In a nutshell
Georgetown (capital of Penang) is a unique blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture with a lot of colonial buildings. It is not uncommon to see a mosque in Chinatown and a Chinese temple in Little India. Due to this we saw some great architecture and got to taste some delicious food. What’s also amazing about this island is, you can be in the town and reach the beach or the hills in 30 minutes!
If you are an art and culture fan, Georgetown is a visual treat! You can walk around comfortably and enjoy the architecture and street art of this place. There is hardly anything that happens during the afternoons so the ideal time to explore the place is early morning and late evenings. You can head to Love Lane around 7 pm every day to enjoy the unique bars with live music.
How to get there
The flight to Penang is really convenient and comfortable. You can fly to Kuala Lumpur via Air Asia, Malaysian Airlines or Malindo Air and take a domestic transfer to Penang. The immigration process in Kuala Lumpur is seamless and quick.
You can also take a bus or cab from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. This takes about 5 hours.
If you are travelling from India and do not wish to not stay in Malaysia for more than 15 days, you can get an ENTRI instead of a visa. It is easily available on The Malaysian Embassy’s website. Do note that once you avail the ENTRI facility, you won’t be able to enter Malaysia for 3 months.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Royal Penang in the financial district of Penang which was central and well connected to all the places we wanted to visit in Georgetown. There was a bus stop nearby to go further and explore the island. The room was clean and functional, completely no frills. A great value for money.
If you prefer to splurge and stay right in the heart of the city, you can opt for Eastern and Oriental Hotel.
Other popular choices are Bayview Beach Resort and Bayview Hotel. You can also stay at 23 Love Lane if you want to party till 4 am and then pass out.
Food and Beverages in Penang
We regret not having enough restaurants and local cuisine and for this would have to pay another visit. Here’s a list of everything we did have:
Char kway teow:
Stir fried flat noodles with crunchy veggies, egg and prawns. You can find this in Chinese, Nyonya and Malay cuisines with some variation in the texture and spices.
Where to find this: Small restaurants on the way to Batu Ferringhi and Kimberley street.
Kam Heong La La:
Stir fry clams with Barbecue sauce
Where to find this: Spot this uncle on Kimberley street and just go to him
poached egg, toast and sausage. Street food stalls in Jalan Larut, George Town. Do try Uncle Pang’s food stall here.
Where to find this: Hard Rock Café and Mc Donalds. The Mc Donalds beef burger is delicious
Malay fruit salad with a sweet sauce
Where to find this: Gurney Drive or Kimberley street
Noodle bowl with taufu pok (puffy fried bean curd), coagulated pig’s blood, taugeh (bean sprouts), cuttlefish, and cockles.
Where to have this: Curry Mee, Gurney Drive
Spicy noodle soup dish with crab cakes or meat, with some coconut sauce.
Where to find this: Chulia court, Chulia Drive.
Spicy fish-based noodle soup with tamarind juice, chilli paste, lemongrass, topped with prawn paste and mackerel/sardine flakes.
Where to find this: Jalan LarutGeorge Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.
Meat or veggies or stick, fried and served with chilli and soy sauce.
Where to find this: Gurney Drive or Kimberley Street.
Dimsums and Scallion Noodles
Where to find this: Pretty much everywhere but we recommend the Old Shanghai restaurant at 15, Jalan Bawasah
Thai food available in Penang tastes lighter than what’s available in India.
Where to find this: Restoran Khun Thai, Teluk Kumbar, Pulau Pinang
Where to find this: There is a traditional tea place in the middle of nowhere on the Penang island and what surprise that it is called Middle of Nowhere. Call before you visit as it is quite far from the main city and often remains closed.
Where to find this: We had this at the airport but it is available at every corner
Where to find this: Any street food district.
Street food is generally inexpensive and fresh. A dish could cost anywhere in between 4 to 15 Ringgits. Fine dining restaurants would cost 25-30 Ringgits a dish on an average.
Nightlife in Georgetown
Penang sleeps very late. Most bars are open till 4 to 5 am and the streets are very lively and fun. Although, compared to other countries in South East Asia, Penang is expensive to get drunk in as it has one of the highest alcohol tax in the world. You can find happy hours and budget your drinking like we did. Our top picks for nightlife are:
Pretty sure this is where the real locals hang out. There is a total post work chilling happening here. We also found a remote almost underground bar with a private party. In one word: A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Average cost of 1 pint of beer 15-20 ringgits.
We went to Love Lane once every day. It is a narrow lane behind the 7/11 of Chulia Street consisting of a fleet of bars opposite each other.
a. D’Loovies: A Tiger beer bucket is fairly economical here (60-65 Ringgits for 5). The live singers are very talented. A special mention to Deen here, we loved your voice. The manager suggested trying Kimberly street over Gurney Drive for food and he was so right.
b. Micke’s place: The servers here are from Pakistan and India and they treated us with the utmost love and care. There are rock live performances here almost every night. If you are craving something spicy, have their super spicy Indianized chilli chicken. Avg. price for a beer is 15-20 ringgits.
c. Kafe wooden Tipsy: They have happy hours on Gin and tonic and Tiger till 7-8pm. We loved this place for the warm staff and super cheap drinks.
d. The place next to the Wooden Tipsy: Really sweet and helpful staff again with a somewhat friendly dog. We had our first drink here because happy hours you see.
3. Chulia Court:
This turns into a real night club at night. Drinks are a bit expensive. Their Laska Lemak is delicious.
4. Hard Rock Café:
The hard rock café in Batu Ferringhi is the oldest in Malaysia.
Street food and nightlife of Batu Ferringhi is popular as well if you like being at the beach.
Other things to do in Penang
1. Walk around and explore the street art.
2. Visit the camera museum.
3. Walk around Armenian street. Go for tea and breakfast at the hotel’s café and buy gorgeous illustrative postcards.
4. See St. George’s cathedral, a Chinese temple and an Indian temple.
5. Drive to Teluk Bahang Dam and generally around the island.
6. Explore the unexplored parts of Batu Ferringhi.
7. Go to the beautiful Titi Kerawang Waterfall, Balik Pulau.
8. Visit Penang Hill by train.
User Uber and Grab to travel. It is extremely efficient and economical. Most Uber drivers speak fluent English and tell you a lot about Penang. To travel further than Georgetown, you can take a HoHo bus pass and see the entire island.
If you do go to Old Shanghai restaurant, buy a bottle of her homemade chilli oil. It makes everything taste good.
You can actually skip eating at Gurney Drive which is popular amongst tourists and head to Kimberly Street which is popular amongst the locals. Kimberly street is cheaper and the food is better by a leap. If you do however go to Gurney Drive, take care of your belongings and leave the area before it is dark. Being a popular tourist destination, the place encourages petty crimes.
If you feel like having lunch at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, don’t. Some people might like it but what you get on the streets is way more delicious. Go and have biryani at Hameedias. We didn’t and we really regret it.
Do not be adventurous and order spicy steamboat. Just don’t. You might think you are Indian and used to the spice but take our word for it, it will burn every part of your body. Also, do not put frog meat in it. it is a waste of meat.
Pick up the baked goodies from Continental bakery.
The cost for 2:
Malaysian Airlines Tickets: Rs. 54,446. (You can reduce this by booking non-refundable flights in advance)
Stay at Royal Penang without breakfast: Rs. 6000 for 4 nights
ENTRI Visa for Indians: Rs. 2564 ($20 each). ENTRI is only valid until March 2018 so hurry and plan your trip
Food, drinks, cabs and shopping: Rs. 25,000 for 2
Total: Rs. 88,000