personal notes on a nomadic style round the world trip.
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On arrival with immigration passed, bags fetched, baht exchanged for ringgits, cash withdrawn and local sim card obtained, we headed for the super cheap local bus (2.7 RM each/£0.41/$0.64) to take us up the length of Penang to colonial Georgetown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.
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.
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!
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).
Popped into the local museum, and generally walked around looking at the cool buildings and the streets that were postcard perfect.
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.
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.
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. 🙂 )