I thought I knew what to expect as this was my fifth time to visit Penang. But as we boarded a trishaw for a 15-minute cycle around Georgetown, everything looked somehow different; a fresh look to one of my favorite islands in Malaysia. It felt like it was my first time, as we passed historic alleys and through identical but totally unique shophouses. This was the first shore excursion of our four-day cruise holiday via SuperStar Gemini and it was a unique take on my usual getting-lost-on-the-alleys moments.
Earlier, still recovering from my disbelief that I was actually fulfilling a far-fetched wish, I strutted my way to the top deck of our cruise ship, the SuperStar Gemini, like I was paid to. It was a fun-filled four days together with 13 souls that were invited by Star Cruises, the leading cruise line in the Asia-Pacific region, to experience a cruise holiday.
|SuperStar Gemini, our playground for four days|
Guests at SuperStar Gemini have a choice on the cruise's shore excursions; whether to avail one of the pre-arranged shared tours from the ship itself or have a free and easy shore time by exploring the destinations on their own (just keep in mind that they have a strict call time so you have to be back at the ship on the given time).
|Penang stopover for five hours|
It was actually just months ago when me and my buddy included Langkawi and Penang on our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 summer backpacking trip and I have only the fondest memories of these places. I was only too glad that it was again included on our cruise shore excursions.
It was four in the afternoon, our second cruise day, when we arrived at Swettenham Cruise Pier and disembarked from SuperStar Gemini. The unpredictable weather caught up with us as we boarded our private van for the five-hour daytrip for our first shore excursion in Penang.
|Georgetown on a trishaw|
First stop was Chew Jetty. Everyone converged on the entryway as our guide talked about the history and importance of this certain landmark. The group then strolled their way to the wooden planks and explored the houses on stilts which mostly were turned into cafés and shops.
|Faded Children in a Boat mural by Ernest Zacharevic at Chew Jetty|
I followed the pack and almost veered away to go to the other jetty, Lim Jetty, which was the total opposite of the famous one; no souvenir shops but legit houses. I trailed behind them and noticed that my every visit at Chew Jetty always felt like the first time. More and more houses were being turned into souvenir shops that it felt like the century-old heritage of the place is quickly being replaced with commercialism.
|Where's Mr. Sunshine?|
Our second stop was the famous icon of Penang, the Boy on a Bike by the renowned mural artist Ernest Zacharevic. It was, as always, the most photographed artwork in Georgetown.
|The famed icon of Penang, Ernest Zacharevic's Boy on a Bike|
We marched along the damp street of Lebuh Ah Quee and were led to Lebuh Cannon for a temple visit, the Khoo Kongsi Temple. I was surprised how we can miss such a beautiful temple during my previous trips. And then my buddy mentioned that there’s a RM5 (US$1.20) entrance fee. That totally explained why. haha. We’re cheapskates like that.
|Khoo Kongsi Temple|
We hopped on to the van again and were brought to Jalan Penang, passing by my favorite hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown—Eastern & Oriental Hotel, for our next adventure. Trishaw, a light three-wheeled pedaled tricycle, was the means of transportation during the early times in Penang. It has now been replaced by motorbikes, leaving the funky hybrid of a tricycle and rickshaw to tourists.
We chose our groovy trishaw and started the 15-minute trip. We circled around familiar alleys, such as Lebuh Love and Lebuh Chulia, and it all felt different. I thought I knew Georgetown by heart, but the view from we were, neatly tucked inside the trishaw, was way different from how I experienced it before. I couldn’t distinguish the difference but I know there’s something unique on the ride itself. Uncle, our very accommodating chauffeur, definitely added to it.
|Trishaw first-timer, surprisingly, I enjoyed it|
Shopping and dinner were next. Taste Cafe at G Hotel along Gurney Drive was the venue for our glutton session and as I checked on the buffet spread, I went giddy on the wide variety of Malay and Western dishes. Of course, I filled my plate with chicken satay, roasted duck and mee goreng (my Penang food favorites). And it was oh so good. The fried noodle dish with my choice of toppings (which I loaded with bean curd slices) was so amazing.
|Taste Cafe at G Hotel Penang|
|Mie Goreng is love!|
The next day, we arrived in Langkawi right before we had breakfast. The weather was gloomy, haze enveloping the islands surrounding the archipelago. By eight, we disembarked the ship and headed towards our ride for that day's shore excursion.
|Jetty at UNESCO's World Heritage Geopark of Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi|
|Lush mangrove forests and karst-laden scenery|
We had our lunch on one of the floating restaurants inside the geopark. We feasted on grilled fish and stir-fried veggies while overlooking the peaceful scenery.
Me and my buddy specifically requested to have an hour or so for shopping (advantages of having private tours) as we knew that Langkawi is a duty-free island. Our guide brought us to two shopping centers near Pantai Cenang and splurged on Malaysian coffee and teh tarik which were incredibly cheap on this side of Malaysia.
We went back to the ship at half past one in the afternoon after our shore excursion. At the top deck of SuperStar Gemini, we spent our siesta time, bidding goodbye to the gorgeous islands of Langkawi.
|Last day chill on board SuperStar Gemini|
We headed to Bugis for an hour of shopping time after dinner. I wasn’t really into shopping at that time, so together with some friends, we opted to do some food tripping instead at the hawker food center behind Bugis Street. After shared tales on traveling, we downed our last iced coffees and met the others who seemed happy with their great bargains. We went to Changi Airport and waited for our midnight flight back to Manila.