By George! It’s Penang!

So after a rather stressful start to our trip to Penang we actually had quite a nice flight with Firefly. The flight was almost empty and we got a choice of free pink guava juice/soya milk and cake/nuts. Not bad for a budget airline! (when you book it includes baggage too which is really handy from a budget planning perspective).

On arrival with immigration passed, bags fetched, baht exchanged for ringgits, cash withdrawn and local sim card obtained, we headed for the super cheap local bus (2.7 RM each/£0.41/$0.64)  to take us up the length of Penang to colonial Georgetown (another UNESCO World Cultural our first stop in Malaysia!

Our digs for Georgetown was a place called Just Duvet, a guesthouse in an old Chinese Building. Run by a young Chinese couple, they were really helpful during our stay there and the room was quite nice if a bit like sleeping in a bag of sherbet and in a really central location, free water, coffee and breakfast (well toast and condiments). There was also a nice local drunk who told us daily that he loved us.

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Yep inside a bag of Dolly Mixture.
Yep inside a bag of Dolly Mixture.

Georgetown, named after King George was, as you can probably guess, an old British colonial trading port and one of the ports for the East India Company. The chap who came here, Sir Francis Light, renamed Penang, Prince of Wales Island, the name didn’t stick though!

First off Penang is famous for food, as in crazily famous, with a fusion of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Muslim with some British and Portuguese influence thrown in there for the craic. The place is covered in coffee shops- from the types of ones you see in the UK (arty ones with a price tag to match- ~12 RM/£1.86/$2.88) for a coffee) to local Chinese shops (~1.30RM/20p/31c for a coffee) ringed with hawker stalls serving all types of food.

A few mentions there....
A few mentions there….

So what did we do here? Well mostly eat (and drink an assortment of coffees and teas)! The prices were so low that you could literally eat like kings, and spend very little!

Gav was starving when we arrived so ordered a Nasi Lemak at a local coffee shop. Comes with dried fish, a sort of sweet chili chutney, roasted peanuts, fried chicken skin and a bit of chicken in a spicy sauce.
Gav was starving when we arrived so ordered a Nasi Lemak at a local coffee shop. Comes with dried fish, a sort of sweet chili chutney, roasted peanuts, fried chicken skin and a bit of chicken in a spicy sauce.
Our first night we treated ourselves to a restaurant, Karai Kudu, got a veg platter, mint paratha....
Our first night we treated ourselves to a restaurant, Karai Kudu, got a veg platter, mint paratha….
dosi and a potato masala, way too much but we had the remaining stuff for breakfast the following morning.
dosi and a potato masala, way too much but we had the remaining stuff for breakfast the following morning.
Also on our first day we treated ourselves to a posh coffee- Gav's Dirty Chai (basically a cinnamon chai), my iced lemon tea was less interesting.
Also on our first day we treated ourselves to a posh coffee- Gav’s Dirty Chai (basically a cinnamon chai), my iced lemon tea was less interesting.
Malaysian Guinness (Gav actually prefers this to the Irish Guinness....I'm sure it was just to wind me up...) at a glorious 6.8%.
Malaysian Guinness (Gav actually prefers this to the Irish Guinness….I’m sure it was just to wind me up…) at a glorious 6.8%.
Our hotel had free tea and coffee, Gav being the lark went down early to investigate and returned with this. Kopi (coffee) in a bag. Kopi is the local coffee ( Liberica beans roasted with margerine and sugar- normally made by pouring water through a cloth filter sock- we have seen this elsewhere too). But a
Our hotel had free tea and coffee, Gav being the lark went down early to investigate and returned with this. Kopi (coffee) in a bag. Kopi is the local coffee ( Liberica beans roasted with margerine and sugar- normally made by pouring water through a cloth filter sock- we have seen this elsewhere too). But a “coffeebag” we had not seen before!
This was our first coffee shop hawker dish- Mee Goreng (basically fried noodles- this particular one was vegggie). If you get food from a stall next to a coffee shop you have to buy a drink in the coffee shop or pay a fee.
This was our first coffee shop hawker dish- Mee Goreng (basically fried noodles- this particular one was vegggie). If you get food from a stall next to a coffee shop you have to buy a drink in the coffee shop or pay a fee.
Snacks we got when we came out of the Spice Gardens (see below)- these were a range of snacks- crab spring roll, doughnut, sausage roll, sweet curry pasty, curry marmite ball thing. There was also fried bananas that were incredibly greasy. Nice though.
Snacks we got when we came out of the Spice Gardens (see below)- these were a range of snacks- crab spring roll, doughnut, sausage roll, sweet curry pasty, curry marmite ball thing. There was also fried bananas that were incredibly greasy. Nice though.
Gav not content with small snacks grabbed a bowl of Penang (or Assam) Laksa- its a fish based broth with noodles and vegetables). Far too fishy for me....
Gav not content with small snacks grabbed a bowl of Penang (or Assam) Laksa- its a fish based broth with noodles and vegetables). Far too fishy for me….
...I did like the stall name though.
…I did like the stall name though.

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Near our hotel there was a little night market (on Lebuh Chulia) and we happened upon a delicious Wan Tan Mee stall. It was so busy it took us 3 attempts to get a table but it was worth it. Yum! I had a Longan Juice and Gav had some weird tea from the stall next to it. If anyone is going to Penang it's right next to an indian restaurant called the Danish Biryani House (a complete tourist trap).
Near our hotel there was a little night market (on Lebuh Chulia) and we happened upon a delicious Wan Tan Mee stall. It was so busy it took us 3 attempts to get a table but it was worth it. Yum! I had a Longan Juice and Gav had some weird tea from the stall next to it. If anyone is going to Penang it’s right next to an indian restaurant called the Danish Biryani House (a complete tourist trap).
..followed by a short walk to Little India for some dessert. However when we were getting these Gav wanted a mix and saw a sign for India Mixture- which turned out to be Bombay Mix. They guy was getting quite annoyed at Gav, and his wife and I found this quite amusing. Anyway we ended up with some nice sweets.
..followed by a short walk to Little India for some dessert. However when we were getting these Gav wanted a mix and saw a sign for India Mixture- which turned out to be Bombay Mix. They guy was getting quite annoyed at Gav, and his wife and I found this quite amusing. Anyway we ended up with some nice sweets.
We spent a lot of time wandering back through Little India for sweets- we tried everything on this stall- Gav was a particular fan of the jelly. We also frequented another stall which had slightly different stuff. Bit of a sugar binge....
We spent a lot of time wandering back through Little India for sweets- we tried everything on this stall- Gav was a particular fan of the jelly. We also frequented another stall which had slightly different stuff. Bit of a sugar binge….
 Mee goreng and mee rebus (yep this was from a Coffee shop hawker). We got a bit more experimental here and Gav moved from coffee to try some tea, and I went for some lemon and honey drink.
Mee goreng and mee rebus (yep this was from a Coffee shop hawker). We got a bit more experimental here and Gav moved from coffee to try some tea, and I went for some lemon and honey drink.
Another trip to the market near the house- this time Koay teow th'ng (a broth with pork, fish at the back- and dry wan tan mee
Another trip to the market near the house- this time Koay teow th’ng (a broth with pork, fish at the back- and dry wan tan mee
Then a stop at one of the famous egg custard tart shops- still using the original recipe, Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop. They had the most amazing array of delicious things...
Then a stop at one of the famous egg custard tart shops- still using the original recipe, Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop. They had the most amazing array of delicious things…
..but here is the star. The egg custard tart.
..but here is the star. The egg custard tart.
Rather randomly there was a tea and dessert shop next door which also linked to the custard shop- but we stopped in there for a tea..
Rather randomly there was a tea and dessert shop next door which also linked to the custard shop- but we stopped in there for a tea..
...Roselle tea...
…Roselle tea…
..which we had between us.
..which we shared.
A bowl of Hokkien Mee. A prawn and pork broth with yellow and rice vermicelli noodles topped with a boiled egg, prawns, beansprouts, water spinach and pork. Gav liked it. I found it a bit odd.
A bowl of Hokkien Mee. A prawn and pork broth with yellow and rice vermicelli noodles topped with a boiled egg, prawns, beansprouts, water spinach and pork. Gav liked it. I found it a bit odd.
Our first Cendol (left) (shaved ice, cendol noodle-made from rice flour and pandan,- palm sugar (flavoured with pandan), and topped of with red beans and coconut milk. On the right is Ice Kachang- shaved ice again, red beans, creamed sweetcorn, attap chee (palm fruit), dried nutmeg strips, jellies and a host of flavoured syrups (which tasted like cherries) with a drizzle of evaporated milk on top. Both really nice, I preferred the Cendol, Gav the Kacang.
Our first Cendol (left) (shaved ice, cendol noodle-made from rice flour and pandan,- palm sugar (flavoured with pandan), and topped of with red beans and coconut milk.
On the right is Ice Kachang- shaved ice again, red beans, creamed sweetcorn, attap chee (palm fruit), dried nutmeg strips, jellies and a host of flavoured syrups (which tasted like cherries) with a drizzle of evaporated milk on top. Both really nice, I preferred the Cendol, Gav the Kacang.

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The chap making it- this was one of two on Lebuh Keng Kwee
The chap making it- this was one of two on Lebuh Keng Kwee
Another trip to the market near the house- I grabbed a
Another trip to the market near the house- I grabbed a “dry” Wan Tan Mee- even nicer than the wet one in my opinion…
Gav opted for a Koay teow th'ng (a broth with pork, fish balls), a basic pork noodle soup.
Gav opted for a Koay teow th’ng (a broth with pork, fish balls), a basic pork noodle soup.
We spent a lot of time popping into Little India to buy cheap snacks such as Chicken/Egg samosas and deep fried chickpea balls...
We spent a lot of time popping into Little India to buy cheap snacks such as Chicken/Egg samosas and deep fried chickpea balls…
....Egg samosa....
….Egg samosa….
..and these, half bread/half onion bhaji! Yum!
..and these, half bread/half onion bhaji! Yum!
On another occasion Gav grabbed a herbal tea to go with his Hai Koay Teow Soup- it had fish balls in which I don't like- turns our the rest of it wouldn't have been to my taste either with liver, intestines and other stuff. He liked it though.
On another occasion Gav grabbed a herbal tea to go with his Hai Koay Teow Soup- it had fish balls in which I don’t like- turns out the rest of it wouldn’t have been to my taste either with liver, intestines and other stuff. He liked it though.
Coffee (with milk) and the frothy tea with milk- both are poured from cup to jug a
Coffee (with milk) and the frothy tea with milk- both are poured from cup to jug (at a good arms length in height) and back again, it’s quite fun to watch! 
Sometimes the tea froth gets a bit out of hand!
Sometimes the tea froth gets a bit out of hand!
Nutmeg Juice on another coffee house trip
Nutmeg Juice on another coffee house trip, I had this a few times, like Christmas in a glass.
They had a lot of coconut ice-cream here. We didn't have any this time though.
They had a lot of coconut ice-cream here. We didn’t have any this time though.
Some veggie food from the Little India area-South Indian Thali Set
Some veggie food from the Little India area-South Indian Thali Set
..and Special North Indian Thali Set. Both came with a small (but very delicious dessert).
..and Special North Indian Thali Set. Both came with a small (but very delicious dessert).
Char Koay Teow-sort of like Pad Thai but with cockles, prawns and a duck egg topped with some pork crackling.
Char Koay Teow-sort of like Pad Thai but with cockles, prawns and a duck egg topped with some pork crackling.
it tasted quite nice but then I found the cockles which I don't like but Gav (being a good Northern lad) loves.
it tasted quite nice but then I found the cockles which I don’t like but Gav (being a good Northern lad) loves.
This is Chee Cheong Fun. Looks like a dessert doesn't it? Its actually made from rice flour, steamed and rolled and served with a sauce made chilli paste and shrimp paste (called hae ko), a slightly sweet sauce and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. Looks tasty doesn't it. It was voted as No. 7 of the must eat hawker food s in 2009 by Visit Penang. The noodle was nice, the sauce was not to our taste...
This is Chee Cheong Fun. Looks like a dessert doesn’t it? Its actually made from rice flour, steamed and rolled and served with a sauce made chilli paste and shrimp paste (called hae ko), a slightly sweet sauce and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. Looks tasty doesn’t it. It was voted as No. 7 of the must eat hawker food s in 2009 by Visit Penang. The noodle was nice, the sauce was not to our taste…
Our second dessert run on Lebuh Keng Kwee at the
Our second dessert run on Lebuh Keng Kwee at the “Famous” Teochow Chendul. Chendul for me and Gav got the Ice Kacang, a pretty glorious rainbow of mad stuff.
Our last meal in Penang: Nasi Kendar-my plate (front) spicy chicken, Gav's plate (back) was lamb. Choice of sides and egg.
Our last meal in Penang: Nasi Kendar-my plate (front) spicy chicken, Gav’s plate (back) was lamb. Choice of sides and egg.

But we did do some other things. The city feels like a mix of Liverpool and Berlin, full of street art and you could hunt them all down. Some were in the most unusual places, down back alleys or halfway up someone’s house or rather dangerously only able to be viewed from the middle of the road. However we tracked down most of it! (A random selection is below).

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hidden behind a building hording.
hidden behind a building hording.

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I had some fun with Instagram with this one
I had some fun with Instagram with this one

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We were alerted to these by the hotel security guard on this side street. She then ordered us to pose...
We were alerted to these by the hotel security guard on this side street. She then ordered us to pose…
..it was quite a lot of fun.
..it was quite a lot of fun.

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Popped into the local museum, and generally walked around looking at the cool buildings and the streets that were postcard perfect.

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Goddess of Mercy Temple
Goddess of Mercy Temple
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Hainan Temple

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One of the old trains from Penang Hill at the museum
One of the old trains from Penang Hill at the museum
Old cars and kittens at the museum
Old cars and kittens at the museum
Church of the Assumption
Church of the Assumption

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Chew Jetty
Chew Jetty

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Got some Henna done...
Got some Henna done…

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All the
All the delivery vans have the address written on by hand

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The blue mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion)
The blue mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion)
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion- you can stay in a room here and have lunch or dinner- these points were emphasized on the tour.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion- you can stay in a room here and have lunch or dinner- these points were emphasized on the tour.
Our very enthusiastic tour guide
Our very enthusiastic tour guide at the blue mansion
Queen Victoria Memorial Tower
Queen Victoria Memorial Tower
St. Georges Church - it was quite spartan inside.
St. Georges Church – it was quite spartan inside.
For Taggart fans.
For Taggart fans.
A visit to the Chocolate (and coffee) museum- basically its one room and then a massive shop attached.
A visit to the Chocolate (and coffee) museum- basically its one room and then a massive shop attached.

We also took a day trip to the Spice Gardens, a lush tropical garden at the top of Penang, included in the entry price was an audio tour or you could pay a bit more and get a guide- I recommend the audio guide, you get a map so you can go and see what you want and its so easy to do, plus we saw someone on a tour and they zipped round it really quickly and missed half of what we thought were the most interesting plants.

Some of the spices in the garden: Ginger, tumeric, kaffir lime, lotus, lemongrass, galengal, cardamon, pepper, nutmeg, star anise and cloves (Crap photo as the counter was a bit high for me)
Some of the spices in the garden: Ginger, tumeric, kaffir lime, lotus, lemongrass, galengal, cardamon, pepper, nutmeg, star anise and cloves (Crap photo as the counter was a bit high for me)

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Spotted under a leaf
Spotted under a leaf

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Betel nuts-the emblem of Penang
Betel nuts-the emblem of Penang

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Then I saw something in a tree
Then I saw something in a tree
A flying fox!
A flying fox!

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Nutmeg
Nutmeg

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There was also a Teahouse with free tea :)
There was also a Teahouse with free tea 🙂
..and there was a reflexology walk. I managed 3 steps- Gav managed the whole thing...and enjoyed it. Weirdo.
..and there was a reflexology walk. I managed 3 steps- Gav managed the whole thing…and enjoyed it. Weirdo.

Another day trip that Gav planned was to go to Penang Hill (apparently you can’t go to Penang without going to the hill), an old british hill station (the second hill station of our trip, the last was French though) so the plan was go to the hill and then walk to the Botanical Gardens 5.5 km away. So a quick bus to the base of Penang Hill (where I got my first souvenir squashed penny of the trip) then we got a one way ticket for the train to the top. The train was one of the new style funicular railways so it actually went quite fast, like a rollercoaster with no drop and then we were at the top. Just as we got off for a quick look around-the haze from the Indonesian wildfires made visibility non-existent though- it started to rain…and then it lashed it down for over an hour, we managed to make our way to the food hall (as we came prepared with coats and umbrellas) and had a drink while we waited it out, had a quick nose around and then headed for the gardens.

some temple
Kek Lok Si Chinese Temple- we didn’t go here but there is a massive statue under that dome thing
Off we go...
Off we go…
Gav had a good view of the driver's screen
Gav had a good view of the driver’s screen

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We were met with the most stunning views from the top..you could see nothing...
We were met with the most stunning views from the top..you could see nothing…
...well vaguely something. The haze was really bad and then the rains came..
…well vaguely something. The haze was really bad and then the rains came..
.. it rained for ages, a British Hill Station and it was horrendous monsoon style rain.. you have to laugh really don't you.
.. it rained for ages, a British Hill Station and it was horrendous monsoon style rain.. you have to laugh really don’t you.
Eventually the rain eased off and we could wander about, there was a Hindu temple (and a mosque but that was closed) set up by the indians brought over
Eventually the rain eased off and we could wander about, there was a Hindu temple (and a mosque but that was closed) set up by the indians brought over

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More wandering....
More wandering….

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Abandoned.
Abandoned. There will be no one recuperating at the abandoned convalescent home..
Saw some more dusky langurs.
Saw some more dusky langurs.
so cute!
so cute!
They also had a love lock.
They also had a love lock.
Then we made a break for the Botanical Gardens..wrong path initially but eventually found the way. Lots of abandoned houses.
Then we made a break for the Botanical Gardens..wrong path initially but eventually found the way. Lots of abandoned houses.

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This was a nightmare in flip flops
This was a nightmare in flip flops
Ah the botanical gardens...
Ah the botanical gardens…
There was a guy next to this sign with his leg up on the bridge
There was a guy next to this sign with his leg up on the bridge
Temple of the
A Hindu temple, not sure what the name is but Gav got a cracking photo of it. Reminds me of the film The Ninth Gate.

I’ll tell you now we were exhausted when we made it out of the Gardens to the main gate and other than a quick trip to the cacti house we were ready for home. The hill down was a bit hard in flip flops- yes I know stupid choice to wear walking but I had a diving cut which was in the wrong place for my sandals!

The people here are incredibly friendly, very happy and even go out of their way to welcome you. We had one guy, while we were wandering about looking for the street art, roll down the window of his car and shout “Hello! Welcome to Malaysia!”. Random people will just say hello to you in the street too or stop to help you. Plus they are used to westerners so they are very relaxed with regards to clothing in comparison to other areas more conservative areas, so as holiday spots go its pretty excellent. So in short check it out!

It was at this point in our trip that we had run out of our vague travel plan we had before we left. We figured we would have loads of time to plan but never got round to it! Always the way. So now we had to sort it out, we spent one evening deciding the next three stops- Perhentian Islands (based on the recommendations of the German girls in Koh Tao), Kuala Terengganu (to see somewhere less touristy, catch up on laundry which always balloons after a beach trip and catch up on blog posts!) to Kuala Lumpur briefly, then on to Malacca (Melaka) and then on to Singapore to see some friends. I also had this romantic notion that I fancied visiting Sumatra- as we were right next to it, but we had heard mixed things so needed a think.

Anyway with a vague plan in mind we managed to book a bus to Kuala Besut for the ferry to the Perhentian Islands.

Next stop, Palau Perhentian Kecil…

(Note at any point you can check our travel map and see where we are, I’ve also linked all the posts to their respective points, the only ones that are missing are the wrap up posts for each country.

Also I’ve linked my Instagram account to the blog so if you want a little hint at what we are seeing you can scroll down on the main page to check. I update it every few days-provided I have internet access and something worthy of waking a load of filters on. 🙂 )

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3 thoughts on “By George! It’s Penang!

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