I've heard so much about Sekeping Kong Heng, a "hotel" designed by the architect Seksan. So, when I decided to have a short vacation in Ipoh last week, I made a point to book a room for myself there.
Located in Ipoh old town, Sekeping Kong Heng is a unique, one-of-a-kind lodging that you've got to experience at least once. It's made from of the bones of an old building, and Seksan has done it so well and so carefully that it's no wonder it's one of the most photographed buildings in Ipoh. Just look at the photos below (clicking on them will bring up a bigger picture.)
Personally, I don't think Sekeping Kong Heng is a hotel per se, and those going there expecting it to be so would be disappointed. You'd have an easier time of it if you think of it as a high-end, avant garde guest house.
I decided to book the Annex C5 room, the smallest and cheapest at RM80. The room, however, doesn't come with its own bathroom, which I'm fine with. I've backpacked a lot and do not need much beyond a good bed, and frankly RM80 for a private little room is luxury!
I took a 2.5-hour train ride from KL Sentral to Ipoh. And from the train station, it was a short 900m walk to Sekeping Kong Heng. It can be a challenge to find the place, but I was well prepared, having read oodles of blog posts about it.
First, find the iconic Kong Heng restaurant:
Then, walk in the lane between Kong Keng restaurant and Plan B, which is next to it. After the black gate, there's the reception on your left. It's literally a hole in the wall.
The man there took my bag up for me to the Kong Heng Annex, which is not in the same building as the other rooms. I rather like the Annex as it's not right next to Plan B - for reasons I will make clear below. Anyhow, we got to my room.
My room is the cutest thing ever! i loved it for its simplicity and minimalism. The bathroom was a walk away, past the pool. All in all, I do love the serenity of the surroundings.
Still, there are pros and cons about staying at Sekeping Kong Heng. In fact, its website makes it clear that the place isn't for everyone.
The industrial chic design is beautiful, and there's much to admire in the careful reuse of old materials and the careful preservation of the old building.
It's walking distance to Ipoh old town's famous eateries.
Walking distance to the train station.
If you stay in the Annex, you'd be right next to the pool, though I'm not sure if it's a swimming pool or a decorative pool. Still, a nice place to relax. I didn't get to, however, cos the first two days I was there, construction workers were sitting there. ;(
Dear Lord in Heaven, it was NOISY. Plan B plays muzak from morning till midnight. I have no idea how the guests in the Family Room sleep because not only are there no walls in the room (just grilles), there's a speaker blaring loud music right outside their room. Fortunately, my room is possibly the quietest room in the Annex. One of its walls is solid brick and the room next door had been converted into a pantry. And I suspect I was the only one living in the Annex during those days as I didn't see anyone else. At night, the music was a tinny whine.
Not for children or the elderly as there are far too many opportunities for people to fall, trip etc. For one, I was really nervous walking on the grates that was the floor around the swimming pool, and there were no waist-high barriers between the second floor and the ground floor around the swimming pool.
Inconvenient security system: I had to struggle with the sticky lock to get in and out of the annex. And I had to do it while perched on narrow stairs. Not exactly the safest thing.
Not very disabled-friendly; no elevators if you need to take bags up to your room, and with the stairs being the way they are, they are a trip hazard.
It was a unique experience, however, staying there for two days, and I did enjoy my room a lot. But the noise made it tough to sleep and I wasn't exactly restful there, alas. If, however, you sleep like a log and would like to experience something novel and unique, Sekeping Kong Heng is for you. Just take note of the pros and cons :)