Georgetown in Penang is famous for its delicious food and charming buildings, so we had to find out how good both of these were.
There was a small food market across the road from our hostel which we ended up going almost every night, it was so cheap and tasty. Food markets are scattered all around the town though, we passed several on our walks through Chinatown and Little India.
There was also a night market down by the sea, which we were excited to try but unfortunately it always seemed closed – maybe due to the beginning of low season.
We tried so much food in our 4 days in Georgetown. Our favourites were:
Char Koay Teow
A famous dish served all around the country byut originally from Penang, Char Koay teow is stir fried wide rice noodles with egg, beansprouts, soy sauce, fish paste, chinese sausage and cockles. It’s a simple combination but tastes incredible. It was Greg’s favourite dish in Malaysia.
Essentially just rice with curry and as many side dishes as you choose, this is a popular breakfast food. The 2 times we bought it, we got it to take away, which meant it was wrapped in newspaper and all the delicious rich curry sauce soaked through the rice. Amazing. No pictures because we ate it too quick.
A slightly confusing dish as it can mean wildly different things depending on where in the country you are, in Penang it is a fruit salad with under ripe mango, apple and some other fruit, mixed with tamarind sauce, chilli and possibly honey, and topped with peanuts. It might not sound great, but trust us, it’s delicious.
This is popular all over Malaysia but there was a great stall selling it very near us! It consists of egg noodles with dark soy sauce and some red pork. The soup version is all this in a bowl with some wontons, and the ‘dry’ version (which still has loads of sauce) which comes with a bowl of traditional clear wonton soup on the side. It’s also very cheap!
We did stop eating to explore occasionally.
‘Old’ Georgetown is a small place, with narrow streets and some cool cafes, including (Greg’s favourite) – another cat cafe, aptly named Purrfect Cat Cafe. It wasn’t as good as the ones in Chiang Mai, mainly because some children kept annoying the cats!
Just beyond Chinatown towards the sea are the Clan Jetties, an old Chinese settlement on the water where a few native families still run their fishing businesses. We had a walk along the jetty although its a working place, tourists are allowed to see how people live here, its a bit strange ogling at people living and working here but they were friendly and a lot of tourist stalls were set up along the jetty to attract you in.
The connection to Georgetown’s British past is obvious, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason, there is so much colonial architecture around and signs of the past including the old clock tower and the Cornwallis Fort which we visited.
Everywhere you look there are beautiful old townhouses lining the streets.
We walked over to the most famous and expensive hotel on the island, The Eastern and Oriental, and sneakily had a peak around. Built in 1895, it still looks amazing, shame we’ll probably never get to stay there!
Penang is also full of street art everywhere you look, with both traditional murals and some unusual metal cartoon scenes.
Penang Hill was a great spot to look out over Georgetown and across the sea towards Butterworth on the mainland. We took the funicular railway up just before sunset as it was half price (RM15 instead of 30). You could also hike up but we really couldn’t understand why you’d want to, it really did look painful as it was really steep and long.
We got virtually no daylight at the top, however luckily the night view was pretty special. When you arrive at the top there are a few cafes and viewing platforms, but not really any places to eat.
One day we took a local bus up to Batu Feringhi, a beach town, with nothing to do apart from sunbathe and swim in the sea. And we couldn’t even do that as the weather wasn’t great and the sea was rough. The beach was ok but isn’t worth a special trip if you’re visiting one elsewhere in Malaysia. It was fun to watch people jet skiing and paragliding though. We headed back to Georgetown after a few hours as we got bored.
We spent 4 nights in Penang and loved it but you could probably see the sights in less. We were happy to spend the extra time eating though!
We took a bus from Ipoh which cost RM17.50 per person (just over £3). It was supposed to go to Butterworth on the mainland first from where we could take a quick ferry to Penang but instead drove straight to the inconvenient bus station on the island itself.
From here it was easiest to take a RapidPenang local bus to Little India where we were staying. Annoyingly we can’t remember the bus number but someone at the bus station will help you out. A taxi would have cost RM30 when the bus was only RM1.40 each
We stayed at Roommates, a hostel in Little India. It was pretty good, it had very comfy beds, good social area and cheap beer! It could have done with a few more bathrooms though. We paid around RM32 (£6) per person per night.