Known as a number one gastronomic travel destination for those who are very into Asian food, Penang might be an adventure full of flavors and a disappointment full of traffic.
Malaysia is very diverse and this is why such thing as “authentic Malaysian cuisine” just does not exist (really). It is a mix of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food.
As I am a big fan of Malaysian food, Penang was a very obvious choice. I stayed in Georgetown – the main town on this little island – at the cheapest hostel available for Christmas/New Year dates. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, so we didn’t notice much stir around prices (be aware of Chinese New Year though in February).
The hostel (100 Cintra Street) is located in China town, so if you are staying in that area, bear in mind that it is going to be noisy. Though the hostel first seemed spooky, it turned out to be an old house of some sort of highness. The second floor was full of old furniture, antiques and portraits.
This is a very popular beach in Penang. And what I mean by “very popular” is it is popular for locals and tourists. You can get there by the bus from Komtar Bus terminal, just behind the Komtar shopping mall. You need lane 1 and just watch out for the bus that goes there (we asked the bus drivers until eventually we got the right one number 101).
The buses have a ridiculously strong fan, so maybe take a jersey with you 😀 The beach was… usual. The water was really murky, so the swim was super quick. If you are planning on snorkeling, you will be really disappointed. There are some bars and restaurants along the beach, but the prices are almost 3 times higher than in town.
Penang National Park, Monkey Beach and Turtle Sanctuary
To get to the park, we caught the bus number 101 to the very end. From there we had to walk to the entrance through the village. You need to register and get a permit. We also arranged for a boat to come and pick us up from the turtle sanctuary and drive us to the Monkey beach and then back to the entrance.
The walk to the sanctuary was not challenging, though it depends on your fitness level and appropriate clothes as it is really humid and hot inside the jungle. It took us only 30 – 40 minutes instead of 1 hour 20 mins (as the map suggested).
The turtle sanctuary was cute, but not very exciting, so do not hope for turtles lounging around, there were just some in the bath tub 😀
Sadly, no monkeys were found on the monkey beach, and it turned out to be a crowded place.
Food and around Georgetown
The food was a highlight and the main purpose of the trip to Penang. Starting from weird crepes for breakfast and Assam Laksa for dinner, the most memorable thing was those amazing jucies 😀 (photo below). I highly recommend to try the tropical jucies/smoothies.
We have been to the popular Jelutong night market. It was pretty crowded with the cars driving right on the road and comparatively high prices (as it has become popular). Though the food was amazing! Assam Laksa and Char Kway Teow are worth dying for!
I think the best indicator of a good place is where the locals are, so we were just walking around China town assessing the crowd of locals in the restaurants, and then going into the one that was the most crowded. Surprisingly, it worked perfectly, so give it a try 😉
Georgetown is populous populated (almost 800,000 people!). The traffic is so bad, it takes ages to cross the road. Though there are some pretty places – Chinese temples, waterfront, and houses on the water. We actually got interviewed by some Malaysian students about what we think of Penang and what could have been better 🙂
From Penang I flew back to Kuala Lumpur and from there the next stop was the Philippines.