Monday, July 3, 2017

Georgetown Diaries - Penang, Malaysia ~ Updated


At one in the afternoon, the sun was brilliant and beaming towards the English colonial houses and shophouses that lined the narrow street. Sweltering under the sun, we found refuge under a tree on the corner of Lebuh Armenian. Trishaw drivers gathered to where we were and started their late afternoon chill out sesh. I cannot make out the words between their conversation, but their laughter and gestures show that they were speaking of something amusing. There’s this old man selling our ultimate favorite noodle dish, mee goreng, and we ordered some, delivered right to where we were. Two cans of ice-cold beer after and then we’re sharing stories with the drivers, a typical day at Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia.

Penang Malaysia
Malaysia has been one of my favorite countries. The rich and diverse culture makes it a good starting point for us including great food tripping. During our Beach Hop Asia 2016 summer backpacking trip, we specifically wanted to go back to Penang for a short 5-day jaunt.

It was my third visit and surprisingly, it was a different experience compared to the first two. But Penang is always charming; in spite and despite of the influx of tourists, the local flavor is still totally predominant. The tourists are not overpowering the locals, but rather, they blend pretty well in their every day lives (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Penang).

Chew Jetty Penang Malaysia
Chew Jetty
Chew Jetty Penang Malaysia

What I remember the most was our getting lost moments around Georgetown, the capital of Penang, which has been inscribed as a World Heritage Site: a road full of shophouses led us to a narrow alley where fresh produce and other thingamajigs were sold on the street, it was filthy, chaotic and I love it; another street led us to a grand garage sale on a park somewhere, we rested on a bench somewhere and were asked by a local to try their local tobacco which used corn husk as its wrap, it was strong but we got to talk about the exorbitant taxes that are imposed to tobacco products in Malaysia;  an alley led us to Lebuh Love where the hippie backpackers were staying, we grabbed a couple of beers and found a little corner where we settled and did people-watching; and at the corner of Lebuh Armenian, we were entertained by the afternoon chill out sesh of the trishaw drivers, we couldn’t understand a word but it seemed that they were having a great time.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

We walked for hours until our feet halted in protest. We explored every alley and street that looked interesting; it was romantic, the getting lost thing. Unexpected surprises would pop up from nowhere. Also, the mere hanging out by a roadside food shack allowed us to feel and experience the cool Penang vibe; that I don’t care about them tourists attitude of the locals.

Food tripping was also one of our favorite things to do which I will explore on a separate post; Little India, Lebuh Campbell, Lebuh Kimberly and more.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Penang Street Art

Partying wasn’t a local thing. Bars and clubs with sky-high booze prices were usually filled with travelers. I was looking for that local party scene that we enjoyed while we were in Siem Reap in Cambodia. We would end up either buying a can of beer from a local convenience store or going to a secret place to get the cheapest beer in town. It was so cheap that locals and backpackers would set up foldable chairs and tables on the street right outside the store and hang out. We would hoard beers and booze the night away (you just have to endure toilet breaks as they don’t have one).

Penang Night Life

We saw a street art two years ago in Penang and learned that it wasn’t the only one by the famed Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic. It was part a project named Mirrors George Town in 2012 where he was commissioned to make 9 murals among key spots in the city. It actually became a tourist spot on its own. We knew we had to explore the others. So that was our instant itinerary for that day. And in doing so, we got to explore Chew Jetty and other alleys that we haven’t been to before. Out of the nine murals, we got to check seven of them. Next time, hopefully it will still be there, we want to see the other two.


Penang Street Art
Almost there! - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Cannon
Penang Street Art
Trishaw and the paddler - Ernest Zacharevic | Jalan Penang
Penang Street Art
Kung fu girl - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Muntri
Penang Street Art
Little Children on a bicycle - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Armenian
Penang Street Art
The boy and his dinosaur | The boy and his motorbike - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Ah Quee
Penang Street Art
Kids and a cat in the boat - Ernest Zacharevic | Chew Jetty (almost faded)
We also did a quick visit to some of the famed spots (as if we haven’t been there); Masjid Kapitan Keling, Kek Lok Si Temple, Wat Chaiyamangalaram (Thai Buddhist Temple), Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, Penang Camera Museum, Penang State Museum, and more.

Thai Buddhist Temple Penang Malaysia
Wat Chaiyamangalaram
Burmese Temple Penang Malaysia
Dhammikarama Temple
Penang State Museum
Penang State Museum
Kek Lok Si Temple Penang
Kek Lok Si Temple
Kapitan Keling Mosque Penang
Masjid Kapitan Keling
Penang Camera Museum
Penang Camera Museum
Staying on a historic century-old hotel in Georgetown, Eastern & Oriental Hotel, we saw this old cemetery across the road. It was a reflex thing, we found ourselves on the gate of the Old Penang Protestant Cemetery and were both amazed that it was established in 1786, goosebumps.

Penang Old Protestant Cemetery

Penang Old Protestant Cemetery
Penang Old Protestant Cemetery (est. 1786)
I dunno if it's the charm of this heritage city or the food, I just love Penang for whatever it is. There's actually no words to describe it, but I do love coming back here.


A photo posted by blissfulguro (@blissfulguro) on

Adding it all up, I’ve spent almost 15 days in Penang, all my trips combined. On our last one, we were surprised that there were still some spots that we haven’t explored yet. Next time, as I know there will more Penang trips for me and my buddy, we will try to explore Balik Pulau, the other side of Penang Island.




UPDATE 2017: Penang with the Moms

Penang Street Art

Just as how I envisioned it to be, we were back again on one of our favorite destinations, for the sixth time around. And this time, we were showing our moms around the historic core of Georgetown in Penang and its great food scene.

It was the fourth year of our annual two-month backpacking trip, Same Same Summer Trip 2017, and although we’ve been to Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and Penang a number of times before, everything felt new as we tagged along our respective moms during the first leg of the trip. We specifically chose Malaysia to be our first stop as we consider it our second home in Asia. Traveling with the moms was fun and challenging altogether as we try to balance out their needs versus what we want. Nevertheless, it was a truly memorable vacation.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia
Lebuh Armenian
Okay, so after a quick overnight trip in Melaka, we went to Kuala Lumpur for a three-day short visit then took a flight to Penang for a weeklong adventure. And just as I promised myself the last time, we explored the other side of Penang Island, Balik Pulau, which I will write about on a separate post.

One week seemed fast as we retraced our steps back to our favorite spots around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown. Our home for four days, Hotel NEO+ Penang, was just the perfect base as it’s perfectly situated in the heart of this historic city.


The moms enjoyed the artsy street of Lebuh Armenian, the now busy shopping area of Chew Jetty, and the great street food at Lebuh Kimberley. At night, we would leave them resting while me and my buddy would go for a drink or two at Lebuh Love or hoard some cheap beers from Antarabangsa Enterprise at Lorong Stewart.

Staying for a night on our favorite hotel in town, Eastern & Oriental Hotel, we showed them the oldest Protestant Cemetery in town which is just a stone throw’s away from the hotel. We then transferred to its sister hotel, Lone Pine Hotel, in Batu Ferringhi for a day of leisure at the beach. The moms also enjoyed the night market in the area.

Batu Ferringhi Penang Malaysia
Batu Ferringhi
Me and my buddy know Penang by heart that’s why we chose it to be the final stop for the moms before they go back home. It was fun seeing them having fun as we made them experience what we usually do while on a long-term backpacking trip; those moments were definitely priceless.



And I know, deep inside my heart, that we will come back again and again, and again.



Check here for discounted hotels in Penang





4 comments:

  1. I have bookmarked Georgetown some five years ago but unt, I haven't been to Malaysia. Georgetown is the main reason why I would like to visit Malaysia. Thank you for this post, I am reminded.

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  2. Is there a nice beach for budget traveler?

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    Replies
    1. You should try going to Batu Ferringhi. It's just a bus ride away from Georgetown in Penang :)

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