Penang, where do I start?
I guess by saying that Penang is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, place I've been lucky enough to travel to. It all started in 2013 when travelling around Malaysia with Rich and friends. We were going between the Perhentian Islands (amazing) and Langkawi and wanted somewhere to stop en route to break up the journey. We only had 24 hours in Penang and this really just whet our appetite - we squeezed in a lot but fell for Penang, Georgetown in particular, hook line and sinker.
This time we booked four nights in the Malaysian food capital, determined to get a proper feel for it. Once again, Penang completely blew us away and we left already plotting our next visit!
So, how do you get here? Penang has an airport which serves both domestic and international flights; we flew in from Kuala Lumpur and out to Krabi, Thailand. Although Penang is an island, it is connected to the mainland via two (rather large) bridges and so can be reached easily by bus and car, as well as ferry and air.
If you read my previous post, you will have seen that we stayed on Love Lane. This was the perfect location for us, but Georgetown itself isn't a big place and most areas can be reached on foot. The buses in Penang are also excellent; we got the Rapid Bus to various places during our stay here - its super cheap (think pennies) and really is rapid! Compared with public transport in other countries, this really wins hands down for speed! We did get a trishaw (like a tuktuk) on our previous visit, but they are pretty expensive. That said, it's a fun way to get around... if a little slow. They are basically carts pushed by a bicycle, not a motorbike as you see in the Philippines or Thailand, and I can't help but feel sorry for the (usually old) men riding them.
So what is there to do in Penang?
Mooch. Yup, take a couple of days to just walk round and get a feel for the place. Penang really encapsulated the phrase 'perfect imperfections' (thanks John Legend) - the buildings are knackered, paint is peeling and shutters hang haphazardly, but it's so charming. Look for hidden coffee shops and stop for a iced drink to cool down. We downloaded a heritage walking tour guide to follow to make sure we visited all the must-sees and knew a little bit about each.
Clan House-hop. There are so many gorgeous clan houses (a bit like temples) dotted around Penang. Pop in to see their intricate designs and light some incense.
It goes without saying; eat! Penang is the 'food capital' of Malaysia, and for good reason. From the plush restaurants to the straight-up food carts, Penang has it all.
Kashmir Indian Restaurant - for great curries, beer and in-the-thick-of-it-all setting.
Muntri Mews - great cocktails, delicious local food and relaxed atmosphere. Try the tasting plate!
Bistro Tang - excellent Laksa and beef wraps, super cool interior and a little museum to check out too.
Street food - we had some amazing curries that cost no more than a couple of quid. Don't be afraid to eat in the places filled with locals and serving food you don't recognise. I ate pork buns from a little street stand for 27p, and they were like porky clouds of heaven.
Gurney Drive - if street food is your thing, head to Gurney Drive (on Rapid Bus) for food cart heaven. There's also an amazing mall here (Gurney Plaza) with Western shops like Topshop and Mango if you miss home comforts.
Visit Penang Hill. Get the bus to the foot of Penang hill, and take the funicular railway to the top for amazing views over the city and beyond. It feels a little bit like a seventies theme park at the top with weird, dated attractions, but get a drink in the cafe overlooking the viewing platforms.
Check out the street art. Penang has an amazing collection of street art, lots of which is interactive. It's super cool and makes for an amazing insta-snap! Look online for a map of where to find each piece; they're not necessarily in obvious places, often tucked down little alleys or behind walls.
...and if that doesn't make you fall in love with Penang, I'm done!