I have to admit, I fall in love in Penang. Hold on, hold on, this is not the kind of post that shares TMI (too much info) about intimate relationships while traveling, because, for one, I did not fall in love with a person or a place. I fall in love with the FOOD. My god, the street food here are just one of its kind. They don't call this place the "Food Paradise" for nothing.
Penang is an island off the coast of the Malaysian peninsula. Relative to neighboring countries, Penang is not very well known as a vacation destination for most tourists because of its not-so-beautiful beaches but due to its rich multicultural history full of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences, the city truly provides you a one-of-a-kind experience. You can bet that with its multicultural root, Penang offers one of the widest selection of Asian food all for a very affordable price. Let just say that I basically devour my way through the streets of Penang like there was no tomorrow.
Where to Stay in Penang
The Frame Guesthouse is a new hostel with a really cool warehouse-looking concrete interior. The dorm rooms and beds are one of the most comfortable ones I've been in Malaysia with air conditioning, power outlets, and lamps on every bed. The hostel itself is located in the heart of Georgetown, a few minutes walk away from all the street arts and other attractions. The staff was nothing but spectacular. They love to give us inside tips on how to explore Penang the local way. They even pointed us out to a food market where they guarantee that there will be no tourists there.. and there weren't! I highly recommend staying with The Frame Guesthouse.
Note: There was no clear way of recognizing where the hostel is because they did not seem to bother putting a sign up so I would reecommend pin pointing in on your Google Maps before you arrive so you can find the place easily.
How to Get to Penang
The best way to get here is to fly to Kuala Lumpur and get either flight or a bus from there. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight from where you live to Kuala Lumpur so you can pick the best one that fits your itinerary.
From Kuala Lumpur, you can either fly with AirAsia or take a bus directly to a bus terminal ON the island. If you are flying in, it is very straight forward as the airport is on the island, and when you arrive you can take a Rapid Penang Bus numbered U401 to Georgetown which is only an hour away.
If you are taking a bus from KL, be sure to get the ticket that drops you off at Sungai Nibong Express bus terminal, not the Butterworth terminal, to avoid having to take a ferry across from the Peninsula. From the Sungai Nibong Express terminal, you can take a bus numbered 401 directly to Georgetown within 45 minutes.
From Thailand you can also get a train, a minivan or a bus from Bangkok (18 hours) or from a few cities by the south of Thailand to Penang. I have no personal experience with this so I do suggest you consult this page instead.
How to Get Around Penang
Walking and buses are the main way I prefer to traverse in and around Georgetown, Penang. Most of the attractions in Georgetown are accesible via foot but If you want to go a little further to, say the beach or the food market, buses are a good option as well. The bus system in Penang is called the Rapid Penang buses and it provides a fast and comfortable way to traverse the island. If you want to know more about the bus number and schedule, visit this page for more information.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Malaysia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Things to Do in Penang
Hunt down Georgetown Street Arts
Scattered around Georgetown are street arts that combine physical objects with wall paintings to depict the life of the people in Penang. It is a much more minimal version of street arts you usually see in cities like Berlin but I think that this helps create a unique identity for the city and really show what an Asian-style street art looks like.
It is also fun to always be observant and keep an eye out for these street art when you are exploring Georgetown. You never know what you will find around the corner.
Some of the street art are just plain out for fun.
Devour your way through Farlim Night Market
Want to get away from all the tourists in Georgetown? Look no further. This night market is the biggest night market in Penang and is located in the heart of the island where no tourist go. The night market is massive with hundreds of street food stalls for you to indulge yourself in.
To reach this market, you will have a take a bus numbered 202 or 203 and it should take you approximately 30 minutes one way to get to the market from Georgetown.
Do what I did and buy a bunch of food from every stall you want to try and find a place to sit and eat them all like wild animals with your friends.
Visit Kek Lok Si temple
Kek Lok Si temple is a large complex of temple located at the center of the island. The temple is said to be the biggest in Malaysia and there is no way you will miss it when you arrive. At the heart of the temple is a seven-storey high Pagoda of Rama VI with over 10,000 bronze statues of Buddha, and the most iconic landmark of this temple, the 30 metres tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. You can probably spend half a day here just walking around and explore all the temples inside the complex.
Try the best Laksa in Penang
Right around the corner of the Kek Lok Si temple complex is a famous Laksa food stall called Ayer Itam Assam Laksa. You have to try them out as supposedly, it is the best place to eat Laksa in Penang. Also, get the sugarcane juice while you are at it. :)
The location of this street food stall is shown above.
Walk along the Chew Jetty
Chew Jetty is a village on stilts on the shores of Penang. The locals have been living on this wooden structure for centuries and still continue to do so until today. If you want to see how the locals used to live in Penang, make sure to visit this place. While you are at it, grab a few beers, find a spot on the wooden path and sit for a relaxing and a peaceful sunset.
Drink cheap beers at the crappy and cool liquor store like a local
The place is called "Antarabangsa Enterprise" and it has been the meeting point for me and my friends to meet every single night. It is the chillest place to have a beer and enjoy a great conversation with your friends. The place is simply a crappy looking liquor store where, at night, they will convert their store into one of the best chilling spot in town by simply putting a bunch of tables out on the road for people to sit and chill until 3AM. You will also meet all kinds of people who will come and join you at the table and start socializing.
It is located off the corner near The Frame Guesthouse where you can get the cheapest beer in town. The Skol is an imported dutch beer and for some reason, at this liquor store, you can get 3 cans for 30 MYR.
Digital Nomad Friendly Cafe
You will have no trouble finding a good cafe for you to work from in Penang, especially in Georgetown. The Wheeler's Coffee is my favorite of all. Located on the Love street near my guest house, I often find myself escaping from the mid day heat and work off from there. The cafe is equipped with air-conditioners and a well decorated interior, like a bicycle shop. There are plenty of space for you to sit with power outlets available near some tables. The location of the cafe is shown below:
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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