3 Days in the city of Penang
Travel to George Town
We travelled to Penang from the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, and after 5 days of island life we were super excited to be in a city again. We arranged a taxi from Penang airport to George Town at the counter within the airport. The price agreed was reasonable at £10 for a 19km journey. There was a fair amount of traffic between the airport and George town so the journey which should have taken around 30 minutes actually took nearer to 50 minutes. But I guess that is as expected in a city.
We had booked to stay at Tido hostel based on the positive reviews we had seen online, and were not disappointed when we arrived. I know it may not seem like luxury, sharing an 8 bed dormitory room and sleeping in bunk beds. However, after our sandy sweat hut in the Perhentian Islands this seemed liked 5 star. Plus at £5.80 a night, who can complain?
Read more about my Perhentian adventures here.
Two more great things about this hostel were:
- The toilet and shower were combined and with a solid door. May seem irrelevant to you if you have never stayed in a hostel, but seeing as your are sharing your bedroom its quite nice to have some privacy while you wash and go to the toilet!
- The lockers were big enough for you to fit your whole rucksack and more in (see picture above). Really useful if to keep your stuff organised and safe.
What to do in Penang?
Given that Wi-Fi was essentially non-existent in our previous location we hadn’t had much time to research what we wanted to do in Penang. Helpfully our hostel had a stack load of brochures. Grabbing a load we headed out to get some dinner.
It was fairly late by the time we left the hostel for dinner at around 10pm, and we were worried we wouldn’t find anywhere to eat dinner (and also starving by this point, anyone who knows me personally knows I get hangry) but we stumbled upon Time to drink on Lebuh Chulia street which looked appealing from the outside. It had live singers, and a fun atmosphere. So we went in and enjoyed some really yummy pesto pasta and cider. I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a western break from the Asian style food.
After reading through the leaflets and coming up with a rough plan for our time in Penang (see below). We wondered back to our hostel to get some sleep before a busy day which would follow.
Street art walk
Visit the temples
Upside down museum
Tropical spice gardens
Eating new foods
Red Garden food market
Street art and temple walk
We decided that It would be sensible to combine the street art walk and visiting temples as one based on their location, 2 birds one stone and all that. So after a quick coffee and a croissant armed with our map (disclaimer: Emily was armed with the map, she did all the directing I just followed her around) we began the walk.
There was SO MUCH TO SEE we definitely missed things out but here are a some snaps from the day:
Temples and Monuments
We did have a bit of a strange situation when we were taking pictures of the street art. A group of guys asked for a picture with us. We declined but they persisted and even after a forceful no thank you, they decided to just start taking pictures of us anyway. It was nothing to be worried about, but there was a number of situations where we were getting negative unwelcomed attention from men, maybe it was my shorts? Who knows.
I forgot to mention, it absolutely chucked it down. We were soaked, but every cloud has a silver lining. The rain forced us to take shelter in a lovely café called Gayo Coffee. It had a really nice vibe with a giant tree inside and is probably the longest Café I have ever been in. See here for pictures.
Upside down Museum
WOW, weird. The whole experience was a strange one, you arrive handover your shoes pay your fee (around £6, so not mega but definitely not cheap as Malaysia goes) and walk into what feels like an unrequested photo shoot. There are lots of museum staff dotted all around and they just take your phone or camera, put you in odd poses and snap away. As you can probably tell from the awkward faces in our pictures of the Upside down Museum we found the process rather odd. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we came out and looked at the photos to see that they actually got some pretty funny shots even if they aren’t the best quality.
Eating new foods
After walking over 10km’s around George Town mainly in the rain we figured it was time to treat ourselves to a splash out dinner. We did a bit of TripAdvisor stalking and decided on Chins Chinese it is a fine dining restaurant with a difference. It is situated on the pier overlooking the sea. This makes for a great setting (or at least it would if it hadn’t been torrential rain). We arrived at the restaurant, in our rain macs looking rather out of place in the posh surroundings and the hostess looked reluctant to seat us, luckily the owner was more willing. Turns out he had spent 12 years in living around London, he was super friendly and gave us pointers on portion sizes etc.
We settled on a set menu which was 90 RM (£16) and a couple of glasses of wine. It was SO GOOD to have wine! I sound like an addict but after cheap spirits and mixers it was really pleasant to enjoy a good wine, am I getting old?
Part of my plan for travelling was to make sure I tried new foods ( I always play it safe) so I didn’t really look to much into the detail of the set menu. While we were waiting Emily highlighted to me that it included century egg. It took a little moment for it to sink in that I was basically going to have 100 year old fermented egg arrive at my table, but thought I would go with it.
I am not going to lie, it did not look one bit appetising but I manned up and tried it. It actually wasn’t that bad, if you were wondering. Don’t get me wrong I am not going to be rushing back to order it, but it was bearable. Unfortunately, after one sniff Emily made a crumpled face and decided no way.
Overall the experience was really pleasant, the service was great, the duck pancakes were delicious and the setting was beautiful.
The total bill came in at around £30 each including service and tax.
Tropical Spice Garden
From George Town you can get the number 101 bus to the Tropical spice garden for 4 RM (72p) it is a 5km journey but on the bus takes around half an hour. The fee for the audio tour is 29 RM (£5). There is also an option for a live tour by one of their guides. Neither myself or Emily are particularly in to plants, spices or herbs for that matter. But the great thing about the audio tour was that you could go as quick or as slow as you wanted. They say the tour lasts for 2-3 hours but we were done within an hour or so. There were lots of interesting facts about big name brands such as Chanel and many amazing natural cures for diseases such as cancer.
The gardens are also really pretty with waterfalls, hammocks and open viewing areas. Overall a pleasant way to spend some of the afternoon and we even learnt a thing or two!
An oversight on our part was not wearing trousers. We hadn’t really considered the fact that there would be lots of bugs or mosquitoes around. They do give you repellent as you go in, but we ended up putting on our macs to protects our arms which was pretty toasty. Though luckily I think we both escaped bite free (I don’t think I could handle another bite after the Perhentians).
There is also a really cute café/ restaurant that overlooks the sea at the spice gardens. We stopped for a chocolate milkshake and took a break for a little while.
Later that day we got a Uber to Penang Hill. Uber seemed to be the cheapest way to get around when there were no bus routes. When we arrived the queue was massive! A train takes you up to the top of the hill, and the line of tourists waiting was endless. We decided the thought of standing for an hour or two in the heat was hideous.
When we saw the option of fast track we snapped it up. Ordinary entry was 30 RM compared to 60 RM for fast track, so although double the price it still only worked out at £11. Worth it in my opinion who wants to queue on holiday? Not me! After waiting around 10-15 minutes for the train to arrive we were then given priority boarding on the train. I almost felt bad for all the people waiting, but hey who said money can’t buy happiness. The journey up takes 5 minutes and when you arrive you realise it was worth the money.
There was slight cloud cover, but you could still see for miles. It was great to see the city from a different point of view. We mooched around the various viewing areas trying to avoid ruining over peoples photos. While of course capturing some of our own.
There is a restaurant at the top and we stopped for what we thought to be a small bowl of chips (it turned out to be a massive basket but who’s complaining). A group of people ended up getting up playing music and dancing like crazy. We didn’t know if they whether they were drunk or just loving life but it made for fun watching.
The queue to get back down was huge! Even the fast track lane was a long wait at around 40-45 minutes. But we entertained ourselves with a game of I Spy and charades (I am an inpatient kind of person in case you haven’t noticed so need something to keep busy).
There was a bus for 6 RM (£1) that took us all the way back to George.
Red garden food market
We wondered down to the Red Garden food market which is essentially a collection of lots of different street food stools around a stage with lots of tables.
Both Emily and I were wary about what to eat, the idea of getting ill from food was not sounding that attractive but we had heard really good things about the market from the Wheres Mollie travel group so were keen to give it a try. We did a little tour of the market before settling on a stall and opted for a vegetarian dish.
Once you have ordered your food you take a seat and a waiter comes to take your drink orders separately. We then enjoyed the show that evening which involved live singers. Unfortunately neither of us speak Malaysian so we couldn’t understand a word they were saying but it was fun to watch.
The food was amazing, it literally cost £1.50 and it was delicious. A really good place for bargain eating and a great atmosphere.
Penang is a great city, after all its Unesco world heritage site. There are lots of free things to do such as the street art and temple walk. Great if you are on a budget. But equally there are some really grand places to eat such as Chins if you want more of a fine dining experience. Nearly all of the people we met in Penang were lovely and kind, and the food was really yummy!
We had hoped to continue our time in Malaysia by visiting the Cameron Highlands and Taman negera however, due to a typhoon which hit Hong Kong there were wide spread storms across both regions for the next week. Given these areas are both mainly focused on outdoor activities there was no point us going.
So instead after much googling of flights we settled on booking a last minute flight for the next morning to Bali! (not such bad news after all expect for my budget of course)
Thank you for reading!
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