It’s been long, way too long to finally say that I am in Penang. I fell in love with this city and had it on my bucket list for ages, ever since I saw the TVB Drama that was filmed here in Penang. A chinese dominated city in malaysia that is known as the Food Capital as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown. Once an important Straits of Malacca trading hub, the city is known for its British colonial buildings and Chinese shophouses. It is also the very first British Settlements in 1786 under the British East India Company. Finally I took some time out of my schedule to visit Penang back in October. A little of sightseeing but definitely lots and loads of good food in this little Island! It is really too amazing. Follow me on! The 93rd City on my list!
Georgetown is the hub and bustling center of Penang. Penang is an island and separated from the other area on the mainland which are mainly known as Butterworth. The most iconic bridge linking them is the beautiful Penang Bridge. The island is not too big, but travelling time are greatly increased by the lack of highways as well as high traffic all around the island. It is a beautiful one with the airport mainly in the south and then Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi in the North. A lot of expansion have been going on thru landfills on the coast. Georgetown is the beating heart and the cultural central of Penang. The world heritage sites are filled with historical buildings with influences from various culture. A little of brits, chinese, peranakan as well as malays makes up what’s special. You can find awesome stir fry dishes to cafes as well as delicious Nasi Kandar all around. I like how this makes the place so special.
Another great direction of the local government is to embark on this scheme of inviting artist to draw up various street arts on the walls around Georgetown. It is a great way to promote the city and gives a direction for tourists to hunt for them and then at the same time check out the surrounding area. Here are some of the most iconic and famous ones. Some of them are really very popular, after all now the craze is all about Instagram. My favourite is definitely the bicycle and the chair one. It is kinda sad to see how the wear and tear on these murals after so many people touch and lean against them to take pictures. Little Child On a Bicycle
Brother and Sister on Swing
Boy on a Motorcycle
Boy on a Chair
Chulia Street and Campbell Street region is another nice area in Georgetown. It is one of the nicest ones to wander around and there is a lot of good food to be found here as well. Once a red light district in the past, it is now decked with eateries and cafes making it perfect for any meal of the day.
Clan Jetties is another attraction that you have to see when you are in Penang. They are all located along the waters, towards the east side of the city. There used to be 7 of them but now only 6 remains after one of them was destroyed by a fire. As the name suggest, they are used to be exclusive for each clans, which are groups of people of the same surname such as Chew or Tan. This two are also the most famous clan jetties that you should see in the area. You can find traditional waterfront houses just by the water. I checked out both the Tan Jetties as well as the Chew one. The Tan Jetty is a little rundown in my opinion. It also got a little scary while walking on those planks which move a little with each steps.
Chew Jetty is by far the most famous one and also nicely restored for the crowd and tourists. It is well decorated and made into an attraction. You can find all sorts of shops and eateries housed in these historical houses by the water. It is rather nice to walk here and shop a bit. Then when you get to the end you can get a rather rustic view of the waterfront. A good sight of the chinese settlement in the past. Some of the houses are still housing people from the clans, with them living here for decades. While I did not come during the evening, I heard that this place makes for a spectacular shot for sunsets.
Kek Lok Si Temple is located in the Air Itam district of the Island, further inland. It is nearby the Penang Hill as well. This is the largest and most famous temple in Penang. In fact the largest in Malaysia as well. It is located on a little hill perched over the surrounding area. The temple is vast with lots of different area for worship. Pretty nice for a visit. Do note that it is quite a walk up the hill but nothing undoable. While in the area, you also cannot miss out trying the 2 famous food in Penang that is located here, Air Itam Penang Laksa as well as Sister Curry Mee. I will share more on this later on.
Penang Hill is my favourite attraction in Penang. It is just a 5 mins drive away from the Kek Lok Si Temple, making it perfect to combine them together in a day. To get up, you will have to take a Funicular that takes you up to the top. The ride cost 30RM per person for a return ticket and locals pay 12RM.
Oh well, what a huge difference. Set 821m above the city area. Penang Hill offers a superb view of the surrounding area or perhaps the whole of Penang Island. It is also much cooler up here which is very much appreciated. I love that there are various view point and trails where you can take a short walk as well as lots of pictures. You can even see the iconic Penang Bridge from here. Do note that it kind of gets crowded on the way back for the funicular.
Batu Ferringhi is the resort and beach place of Penang. It is one of the nicest and happening area. About a 20 to 30 mins drive from Georgetown, this area have plenty of resorts. There is a long stretch of peppery beach over here. Nice for a stroll or lazing off the afternoon. You can also do all sorts of watersports.
The area also comes to life at night where there is a seafront night market along the street selling all sorts of stuff from souvenirs to clothes and goods. You can also find lots of seafood restaurants in the region as well. I will recommend leaving a day for this area, heading to the beach in the afternoon and then wind down the night at the night market.
When here you got to stop by at the Long Beach Cafe or Hawker Centre. There are a lot of food under one roof and you can probably get anything that you might want. It is also probably the cheapest place to eat in the Batu Ferringhi area.
Food! The very best thing in Penang. Most of the well known, established names are in Georgetown, the historical cultural area. Delicious food at low prices. That is the simplest term to describe the culinary scene over here. Do note that low prices doesn’t equate bad flavours! Most of the outlets here have history way longer that our life span and are in the 2nd or 3rd generations. Imagine the flavours that you are getting after decades of research and reviewing. Penang is a place for the palate and not for the dieting souls! The most iconic representation here got to be Penang Char Kway Tiao! Stir fried rice noodles with black sauce and frequently topped with eggs and seafood. While there are a couple of iconic and well known names. I didn’t went to most of them because I have been getting them here and there already! They are everywhere. The one at Gurney Drive is pretty good. Slight tip, top up to get a duck egg instead. They are more creamy and fragrant! They usually cost around 6 to 8 RM.
Most of the good food and eateries are found in the hub of Georgetown. Another popular penang food spot and local delicacy is the Hokkien Mee. Which is actually prawn noodle that we might be more familiar with. One popular one is Cy Choy Road Hokkien Mee! I was here before noon for a piping hot bowl of goodness. It is affordable and the taste is heavenly. The portion is a little small but the price is only 4.50RM. Heck of a deal. Apparently when I was here, we ordered the very last order for the day, that shows how famous it is. The essence of the whole dish is in that brewed stock. Do come early for a taste.
Air Itam Assam Laksa as mentioned above is the most famous Penang Laksa in the whole island. It is located in the Air Itam area which is near the temple as well as Penang Hill. Penang Laksa is special in a way that it is made with tamarind, not the coconut kind that we see here in Singapore. The dish of thick vermicelli is decked with cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, mint and ginger. The tangy stock with prawn paste and shredded mackerel is then scoped over. It is surely an acquired taste but worth trying the best one if you are ever here. A bowl cost 5RM each!
Gurney Drive Hawker Centre is the motherload of hawker food in Penang. It is a outdoor food center with tons of local food stalls. You can find anything that you ever think of over here. The location is right smack in the area and the ambience is there. Making it perfect for the tourists and anyone who want to have a taste of the local food scene without travelling to all the different spots. A one stop food attraction for everyone. Follow the crowd if you do not know what is good here and you are probably going to enjoy the meal. Prices are affordable by our standards anyway! A “multi course” meal should not cost more than 10 to 15 SGD per person.
Tai Tong Restaurant for Dim Sum and Tzi Char is another favourite of mine that I will really like to recommend to you guys. The restaurant is open in two session. Morning and the evening. They served up both Dim Sum and Stir Fry dishes in both session. Old School and Rustic, the scene here is something that gives you nostalgia.
Dim Sum carts pushed by friendly aunties. That is hard to find now. The food is good and there are so many choices. I will recommend ordering the Dim Sum and then some stir fry noodles which is the local favourite. Prices are very affordable and we spend around 6 – 10 SGD per person for both our visits. Can’t believe it.
Tek Sen Restaurant is another good place. I was there for dinner one evening and this is one of the longest wait ever in this city. You can find locals, westerns and asians. Everyone is out here to dine. It is also kind of cute that they use poker cards as a queueing system. We waited about 30 mins for a table so do come early. Thankful orders are pre taken while waiting and the food is served promptly. There is an assortments of dishes.
We obviously went all out and order numerous dishes. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking. The obvious favourite here are the Sambal Kangkong, Prawn Paste Chicken, Glazed Pork and the Assam Fish. We left with a stuffed tummy and only 150RM down on the wallet for a total of 6 dishes. That is around 16 SGD per pax. Yums.
Here comes the end of my post on Penang. A city that I finally step foot in and my 93rd. I love the place and certainly wants to come back in the future. A nice short trip with enough attractions to fill up your days and plenty of nice food to go around. It is also affordable on the wallet. Hope you guys enjoy it. One more lounge review before I wrap up this short trip series!