Penang Georgetown- The city of Art

As our travels through Malaysia continued on from Kuala Lumpur our next port of call was Penang, Georgetown to be precise. We decided to fly there as for one, it was very cheap flying with Air Asia, and secondly we didn’t want to waste time, knowing from beforehand that travel time via train was 5 hours or so. So a meager fifty five minutes later we were in Penang and as fresh as daisies….having organised a taxi we were on the road and between the four of us we paid 90RM (€18) to get to our hotel. We were staying at the Loke Thye Residences and I must say it was probably one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in. It doesn’t have a website as I believe its fairly new, however we managed booked through, for 3 nights we paid €142 – well worth it for a hotel that is centrally located and offers the kind of decor, luxury and comfort better, in our opinion, than many 5 star hotels. It is absolutely exquisite with some amazing features and wonderful ambient lighting…..Mick totally fell in love with Loke Thye and would happily return to Penang just to stay there again. They don’t offer meals at the hotel as the rooms have a kitchenette as a self catered apartment if you wanted / needed to make your own food. As far as we are concerned, this place comes highly highly recommended.

Once I managed to drag Mick (kicking and screaming) out of the room we started to explore and we were immediately impressed, let me say the street art and food is what drew us to Penang in the first place and we were not disappointed. We started searching for what has now become the world famous street art and let me tell you there is lots of it scattered around the whole town so you just need to be patient. There are special ‘art’ maps available that pinpoint their locations to help you navigate your way around, ticking off each one as you find it and take the customary snap. The two main area’s where the majority of the art is located are Armenian & Cannon Street from where little side streets branch off seemingly in an attempt to hide their little painted treasures so you really need to be observant and pretty much check every wall in every lane very carefully. Georgetown though is not only famous for it’s street art, the colourful and wonderfully impressive colonial buildings offer heaps of charm and are great if taking pics of local architecture is your thing (…Mick). Lot’s of these buildings incorporate shops, cafes and restaurants that are beautifully decorated, some of which are themselves art galleries, museums or showpieces giving you the opportunity to learn more about the rich history of Georgetown and the surrounding area’s.

In the evening the once calm, meandering pace becomes a wonderfully lively and buzzing place to meet friends for a meal or a drink in one of the many bars and pubs and you can find lots of street food all over Georgetown, something we came to realise it is actually known for. From Burgers to Spicy beans, Ice Cream to Creamed corn pancakes (seriously….you gotta try them!!) and from fresh fruit juices to….well…. fresh fruit!! It’s all there and it’s all very affordable.

Mentioning a few of our favourite eateries is a must before moving on to all of our sightseeing adventures….So my top pick was China House, I must tell you that their desert menu is to die for but besides that the whole atmosphere of this place was buzzing and food was amazing…Among the four of us we paid RM 208 (€45)…..totally worth it. They have an art gallery / shop on the upper floor in which they display and sell some really nice pieces to take back home.

Mews Cafe was also a place where we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, we decided to get a few starters to share and everything we ordered was of top quality, not to mention their famous cocktails which were – as expected – great. To top it all off there was more art work that I really wanted to see and it was directly opposite the cafe which made visiting all the more fun. We paid RM139 (€30) which a lot more affordable than we were made to believe it would be especially when you take into account the drinks.

The Book Sandwich Cafe was a great find and a real treat… Yes there were amazing (and huge) sandwiches that left you wanting more even though we were all stuffed by the end of it. They generally serve open sandwiches of which the different sauces they used to create each variety of sandwich tasted divine and they were truly a world apart from any run of the mill fare, made in a very unique style.  It was a great choice and would definitely go back if in Penang. We paid RM 200 (€42) including drinks.

Following on from all the delicious foods and beverages I think it’s time to move on to some of the other places we saw during our time in Penang….the one’s that were not food related.

We visited the Chew Jetty, a beautiful pier that offers heaps of souvenir and arts and crafts stalls. Families live in the back quarters with their individual stalls and shops in the ‘front garden’ area of the property, it is absolutely stunning and not a bad view to wake up to everyday. There is a very pretty Chinese temple at the beginning of the Jetty where of course people offer their prayers.

Our plan was to go to Penang Hill and took a bus from the main bus station, our aim was to go by bus to the tram stop at the foot of the hill, however we spotted the Kek Lok Si Temple along the way and decided to hop off the bus and check it out. What a beautiful temple!! We must have spent at least two hours wondering around as it is huge. Before entering the temple there is a small lake full of turtles, lovely to see but, as with most things, it has become a money maker for the local shop owner who will happily sell you a variety of leaves and roots so you can feed them. The truth is we did as the baby turtles were just the cutest things you will ever see and it becomes a challenge to get some food to them as they are constantly being out numbered and outfought by the much larger one’s all vying for a nibble. Following our attempts to feed the shell backed babies we walked through this stunning temple and we took heaps of photo’s. Once you reach the middle level, which to our surprise has a sky lift, you can climb aboard and it will take you to the top level, again for a very small fee of RM 2 (€0.40). The view from above shows all of Penang in all it’s spleandour and we thoroughly enjoyed it. As with all temples and religious sites you need to be respectful and appropriately dressed to enter, Kek Lok Si is said to be the biggest in South East Asia too so if you want to enjoy it in it’s entirety, be sure to plan ahead….as far as the Penang Hill Tram was concerned it was very close by but we never made it in the end, however a friend of ours has been and highly recommend it ….

We then decided to take a taxi to the Botanical Gardens, I loved it as it was very lush and green, beautiful for a stroll …..with the added attraction of heaps of baby monkey’s that frequent the area too!! I always tell Mick that he looks like a monkey so we went to see his family :)) It was very peaceful and a lovely place to spend a couple of afternoon hours and an opportunity to get closer to nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle. The monkey’s roam free but you just need to be a little careful, if you get too close they might not appreciate it as much as you may think, they are very comfortable and relaxed around people but they can get aggressive if you overstep what they consider to be their personal space. There were lots of Malaysian families that enjoy the park and entry is free.

We also went to the Bee Gallery as Claire is fascinated with bees and it was not too far down the road from the Botanical gardens, entrance is also free.Its a small gallery that offers very detailed information regarding all types of bees from all over the world. There is also a small shop where you can purchase honey and also try all the different types of honey, apparently there are a few types and bees from differing regions produce a unique tasting honey……I must say though they were far from cheap! Claire was happy so we were all happy! Its a very cute place and great for taking pics.

Following our return to the center of town we decided it was time to treat our tired limbs so we decided to enjoy a Spa treatment at the Legacy Spa, besides Claire as she decided to make her toe nails look pretty with a pedicure while we all had a massage. I went for the foot massage and although it was good it felt a little too hard for my liking but all staff were ever so lovely.

So following our travels throughout this wonderful place I was left with the question as to whether I would I go back to Penang……Mick is of the feeling that it’s one of those places that once you’ve been and experienced Penang there may not be anything much else to see or experience but for me I most definitely would as we were there only two days there are things that we didn’t manage to see, so yes, I would like to go back and ‘continue’ the tour…..In my opinion, if you are thinking about traveling to Penang just book it and go, its awesome!! If I had to point out one negative about this place it would definitely have to be the ‘furry animals’ that were about the place….. by furry I mean rats….. I am not a fan at all but that would only be my negative about this place, but don’t let that put you off……because even though they are my biggest fear, I didn’t let them ruin my enthusiasm for Penang and it wouldn’t stop me revisiting this lovely city of art