penang TRAVEL GUIDE
DATES TRAVELLED | April 2019
Penang is such an interesting mix of old and new with a ton of character which hasn't been gentrified thanks to George Town being a UNESCO historic site. It really feels like you have been transported to a place you have not seen anywhere else. Only in Penang did we see old-school beat-up cars from the 80s next to expensive European SUVs. Motorbikes hauled families of five and some were loaded upwards and outwards with more merchandise than a courier driver here in New Zealand could squash into their van! The fronts of buildings had gorgeous tiles and archways which looked a century old, and through the doors were oasis-like cafes and boutiques which could easily fit into the most hipstery neighbourhoods in New York City. The best food in Penang cost around $4 a plate or less, and it's served long past my bedtime into the wee hours of the night. At those prices, you'll get seated next to a fan if your lucky, but aircon, nope! The incredible food mixed with the humidity in the air is all part of the experience.
Here you will see a diversity of religions and cultures, all living harmoniously side by side. By day you can visit the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and just before dusk, the beautiful sounds of prayer fill the streets from the mosques. It's Asia, so it was humid, but the sun felt hotter than any other country we visited on the continent, it felt like the sun back home...a burning kinda heat. My summer tan returned through the sunblock after only a few days. We hired a scooter and felt like we were the only tourists on one (unlike Vietnam and Bali) and I looked forward to rides from A to B so the breeze could cool us down.
If you are ever in Singapore, I highly recommend extending the trip or layover and spending a few days here at least. Keep an eye out for good deals, because our 1 hour and 20 min flight between these two places (on Air Asia - not sponsored) cost us just $18 NZD each! For all of my travel tips, itinerary and more, click on the box below.
ABOVE & BELOW : Our Airbnb accomidation was conviently located in George Town on a quiet one-way street. The property was huge and beautifully designed with a mix of concrete, glass, steel, wood and plants - all my favourite things! Link HERE.
ABOVE & BELOW : One of the most atmospheric roadside eateries in George Town, Transfer Road Roti Canai has been open for over 40 years now. “Roti canai” is Malaysian-speak for Indian paratha/paratha bread, made from unleavened flour and griddle-cooked with ghee. Here customers sit on long benches, with your backs to a wall while the city’s busy traffic whooshes by. More details HERE.
PENANG FAMOUS THINGS TO HELP COOL YOU DOWN | ABOVE LEFT : Cendol - an iced sweet dessert that contains droplets of worm-like green rice flour jelly, red beans, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. ‘Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol’ is the most well-known spot for cendol in Penang. ABOVE RIGHT: An iced milk coffee, takeaway style! | BELOW : A special drink called Ais Tingkap which was brought over from Sri Lanka 100 years ago to Penang. It's made up of rose, coconut (both the water and flesh), Indian Spices and basil seeds.
ABOVE & BELOW : This is arguably the most famous dish in Penang, Asam Laksa. It is not like the coconut based laksa (curry mee) that some might know, this one is fish based (but it's not fishy in flavour) and is packed with lots of interesting flavours and textures. This dish is for people who enjoy complex flavours and in my opinion, a must try when you come to Penang, I loved it! We visited the famous Air itam Penang laksa for our fix, a 25 min scooter ride out of the main town. One of the unique ingredients that they use in their laksa is ginger flower (above right), which they buy from the market directly across the road.
ABOVE : A delicious Char Quay Teow I ordered street side on Kimberly Street. It is such an iconic spot for
late night eats and street food in Penang. So worth the visit. Make sure to order the smallest portion of everything and share it, so you try more from other food vendors.
ABOVE & BELOW : The photo above - a Taoist temple in Georgetown, below at Kek Lok Si the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, and also below, a local mosque at sunset. Such a diversity of cultures and religions within this city.
And because of this, it really made Penang feel special and welcoming.