Last weekend my boyfriend surprised me with a weekend to Penang, in Malaysia. Penang is especially famous for its Capital city, Georgetown. It is classified at the Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008 (ndlr. its historical core).
We flew from Singapore to Penang on Friday night – at 10:30pm with Air Asia – arriving just before midnight to our destination – Perfect flight to catch after work!
First tip here! If like me you have an international card that lets you withdraw cash abroad for no fee, be aware that ATMs at Penang airport might not be operational (happened to us). I would then strongly advise to get some cash prior to your arrival, just in case, especially if you arrive late at night like us!
After our (failed) attempt at withdrawing cash, we took a ride to our boutique heritage hotel, in the historical center of Georgetown. Prefer to order an Uber from the airport than a normal taxi, as their prices are 3 times lower… Penang airport provides free wifi, so you should be able to find an Uber without struggle!
Street Art really is everywhere in Georgetown
My boyfriend booked for us a room at Love Lane 23, a charming restored building with only 10 boutique-style rooms. The hotel is very cute, with a wonderful decoration and atmosphere. We had a room on the ground floor, with our own private access. Lucky enough, we had the only room with a bathroom proposing an “outside” shower and bathtub! Love lane is a perfect street to stay in Penang; it is very central, as a unique atmosphere with loads of cafés and hostels and is just next to the street art and the street food, you can do everything by foot – totally recommend to stay in the area !
On our first day there, we had breakfast at the hotel (included) and decided to go on a hunt for all the Street Art we could spot. The hotel gave us a map of the area, with location of the street arts indicated, as well as emblematic buildings and places to eat. We chose to follow the map to look for the paintings and took our first break at lunch time. First stop in Little India, at Bistro Tang (82A Penang Street) – This restaurant offers a fusion of Asian and European dishes in a cosy atmosphere, the perfect break!
We continued our way along Lebuh Chulia, leading us to the clan jetties. Clan jetties are typical water villages that are over a century old. 6 clan jetties remain in Georgetown, each named after a Chinese clan. We stopped at the Chew Jetty, as it is the most tourist friendly one (ndlr. it has a better pathway). On our way we past in front of a coffee place called Lavish, which has its own little wall garden indoor – great place to stop by for a piece of cake.
We then walked in direction of Armenian street, which is full of street art, street food and animation (a “band” was playing songs on a corner). We also purchased some postcards and gifts for our families. Good to know, most places where you will buy your postcards offer you to post them for you! Take advantage of this for your peace of mind ;-).
One of the many things to do in Penang is to go for an Afternoon Tea! Our first choice was to go to the Eastern and Oriental hotel, as it apparently offers the best Afternoon tea in town (in terms of atmosphere and value for money). Unfortunately, all was already booked for the entire weekend. We then headed to our second choice, the Suffolk House, a restored colonial building. High tea is proposed at a price of Rm90 per set of two (around $29SGD) and can be served in the Ball room or the veranda. Overall, food was good value for money and the Ball room was nice, but the atmosphere wasn’t ideal. Adding to the fact that it was raining, the few number of people in the room, added to the dimmed lighting and the loud music didn’t bring the best of the location. I am sure that on a Sunny day, it is very enjoyable to experience this from the Veranda and have a view on the garden!
On our way back to the Tea, we stopped for a massage next to our hotel, at Legacy Spa (in Love Lane). We paid around $25SGD for a full body massage and enjoyed it. You can also enjoy a foot massage for cheaper. After resting a bit at the hotel, we went out to look for dinner. I’d heard of a great food stall along Lebuh Chulia that I wanted to try. The only things that I knew to find it was that it was serving Wonton Mee, cooked by a couple of elderly and that the stall was quite popular. I didn’t thought that we could find it, but it was way easier than excepted. We ordered and enjoyed dinner at a table on the street just behind the stall. Lebuh Chulia is offering a lot of street food options, from food trucks to stalls and restaurants. We even enjoyed some steamed veggies at a “steam it yoursefl” stall – Cool concept! We then stopped at a local bar to have a drink and a Shisha.
On day 2, we decided to have breakfast outside of the hotel. We tried to go to Wheeler’s coffee on Love lane but the queue was too long. You should definitely stop by if you are in the area, as this café is very cosy and has a great food and drink offering. We finally had breakfast at Moon Tree 47 hostel, located in Muntri Street, next to the kung-fu girl Street Art. This place was great, with a luminous patio and a chill atmosphere. Food was good and cheap and the staff was very friendly. Totally recommend to stop by if you have the chance!
From Muntri Street, we could see the Eastern and Oriental Hotel. Curious, we headed there to have a look inside this magnificent colonial building and were not disappointed! The hotel is comprise of 2 buildings; the original wing and the modern one. We walk around and stopped to enjoy tea and scones in a room facing the Ocean – Nice ! We also had a spike into the afternoon tea area and it looks GEORGOUS! You should definitely book a table if you go to Penang.
As we wanted to see other sides of Penang, we left Georgetown in the afternoon to head to Batu Ferringhi. This town is just 30-min cab ride from Georgetown and is located by the Ocean. It is also famous for its night market. Well, unlucky the weather wasn’t in our favour and little to say that there isn’t much to do in town if you dont go to the beach or crash the pool of nice hotels… We stayed one hour and headed back to Georgetown. Would we recommend to go to Batu Ferringhi? NO. Even if it was a sunny day, the location isn’t that nice and there is better things to see around. We would have preferred to go to Penang National Park or to Kek Lok Si temple (one of Southeast Asia’s largest Chinese Buddhist temples),. You should add them to your to-see list if you stay in Penang over a sunny weekend!
We finished our stay in Penang by enjoying dinner at a Vegetarian restaurant in Little India – unfortunately I do not recall the name of the place. It has a prata stand at the entrance, with stalls of already prepared food as well as pastries and it was located in Penang Street. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find it :-).
On our way to get a taxi we found another cool spot, called the Mugshot, in Lebu Chuliah – very nice café with a great choice of food and cool atmosphere! We didn’t had time to get a drink, but we would recommend to go there if you have time.
Overall review of Penang
Penang is definitely a place to go for a weekend away from Singapore. Prefer to stay in Georgetown, as it is full of great hotels/hostels to stay in, and that it is a town that you will want to explore by foot. A perfect place to go for taking the time to walk around, eat and drink coffee in a localiton full of charism.