Expat

7 wonderful days in Penang

spy vs spy penang
Who remembers Spy vs Spy?

Penang Malaysia was one of those places that I constantly heard good things about, but never had made it to. But this year, I set my jets to see it. I planned months in advance to get a good ticket price and timed my hotel reservations, too. I’m so glad that I did. Penang is worth it.

Georgetown Penang

Day One:

We arrived in the afternoon and soon after checking in, we went in search of a money exchanger and food! Malaysia is well-known for its amazing food due to the mix of Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures. Luckily, we stumbled into MonaLiza and had excellent curry. Malay curry is different from Indian or Thai curry, but I’m no curry expert. It tasted though distinctively different and it was so good. In fact, we stuffed ourselves silly and that would be the theme for the rest of the trip.

Do you see Mona Lisa in the background?
Do you see Mona Lisa in the background?

Then we discovered the Komtar mall complex (3 malls, anyone?), and I have to warn you that we spent a lot of time there. Siem Reap, where we live, is seriously lacking in glorious Asian shopping malls. In America, malls are considered dead, but in Asia, they are free air con paradises, entertaining places to shop, eat, do stuff like laser tag or ice skating, catch a movie, and basically have a nice time.

1st Avenue Penang
Ahhhh, civilization. Am I right?

And part of the reason why I planned this trip was to do some basic clothes shopping. I was a woman on a mission.

Day Two:

penang motobike street art
I thought this guy’s pose was pretty good – so, I snapped a picture 🙂

I was eager to see the street art since that is what Georgetown seems to be best known for, after the food. We headed in the direction of where most of the art seems to be concentrated and enjoyed the historical aspect of the city.

It was a pleasure to see old and new mixed together, and the best of development working together especially for a SE Asian country. We were so enamored with this that the bf wrote about it here.

Char Koay teow was one of the highly recommended foods to try in Malaysia.
Char koay teow was one of the highly recommended foods to try in Malaysia.

After a cheap snack, we strolled around Cheah Kongsi, one of the oldest clan temples in Georgetown.

Looking up at Cheah Kongsi. I liked the little cutouts. See them?
Looking up at Cheah Kongsi. I liked the little cutouts. See them?

And at the recommendation of our guesthouse, we went to the fancy new Gurney Mall via bus, where I started to shut down from lack of food. One of the things I hate about travel is figuring out where to eat, what to eat and eating at strange times. Now, Georgetown was a delight in this respect, but trial and error on holiday kind of sucks because you want everything to be perfect, right?

Day Three:

dim-sum-georgetown
Breakfast of champions.

We decided that the hotel breakfast was pale and tasteless in comparison to all the incredible food that’s in Georgetown so we wandered just a bit to find a hoppin’ dim sum place.

Fortified, we then hit the beach! The bf wanted to check it out so we hopped on a bus to Batu Ferringhi. Apparently, it’s better at night with their street market, but I’ve seen enough street markets to last me for the rest of my life, thank you. Oh, get off at the Holiday Inn because that’s basically the beginning of it and if you aren’t careful, you’ll miss this little town completely. We got off at the last stop only because we asked the driver and then walked back.

Batu Berringhi Penang
Serenity, now.

About half of our walk was on the beach, collecting shells, taking pictures and just enjoying a quiet beach experience which neither of us has had in a long time.

batu-ferringi-beach

The other half was walking down the main road which wasn’t exciting except for the art gallery where we found a wonderful buffalo print which we promptly bought for $10.

The day ended with high end Indian food that was – pretty damn tasty. (*Sorry, no picture, I scarfed it down too quickly.)

Day Four:

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Little India, Penang.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Little India, Penang.

On the 4th day we wanted to see this Indian temple on the map and the clock tower near the water. It was a day of more walking, sightseeing and exploring areas of the city we had not seen.

We then spent the afternoon back at our favorite mall, going back to the things we had seen that we wanted. Which was interesting because the things we were initially crazy about were not so interesting anymore. Really, there is such a thin line between snagging something because you’ll never see it again, and taking your time to see if it’s something you truly want and need.

Day Five:

chicken rice penang
Power up! Chicken rice for breakfast!

We were getting close to ending our beautiful vacation, so we decided to write a list of all the things we wanted to do and assess what was doable, especially since we wanted to avoid the weekend crowds. There really is so much to explore and see and we didn’t come close to seeing it all, but that’s okay.

With that in mind, we went to check out the ‘must see’ Kek Lok Si Temple which boasts being the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.

Kek Lok Si Temple Penang
Kek Lok Si, Penang

The bus ride there was easy peasy, finding the bus back, however, was a hot endeavor. Thankfully, everyone is helpful and nice and we avoided a meltdown in the middle of our travels. Actually, it was a little tricky finding the entrance to the damn place, too.

I suppose the problem is you are dropped off in the middle of a busy street filled with shops and street vendors. We turned right, the direction of the temple, but then ended up, oddly enough, going through a neighborhood and people’s yards (so to speak) before finding this hidden entrance which led you to the temple.

The complex is also filled with hawkers and stalls trying to sell you clothes, food and trinkets. If you’re not to use to this, it seems bizarre, maybe even disrespectful, but it just seemed so – Asian. The various religious ‘areas’ were interesting though. It’s very colorful. A little confusing and hot and crowded, but all in all, an alright trip. We probably should have explored the food stalls in town, but by the time we went up the tram to the top and climbed a gazillion stairs, we were ready to be in the blasting cool air of the bus and sit down.

I know, we’re such old hens, aren’t we?

The evening was rounded out by two dinners. One as soon as we got back from the temple at Food Architect since it was obviously trendy with young Malays, we were curious. And then later at Kapitan for Indian food.

At Kapitan, my meal was fantastic, like off the charts good, but my bf’s food arrived much later than mine. It was disappointing because I saw all the plates piled up and ready at the window to be delivered for about 15 minutes. So, the service sucked. Yes, it was busy. Everybody ate with their right hand. How they do it, I’ll never know.

Little India is fun to walk through at night. We loved the music playing and feeling like we were in India!

Day Six:

Trois Canon Georgetown
One of the best meals ever. Yes, it looks rather plain and perhaps, boring, but it tasted so good.

Luckily, we ditched the expensive coffee place we had been going to, and discovered Trois Canon Café, a Hong Kong style eatery with amazing fried noodles, bagels, coffee and tea. We ate there the next day as well. I miss the Indian food and this place, the mostest.

botanical-gardens-penang
The Botanical Gardens were lovely.

Next up was the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, we spent a long time waiting for the #10 because we didn’t know how often it ran (every hour). And on the way back, we had to wait again, but at least the driver dropped us off at this little shopping area so we got ice cream and chillaxed. I think because these delays happened at the end of our trip, it helped me to be perfectly okay with it. I don’t know. Maybe this is part of travel and just going with the flow.

The gardens are free! And truly a joy to walk around. I really love parks and green public spaces.

Penang Botanical Gardens
Sometimes, you spot a baby monitor lizard. And sometimes, your bf goes off and discovers more of them digging in the ground and you have to patiently wait while he communes with them.

On the way back, we walked through the mall, but really we were thinking of those lovely massage chairs you put money in, and wanted to get our cheap massage. After a shower at the hotel, we were out again, trying to find dinner. Monday was a deadly day, as was the hour, 5pm. Most places were closed. But since the city is quite compact, we found “Beans Heritage” off of the Armenian Hotel and I had the cheesy rice curry which was yummy and it has inspired me to try to make it at home.

Day Seven:

skippy-and-me
Skippy and me.

For our last day in Penang, we decided to try to see any more street art that we had missed and check out the famous clan jetties. The Chinese clan jetties are neighborhoods on the water, but are some of the oldest settlements on the island that date back to the 19th century and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A pet monkey, I found out is not typical.
When we were looking at the street art, we met this family and their pet monkey! I know, right? Right?!

We tried to go to the pier, but it was closed. Then we walked over to this aquarium that we had found online, but disappointedly learned that it had been closed for several months. But we made the best of the situation by walking around and enjoying new sights, and getting our hands and mouths on more food.

Sometimes you need to get out of the rain for a coffee break.
Ocassionally, you need to get out of the rain for a coffee break.
Another dish to try, the wan tan mee. So good.
Another dish to try, the wan tan mee. So good.
Yeah, I had two dinners for our last night.
Yeah, I had two dinners for our last night. Heavenly.

We miss you Penang!


*Tips*

  • Call your hotel/guesthouse to confirm airport pickup. Do not trust email or their Internet forms.
  • Get to know the bus system (Rapid Penang). It’s easy to use and you can see most major sights for $1 or less (round trip).
  • Bring good walking shoes. Georgetown is truly a walk-friendly place.
  • Pack an empty water bottle. At the airport, it was difficult to buy water and Air Asia no longer provides water free of charge. However, you can find drinking faucets in the airport to fill up your bottle.
  • Georgetown is also environmentally conscience and will not provide plastic bags for purchases (unless you are in the mall), so bring a tote for such purposes.
  • Street vendors do not come out until the evening and most restaurants close down between 2-5pm.
  • Malaysia loves to blast their air con on icy. No, I mean, they love it cold. You might want to bring a jacket.

Have you been to Penang? What are your tips?

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28 thoughts on “7 wonderful days in Penang

  1. Oh wow, Lani. You and the bf did indeed pack a punch in your week long trip to Penang. A few years ago I went to Penang but for some reason I never noticed the street art at all. Nothing like those cats or people on the walls. Perhaps it was because I was traveling with my family and extended family, about twenty of us and all of them really wanted to spend time at the Kek Lok Si temple and eat food, food, food, and also at the big airconditioned shopping malls.

    We did go to one of the nightmarkets, the one outside Gurney Plaza one day. Lots of things on display and to buy, but I couldn’t find much difference between the other kinds of night and day markets in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia. At one point my family got fed up of the heat and shopping mall it was every afternoon 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m surprised you didn’t know about the street art. I think it has become synonymous with the city. However, I understand when you travel with family how these things can go unnoticed when the agenda of the group is at hand.

      And I suppose the mall could get very old, very quickly, but since we don’t have this in SR, it was a refeshing welcome. It’s funny what is considered exciting and boring to us!

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      1. I myself am surprised Penang has street art :S This is one of the reasons why I don’t like traveling with a group – you have to go with what the majority wants to do. And if you don’t agree with the majority, you feel like you are dragged around, lol.

        More travels to come from you next year, Lani 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So now I’m starving and drooling. My favorite vacations are the ones where you find and eat all the local specialities. I would love to eat my way around the world.

    Now I am dying to know how the curry is different in Penang.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I thought about ‘googling’ the differences and adding them here, but I wanted it to be in my own clever words. No such luck! What was interesting was the cook said she used regular milk (as opposed to coconut milk) and yogurt because it prevented her customers from getting stomach problems. Apparently, coconut milk goes bad quickly and sometimes it’s hard to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lani…seems like you had a fantastic vacation! I have never been to that part of the globe and therefore enjoyed your description so much! It seems all places have their unique charm and food, which seems to be your favorite 🙂 Lovely pictures! Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you a wonderful year ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s quite a trip you had there, Lani! The street art and food look fantastic. The spy vs spy graffiti took me back in time. Used to love it as a kid. Haha! The highlight of your photo series would definitely have to be the family with the pet monkey! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was crazy! I love how proud she looks and the monkey all dressed up. My goodness. A pet monkey must be quite a feat to take care of.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never been to Malaysia. Your trip looks great! I’ll put this place on my list for next time I have holidays… 2017 is fully booked already so it will have to be from 2018 on hahaha.

    I love those old houses and the street art!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you’re booked up for 2017! Now, that’s planning. I suppose that is how you do it, right? Yes, Penang outshined my expectations. Cheers! 🙂

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      1. Well, booked as in I already have plans for all my holidays, but I didn’t buy any tickets yet 😛 I don’t usually plan so much in advance, but next year are my weddings so all my holidays will be spent travelling with my family in China when they come for the Chinese wedding and then going to Spain for the Spanish wedding!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This all looks so amazing. I want to go tomorrow. The experience you described about trying to find all the perfect places to eat reminded me of my time in Istanbul. There was so much great food and I was so afraid of missing something great. But it was impossible to eat everything.

    I used to have a Malaysian restaurant in the neighborhood where I worked in DC and it was called Penang. So, so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How funny! I don’t remember ever seeing Malay food outside of the US. Heck, not even in neighboring countries.

      Yeah, I’d probably be freaking out in Istanbul over the food, too. It’s crazy how we create this kind of travel stress. Fortunately, much of Penang had good food to offer. Cheers!

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  7. Oooo!! Looks like a great trip!!

    I went to Kuala Lumpur twice and man, I really did not like that city. It made me hesitant to go back to Malaysia ever, but I’ve also heard really great things about Penang–so I will give it another chance, especially after reading this blog post!

    Oh god the FOOD!! All those noodle photos have me drooling…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? I liked KL. The park at Petronas Towers was really nice, the aquarium was groovy (but I love these kinds of things) and it was walkable with public transportation. But I didn’t really get to know it, maybe a third time would feel too much.

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  8. This settles it, I’m adding Penang to my got-to-visit-one-day list. I visited Malaysia years ago, when I was just a kid, so memories are incredibly hazy. I do remember loving the food and experiencing the kindness of the people there.

    Penang looks like a fun city.

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  9. Really lovely.

    “If you’re not to use to this, it seems bizarre, maybe even disrespectful, but it just seemed so – Asian.”

    The above had me thinking about cultural diversity and being open to how others live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true. Being in a country sooo different than your own does challenge your sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and what is considered ‘normal’.

      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Glad I checked this post out. I love the pics, so colorful! Also learned more about Malaysia and about how it’s similar to and different from us. The food made me hungry…and I just ate!

    Oh, and Mr. BF wrote something about it. Will definitely read!

    Like

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