northerners”.
When Big John showed me the original No. 27 Concubine Lane, in Ipoh’s old quarters, I was aghast!
The roof had missing roof tiles where you could look up and see the sky above. Basically, it was just a shell of a house. No water, electricity or floorboards on the first floor.
Only the ground floor was intact with the original walls, doors and window frames.
The floor was uneven, sloping to one side where a narrow shallow drain ran all the way from the back of the house to the front.
Location wise, it was on the infamous Concubine Lane, close to all the famous food courts, murals, museums, and heritage buildings. It is a mere fifteen minutes’ walk from Ipoh railway station.
This Englishman from Wigan looked around and said to me, “I will turn this into my home!”
Amazingly, John and his wife did just that in about six to seven months. They worked with contractors and had the place up and running with the legendary English pub Big Johns Music Shack on No. 24.
When Big John started the business, the old quarters in Ipoh was quiet and almost dead at night after the local office workers headed home.
Big John’s Music Shack
Big John’s Music Shack was the happening place to hang out in the evenings. The rustic English pub had a good live band, a great selection of beers, good old English pub food.
It was sad when the pub closed. I missed my chance to get a beer and chill out.
Yi Lai Hong
The 120-year-old infamous heritage row is a small narrow lane known as “Yi Lai Hong” or Concubine Lane, Lorong Panglima is believed to have been established in 1908. This is a narrow, uneven path, in Old Town Ipoh, was a residential area where concubines and mistresses are kept in the townhouses here.
Apparently, rich Chinese magnate and even British officers kept their women here. This notorious area was also infamous for its opium dens, gambling and betting shops, and prostitution.
The houses left abandoned over the years fell in an advanced stage of disrepair. Many houses had plants and even small trees growing in them.
New Owners Injecting Life
It started with a private effort with the new owners renovating the heritage row on Concubine Lane. Now the entire area is revived.
This area opposite Sekeping Khong Heng is a tourist haven in Ipoh Old Town. I was there over the long weekend and found the place very busy with crowds of outstation cars and visitors. Most make a beeline for the delicious and tasty Ipoh food. Some prefer to check out the mural popping up. The area is close to the tea and tin museums.
Big John is now stationed at No. 27, Concubine Lane, a “Heritage Stay”. The 108-year-old house is a restored Chinese family house, brought back to its original status as a HOME.
Staying at No. 27 is a great way to experience a Chinese old culture. There are creature comforts with air-conditioned rooms and instantaneous water heater for showers. The bedrooms and the toilet are clean.
There are three private rooms available for couples or single traveler. The furnishing in keeping with the heritage character of the house is simple.
Loads of Character
The original shophouses are remarkable charming and even nostalgic with heaps of character. The wooden front door and wooden grille are kept intact. It was like staying in someone’s house with free WiFi!
The heritage trail in Ipoh was chock-a-block full of tourist. It may be a little overcrowded out in front of the homestay. Big John has a sign that says, “Private Residence. Strictly no photo taking” to provide privacy to the house guest.
So it is quite a deterrent to keep asking tourists would wander in, stand around and whip out their cameras not to take photos.
I was there listening in as Big John welcomed a family of seven. He gave suggestion on where to eat and recommended places and had lots of info on what to do in the area.
I remember reading a review on TripAdvisor that said simply, “Tell your need to Mr. John. He will settle for you.”
27 Concubine Lane Ipoh Heritage Quarter Homestay
Concubine Lane is no longer dodgy. The well preserved by conservation efforts by the individual building owners is bearing fruit. More and more tourists draw close to Concubine Lane to enjoy the culinary delights and other attractions here. Concubine Lane is set to be the next major tourist attraction in Ipoh.
27 Concubine Lane
| 27 Lorong Panglima, Ipoh
Price Range: RM98 – RM151 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Private Room: 3 bedrooms | Dorm Beds: