We have been to the island of Penang a couple of times now and we always enjoy ourselves and find different things to do. George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is great to explore and has some of the BEST street food we have had in SE Asia. Malaysians will flock to Penang just to have an ‘eating holiday’. It’s such an interesting city where the old meets the new and we had a fun time strolling around the historic district and checking out different areas on the island.
The Khoo Kongsi Temple was amazing and had beautiful carvings (this should not be missed on a visit to George Town). You have to pay an entrance fee for this temple but it was really worth it.
We visited the Kapitan Keling Mosque and a nice fellow there offered to show us around and tell us a little bit about the Mosque and his religion. He was a nice guy and explained things very clearly for us and we found it quite interesting.
We spent quite a bit of time walking around the historical district to see some of the architecture and to see most of the murals, I’m sure we probably missed a few but we managed to see a lot of them. We also took a walk through Fort Cornwallis – Gordon loves cannons. We stopped in a food court next to the fort for some lunch and we really didn’t know what to have. We saw a group of people eating noodles that looked delicious, we asked them what it was and they pointed us to the Mee Sotong stall (noodles in a spicy red sauce with seafood). What a great find and the noodles were awesome. A group of Malays told us that this particular Mee Sotong stall was famous in Malaysia and the best Mee Sotong in Penang.
On our way to the Clan Jetties we spotted a guy making banana fritters, a local that was ordering some told us we MUST have one of these, so who are we to turn down a banana fritter – they were the best banana fritters we have ever had (so good that we had to find this stall the second time we were in George Town). After our snack we made our way to the Clan Jetties which are villages built over the water. They are over a century old and named after respective Chinese clans, there are only six clan jetties remaining. The most famous one is the Chew Jetty and it had nice walkways to explore and a small temple.
We strolled through Little India and a couple of street markets – I never did figure out what ‘meat floss’ is. While in Little India it is definitely worthwhile to grab a meal, the Indian food is so good.
The Peranakan Mansion had an impressive display of teak antique furniture. The mansion showed how opulent a very wealthy Baba/Nyonya family lived a century ago. The Blue Mansion is another famous mansion in the city.
We took some time to visit the Dharmikarama Burmese Temple. It was glittering with gold and really made us look forward to our upcoming trip to Myanmar.
Penang Hill was nice to see but there’s not a lot to do there and unfortunately it was pretty hazy to enjoy the views over George Town. In the same area is Kek Loksi Temple and we had a great visit there.
Batu Ferringhi is the main beach area and we may have hopped off the bus a little too soon, it was a long tricky walk (narrow road with no shoulder or sidewalks). We came across the Hard Rock Café which was pretty expensive compared to what we had been used to paying but it sure was a nice western food treat.
Penang National Park was worth visiting and the best beaches are all located there. We had a great time hiking and we were so lucky to see a baby dusky langur and not so lucky to be spooked by the biggest monitor lizard we have ever seen.
Did I mention the street food in George Town, it’s a foodie paradise. Some of the street stalls have been handed down over 3 generations and many of the stalls are famous all over Malaysia. This Wan Tan Mee stall (homemade noodles with bbq pork served in a broth or dry) does a serious business.
The people on Penang are really friendly and it’s obvious they love their island. They would ask us what we have seen, what foods we already tried, and then they would offer their suggestions on what they think we might like to see, do, and eat. On our last visit to Penang, we decided that we both needed to get our eyes checked and maybe get new glasses. So we stopped in a little shop that came recommended and Patrick (the optometrist) really went above and beyond with being helpful and surprising us with another ‘travel first’. We were just hanging out in the room and the phone rings at 10:45pm. Reception says “someone sent you a cake, you can come to the lobby and collect it” so we did. Earlier that day we had our eye exams done, ordered new glasses, and Patrick (the optometrist) says that he would have a surprise for us, so you know we think ‘yeah okay’….He baked us a cake and delivered it to our hotel and it was absolutely delicious. Who does that? That’s how friendly Malaysian people are, seriously!
We really liked Penang and who knows maybe we will return one day even if it’s just for the food!
Where we stayed in April: Armenian Street Heritage Hotel
Where we stayed in October: Chulia Mansion
The guys at Chulia Mansion making a peacock for Deepavali (Hindu Festival) with coloured rice.
Good eats: Street food particularly Wan Tan Mee and Restoran Kapitan for great Indian food.