I have not travelled much through Malaysia, only spending a few nights in Kuala Lumpur and also spending a short while in Penang and Georgetown on the Andaman coast having arrived at Butterworth from the capital by train. I didn’t have long to spend in Penang, but I was immediately impressed with what I saw. For a more detailed guide to the sights and sounds of Penang I really recommend the following blog from LittleKoo!
Penang has a famous funicular train, very much like the Peak Tram in Hong Kong, which takes you from the bottom all the way up to the top of Penang Hill, a former colonial hill station, where you can great views over the city of Georgetown and its iconic Penang Bridge. The route upwards is one mile in length and takes around 25 minutes non stop. I paid 30RM (around £4) for my one-way journey, which is quite expensive, although it was nice to reach the heights of the islands and enjoy the cooler climate up there as an escape from the humidity down below.
One of the things I loved most about Georgetown is the fantastic street art on display, which has been sprayed on the walls by some very talented local artists. I never saw anyone ‘in the act’ so the speak, but I could see the results of their work and it brightened the area, which was in itself quite often run-down. Jeff Schneider agrees that Georgetown is the street art capital of Asia!
Further walking around Georgetown there were more opportunities to see the locals going about their daily business. Street vendors selling snacks to tourists like me, and of course the rickshaw drivers who were everywhere around town trying to drum up trade – though some were working harder than others!
No trip to Penang is complete without visiting the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia: Kek Lok Si Temple. At night, it is illuminated profusely, but during the day you can walk around and enjoy the multiculturalism of the complex. Check out more about my experience at Kek Lok Si!
As Penang is an island, there are obviously some amazing beaches. Arguably the most splendid is Batu Ferringhi Beach, which also is home to the opulent Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort, which was unfortunately out of my budget, but nevertheless I still had a drink in their bar! There are many watersports available to visitors in Penang, including sailing and windsurfing. The water was warm, as you would expect with it being situated in the Indian Ocean, and for once I did not see any cheeky monkeys who always seem intent on ruining tourists’ fun!
Batu Ferringhi also has a popular night market where you can find all sorts of goodies, from clothes to locally made ornaments, and from DVDs and Blu Rays to the all-important food! While Gurney Drive is the famous night market on the island, I was very interested to also check out the smaller markets (known as pasar malams). I found some amazing sate here, and I also saw some ikan bakar (burnt fish) being prepared on the beach next to the Shangri-La hotel. It smelt good as I walked past!
Thanks very much for reading this post, and for more information on Penang and a guide to typical tourist itinerary, check out this blog from MWSasse. What are your opinions of Penang? Let me know in the comments below!