On the small island of Penang is Georgetown, what an awesome town this turns out to be. We had heard rave reviews and recommendations about Georgetown from other travellers and they didn’t disappoint. Georgetown itself is a UNESCO world heritage site due to the mix of historical architecture, communities, art and museums. Although Penang is much bigger than just Georgetown with a national park, beach areas and apparently a great bus system to connect you to it; we ended up just staying and exploring Georgetown whilst we were there as we enjoyed its vibe a lot.
We arrived on the ferry from Langkawi in the early afternoon. I had had a rough nights sleep and was feeling particularly unwell. So I didn’t really fancy walking to our hostel even though it was only about 20mins. Instead, we got an uber there for 3.35RM. We were staying in a hostel for the first time in a while as Georgetown accommodation was all quite expensive. I think we could have found a cheaper hostel when there if we’d have wanted but the quality of the place would have suffered. We based ourselves at the Frame Hostel. The place itself fitted in completely with Georgetown’s aesthetic. It was an old frame shop and the owners had left it bare which highlighted some of the historical elements of the building. However the rooms themselves were very modern with comfortable beds, the toilets and showers were also modern with hot water! There was free tea and coffee all day as well as breakfast in the morning (like every place in Malaysia when breakfast is included it tends to be bread for toast and jams). When we arrived there was no one on reception and we were not able to check in yet. Instead, we walked a few hundred metres to Mugshot Cafe. This was a place that one of the girls at WFFT had recommended. One-half was the coffee shop, which did fantastic coffee, was incredibly busy and had multiple rooms to the building with a couple of wooden pterodactyls hanging from the ceiling. The other half was a bakery with amazing pastries. Iced cappuccinos (12RM each) and a chocolate croissant (6RM) later and we were in a good place already liking this town.
After checking in we went for a walk around the area to get our bearings. The streets were full of historical architecture from British colonial buildings to Chinese shop houses as well as lots of street art telling historical facts about the city. We walked down Love Lane which is largely now a street filled with backpacker places in old heritage buildings, made our way back towards the jetty and did a loop back to our hostel. Just walking around for an hour or so we got a real taste for Georgetown’s uniqueness. On our walk, we also saw St.George’s Church, Fort Cornwallis (only from the outside as we were told it doesn’t have much to see on the inside) the Clock Tower, the quay and a huge cruise ship.
In the evening we headed just down the road (we were staying on Chulia street) towards Love Lane where in the evening there are several cheap food stalls. The place was buzzing with people and it smelt delicious. The food in this area was mainly Chinese. We ended up having popiah- like spring rolls but made from more of a spongy textured pancake with tofu, bean sprouts, and a sweet sticky sauce. We also got Wonton Mee Soup (sticky noodles, chillies, pork, crispy wontons, soft wontons and crackling) which was also delicious especially when it was 6RM for a large portion that I couldn’t even finish. In the evening we chilled back at the hostel working on our Spanish and Japanese duolingos and watching some TV. Unfortunately, there was a bar next door that was very loud despite being empty so it led to a very disturbed night.
We made good use of the long breakfast time the following morning before getting ready to go out. First, we headed to the heritage museum as I thought there were supposed to be free street maps and heritage trail maps there that we could follow on one of our days. But turns out we were in the wrong place so we had a brief look at the museum there before moving on. We visited the chocolate and coffee museum which is free. It is small but quite comprehensive as you walk yourself through the museum to the gift shop. There you can try free samples of some of the chocolates so we tried as many as we felt we could get away with without buying any! We even tried durian chocolate which is a bestseller there but not for us at all. Tastes and smells like feet. From here we looked at the outside of the blue mansion, one of the tourist attractions in Georgetown (they have tours at selected times of the day), it looked very blue indeed. Another thing we did was head to the Mosque that was over the road from our Hostel, it was called the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Whilst we visited we had a tour and brief talk about the mosque and Muslim in general, which was really interesting. Our tour guide even gave us a demonstration of the prayers they sing. We stopped back to the hostel for a bit after this as it was raining and made use of the nice communal spaces.
In the afternoon we headed down Armenia street which has distinctly Chinese architecture- old shophouses, temples, and restaurants. It has several pieces of interactive street art down it and quite a few of the shops now cater to tourists with souvenirs so it gets quite busy. We stopped along the way at the Awesome Emporium which is an old warehouse which did really nice coffee and it felt calm despite it being quite busy outside. At the end of Armenia street, we headed over the road to Chew Jetty. This is supposed to be a Chinese heritage jetty with original houses and interesting detailing. However, it is now a crowded tourist trap with people selling lots of durian products. Not really worth the visit. We headed into more of the actual Chinese neighbourhood for lunch as we were looking for Tin Tang restaurant as they were supposed to have good dim-sum. It was 3ish though by this point and it was already closed for the afternoon along with most of the other restaurants. Luckily we found one at the end of this strip that was still open. Our choice of food was limited to Hainan chicken and rice (6RM) so we went with that. It may have only been chicken and rice but it was damn tasty and the sauces on the table were also delicious.
After refuelling, we made our way to Khoo Kongsi clan house where we looked around the museum there and the temple which was ornately decorated. It was worth heading there in the late afternoon as we were two of about 5 people there. It also helped that it is a little difficult to find as it is in a courtyard off of any of the main streets. In the evening we went to try the Ramadan stalls in the Little India area however we arrived too late and most of them were already shut. We found an Indian restaurant that was open though and were basically given what was left over from this which we think may have been chicken in biryani sauce and chicken in masala sauce (10RM each with rice and a drink). We gave the locals a laugh though trying to eat our meal with just our right hands (the left is considered dirty) but I think we managed quite well. We wandered around Little India for a bit, seeing a completely different side to town just a few streets away, before heading back for the night.
After a much better nights sleep, we were ready to go much earlier the next day. We walked over to the Green Mansion (Peranakan mansion) (21.20RM each). This is an old Baba and Nyonya family house. The Peranakan community is particularly concentrated in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. When we arrived we found out that there was an English tour of the house just starting and this end up being particularly informative about the family, the Baba and Nyonya people and about items in the house that we wouldn’t have understood without the tour. The items in the house were incredibly interesting and there were also a lot of antiques from England that were given as gifts during the trading years with the English. On our way back we grabbed some pastries from one of the stalls in Little India buying donuts, strange chocolate cake and some other things to try all for a few ringgit. We spent a few hours cooling down and then taking all of our clothes to wash at a coin laundry where the fan would only start spinning if it sensed someone walking around making it a very hot couple of hours. We also wrote more blogs in the hostel. In the evening we headed to Tom’s burger van for delicious burgers with proper cheese (12 RM) as well as grabbing more of the spring roll type things! After walking around for a while enjoying the atmosphere we headed back to the hostel where we had new people in our room. We spent the next hour or so chatting to them before heading to bed.
The next day was a very chilled one. We first had to move rooms as we had left it too late to extend the previous day and had to move to a double bed dormitory (very odd concept). Originally we had planned to make our way up the hill as it was supposed to give nice views over the city. However, unless we wanted to walk up and down for a good few hours then it meant getting a bus to the bottom then the funicular railway up the hill which was not cheap. Although the railway was supposed to be pretty it was also supposed to get extremely crowded with huge queues. We didn’t fancy spending quite a bit of time, money and patience for just an ok view at the top. So instead we headed to Mugshot for the day where we chilled out having coffees, bagels and cakes (spread out over the day) and writing blogs. We also spend a good few hours talking to an English/German couple who had been living in Australia. In the late afternoon, we headed to the Komtar station to look at the possible options for getting buses out of Georgetown over the bridge to the mainland however we got distracted by the malls and spent time looking around these. Instead, we booked a shuttle and bus combo to Ipoh (31RM) through the Noble Hotel, as they had been recommended to us by the hostel. We had dinner back at the Chinese stalls as the Wonton Mee was so delicious and cheap before packing our bags for the next day. In the morning we would be saying goodbye to Georgetown and hello to Ipoh.