Penang, Malaysia - A Unique and Fascinating Place to Wander

by - 4:06 AM

The first time I saw Penang, Malaysia in one of Anthony Bourdain's show I knew I needed to include it on the places I wanna visit in my Southeast Asian backpacking trip. Normally when we think of places to visit in Malaysia what pops in our mind is Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu. Georgetown - the capital city of the state of Penang definitely has a lot to offer for all of the travelers. 

I was lucky because the train that goes from Malaysia to Thailand can be caught in Butterworth a small town near Georgetown. I'll write about how you could cross the border of Malaysia and Thailand by train soon.

If you're a fan of classic stuff then Georgetown is your spot! Listed as a World UNESCO Heritage Site, Georgetown is filled by well-preserved heritage buildings, clan houses, old fashioned little shops and amazing Chinese and Indian Temples. Founded by an English Trader Francis Light, most of the structures in the city also have that european style on it.

How to get there:

-Most budget airlines like Air Asia and Tiger Airways now offer flights to Georgetown, Malaysia.

-If you will be coming from Kuala Lumpur you can ride a bus or a train. I suggest that you go for a cool stuff which is by train. I'll update you on how to catch a train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on my upcoming posts. 

Where to stay: 

There are heaps of affordable hostels for backpackers there, the most famous spot is Love Lane, cool street name huh? they said it was where the rich Chinese men kept their mistresses way back in 19th century.

I stayed at Love Lane Inn for only EUR4.00. Made a reservation using: It was a decent place, I mean you get what you pay for. I liked it and never had any problems with the staff. Haven't been bitten once or lost any valuable stuff. The owner was friendly, he told me he visited Manila before, knows a lot about the Philippines which is a cool thing. You can ask for a map, get suggestions on what to see and do in Penang at the reception. 

-Offers a Free wifi but only available from 7am to 9pm. Oh by the way they only have common bathrooms but all are well maintained and clean.

What and Where to Eat: 

Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia. The fusion of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines are guaranteed to give you an epic gastronomical experience. During night time, the street becomes alive with jam packed hawkers stalls and foodies. Try these food centers: Lehburaya Jelutong hawker Center, New Lane Hawker Centre, Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (the most popular one). 

I think Penang was the place where I ate the most during my entire Southeast Asian trip. The food is very affordable ranging from 1 to 5 MYR per meal. These are the must try dishes all with unique flavors:

-Penang Laksa: Fish-based spicy rice noodle soup. one of the most famous Malaysian dish, they said the best one is found in Penang, 

-Loh Bak: includes  loh bak (meat rolls), tokwa (beancurd), prawn fritters, sausages, ikan pari (ray) and octopus. Selections are pretty wide, get what you think tastes good or it won't hurt if you try em all.

Nasi-Kandar: Indian-Muslim meal; rice served with a variety of self selected dishes topped by your preferred curry sauce yum! 

Roti-Canai: Indian Flat bread, dipped in different kinds of curry sauces. 

Satay: Malaysian Style kebab. 

Har Mee - my fave! spicy noodle in prawn based soup, mixed with spare ribs and veggies. I think I had around 5 plates of this! :)

What to see and do:

The streets of Penang are ideal for walking and scooters. It's pretty much safe and traveller-friendly. Check out Queen Street, spend some time to walk and explore this area, I promise your camera will love it.

-Han Jiang Ancestral Temple: one of the beautiful Chinese temples in Georgetown.

-Kek lok Si Temple: the largest buddhist temple in South East Asia. In here you'll find the Pagoda of rama VI, The liberation pond and the statue of the goddess Kuan Yin.

-Snake Temple: a buddhist temple filled with poisonous vipers yeah you read it right! don't worry! they said the smoke from the burning incense keeps the snakes sedated making them harmless.

-Georgetown City Hall: an amazing european structure. Made me feel like I was in Europe!

-Fort Cornwallis: a good spot to learn about the history of Penang, it's like malaysia's version on intramuros. Old cannons and gunpowder store can be found here. 

-Cathedral of the Assumption, established last 1786, an iconic structure where you can find the only pipe-organ in Malaysia. 

-Jubilee Clock Tower near Fort Cornwallis. A symbol of Penang's Independence.

-Little India: haven't visited India, but surely I think this is what it must be when i finally go. Enjoy the smell of the 
wonderful aroma of food, bright garlands of flowers, sari shops, blaring bollywood music. Soak up the atmosphere!

-Ride the beautiful trishaws and go for a city tour.

-Head to Chulia Street for karaoke bars and cool clubs for an amazing night out.

The 2nd tallest building in Malaysia can be found in Penang.

My 3 days of stay in Penang was actually not enough. There are still a lot to see and do, the place got me so hooked that I missed the train going to Thailand! I'll tell you more about it later! :D

I can give you thousands of reason to love Penang but I'll leave it to your own experience. A friend once asked me what was the best place I had visited during my Southeast Asian Trip and I immediately answered: Penang, Malaysia! I can't wait to go back there and bring all of my friends and family, I'm sure they'll love it there!

You can check out more pictures of my Georgetown, Malaysia Trip here: Penang, Malaysia or watch out for my upcoming posts.

Breakaway! :)

Jan Ashlee

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