After the most almighty overnight storm in the Cameron Highlands with thunder like we had never heard before we were both very excited to be heading to the island of Penang. Charlotte had been three years before and we had heard many great recommendations already!
We caught an early bus and arrived in the not so beautiful town of Butterworth around 4 hours later. Although not without more strange happenings on our bus with either a hungover or very travel sick man at the front and a very angry bus driver who, unsurprisingly, didn’t appreciate vomit all over the floor of his vehicle. Not wanting to hang around in grey and deserted Butterworth we jumped on the 1.20MYR ferry and gazed out through the fog and rain for some kind of light in the distance. And, as if by some miracle or turn of fate as soon as the ferry docked in Penang harbour the sun started to shine through the clouds…although once again this meant we were faced with a sweat inducing walk through the streets to our hostel. Perhaps the rain would have suited us better at this point!
Our destination was the Ryokan Boutique Hostel on Jalan Muntri (N.62) which is a street running off the main backpacker area – aptly named Love Lane. (Legend has it the men of Penang used to keep their mistresses here to escape their wives!!) For 29MYR a night, plus 1MYR a night tax this hostel was superb. Very clean, large beds, rainforest power showers, a great breakfast and unlimited drinking water included. With our bags checked in and air-con doing its magic we set off to have a wander round to get our bearings.
We grabbed some lunch, joined by a German girl we had met in our dorm, at what we would later find out was a famous cafe. The family who owns it had invented their own noodles – the Yeap Noodle and they certainly tasted great, especially for only 5MYR. Stomachs happy we decided that we should be productive so jumped on the 201 bus for 45 minutes out of Georgetown to Kek Lok Si temple. The bus takes you right outside so no need to worry if it feels like you have gone too far (which it does). Once you have walked through a fully functioning but deserted row of shops, restaurants and stalls that lead up to the temple (this may have just been time of day or year) you are presented with a view of the magnificent temple on top of the hill. We took a stroll through all of the temples, each unique and as brightly coloured as the next, and finished by taking the lift up to the top level to the 99ft statue of Kuan Yin the Goddess of Mercy. Not only was the view of the statue and many levels of the temple complex below impressive but the view out across Penang was also fantastic. If you so choose you can also do as we did and just pay for the lift up and walk back down feeling very smug with yourselves that you saved 80p.
With light fading we decided to head back, arriving on Lebuh Chulia which had come alive with an array of street food vendors and tempting smells. We sat down at a little road-side table, tucked into some amazing pork noodles and watched the world go by. It turned out to become our stalwart for food over the next 5 days and in particular that stall where we would proceed to eat at 3 further times…adventurous we know but it was that good and so cheap! Of course as a standard when you meet new friends in dorm rooms we went for the obligatory beers and ended up singing Oasis and Rod Stewart far too loudly in a strange little bar on Love Lane. Oh Brits abroad!
Day two had always been set aside for street art! Georgetown is famous for a number of paintings on the sides of buildings by Ernest Zacharevic and there is no better way of seeing all of Georgetown in a day than opening up a huge tourist map and following the walk by numbers within…so we willingly obliged. We wont bore you with our route around or which ones are where, just go and get one the maps and follow it around like everyone else and you wont be disappointed! However amazing some of the street art, we weren’t too interested in the more recent addition of cat themed paintings and so we interspersed art with visiting the numerous beautiful Chinese temples in and around Georgetown. Yes we walked everywhere…again!
After a busy few days travelling and sightseeing we decided that a beach day was in order (poor us we know!) and so headed north to check out the delights of Batu Ferringhi. Everywhere outside of Georgetown worth seeing is a bus ride away so another 45 minute journey and we were on the first beach of our trip. In terms of beaches in Malaysia we had read that this was nothing spectacular, however, the sand is soft, water warm and relatively empty (until about 5.30pm when the locals descend) so it suited us just fine. A day well spent topping up the base layer tan, or as some may call it burning, reading, listening to the waves and waiting for the sun to set…
You really only need three days to explore all Penang has to offer but if you’re not struggling for time it is a place you can relax and continue to explore the likes of Little India, the jetties and the rainforest. We did have some time so spent a couple of days contemplating our route ahead, revisiting our favourite spots in Georgetown and playing the nights away with terrible card games with our German friends.
Langkawi decided upon as our next destination, we were off again…
C & J