Georgetown Diaries - Penang, Malaysia ~ Updated

*Updated September 28, 2023*
This post has been updated with additional narrative on my fifth trip to Penang.

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.
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.

Georgetown Penang Blog

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).

Georgetown Penang Blog
Chew Jetty
Georgetown Penang Blog
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 Blog
Georgetown Penang Blog
Georgetown Penang Blog
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 Blog
Georgetown Penang Blog

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).
Georgetown Penang Blog

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.

Georgetown Penang Blog
Almost there! - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Cannon
Georgetown Penang Blog
Kung fu girl - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Muntri
Georgetown Penang Blog
Trishaw and the paddler - Ernest Zacharevic | Jalan Penang
Georgetown Penang Blog
Little Children on a bicycle - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Armenian
Georgetown Penang Blog
The boy and his dinosaur | The boy and his motorbike - Ernest Zacharevic | Lebuh Ah Quee
Georgetown Penang Blog
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.

Georgetown Penang Blog
Wat Chaiyamangalaram
Georgetown Penang Blog
Dhammikarama Temple
Georgetown Penang Blog
Penang State Museum
Georgetown Penang Blog
Kek Lok Si Temple
Georgetown Penang Blog
Masjid Kapitan Keling
Georgetown Penang Blog
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.

Georgetown Penang Blog
Georgetown Penang Blog
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.


UPDATE 2023: Penang with our son, Akira

Georgetown Penang Malaysia New Lane Hawker Stalls
It was the first time we felt like everything is going back into how it used to be during pre-pandemic days. It was liberating and exhilarating that Akira now gets to experience our backpacking life at three years old. Just to see him having fun outside of our house and experiencing different cultures and hearing different languages was a far cry from that little boy who grew up scared of what’s beyond our gates. Our son, who spent two years of his life running around the four corners of our house, is now ready to explore the world.
Georgetown Penang Malaysia
When we were planning about this trip, Christian and I considered two of our favorite Asian destinations, Vietnam and Malaysia. We chose the latter because, well, we love Malaysian food and we wanted to visit Legoland ‘coz Akira is fond of building with LEGO bricks. So from there, the planning of our trip commenced.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Christian and I have been traveling together for ten years now and we have this “tradition” of going on a two-month backpacking trip during my annual school vacation. We had to take a break during the pandemic but now, we’re back on it with our three-year old son who’s finally went out of the country for the first time. We aptly called our trip, #BackpackingWithAKid2023.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia Central Fire Station

Penang was our first stop ‘coz we have some loved ones living there. We’ve been to Penang a number of times and what we love about the island is the local food culture and art scene. It made us want to go back again as we have so many fun memories here that we wanted Akira to experience it as well. Plus, we made some good friends through the years and it’s also a sort of letting them meet our son, Akira, and some catching up sesh too.

Penang Best Mee Curry

We had eight days and we didn’t have any fixed itinerary each day but we did got around our favorite spots in Penang. 


We went to Batu Ferringhi and had lunch in one of the famous beachfront resorts in the area. We had an Italian feast and Akira spent most of his time playing on the sand with his sand toys while we did some catching up with our loved ones.

Batu Ferringhi Penang Malaysia

Christian and I noticed that Batu Ferringhi wasn’t as packed as it was before. Some establishments were obviously closed for operations maybe because of the pandemic.

Shangri-La Golden Sands Penang Resort

The beach was almost empty given that it’s a weekend. It felt sad, actually, especially if you’ve been to this side of Penang during its heydays.


There was another lunch where we had a Persian lunch in one of the restaurants in Straits Quay. It was so good and the staff were very friendly.

Straits Quay Penang Malaysia

Akira also enjoyed his meal and we had all the afternoon to catch up with our loved ones. We also did a little grocery shopping and a stroll in the mall afterwards. There are many pop-up cafes and we tried one.


Georgetown is one of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites that haven’t lose its charm even with the influx of tourists. I love how the locals have their own way of resisting change and development by just getting on with their usual day-to-day lives—almost not affected by the tourists around them.

The George Penang Malaysia

We had the chance to have a one-night staycation at The George, one of the newest hotels in Georgetown (I will dedicate a separate post for this).

Penang Food

We went on different trips to Georgetown and each time, we had so much fun exploring alleyways and street arts. We also feasted on local fares such as char kway teow and curry mee.


There’s also this one bus trip to Georgetown where we chanced upon a Filipina who’s working there. She then told us that there are some dinosaur figures somewhere around KOMTAR Mall. Upon hearing this, our son insisted on going there (that was after he was perplexed that someone spoke the same language as ours inside a bus in Malaysia).

Jurassic Research Center KOMTAR Georgetown Penang Malaysia

We found our way combing the somewhat maze-like mall and found the level where there was an arcade.

Akira was ecstatic when he saw some a mini bus that was going around as well as the dinosaur figures. We went around the arcade and other interesting stuff there.

Penang State Gallery Malaysia

There’s also a museum, aquarium, and an animated musical display as well. It was so fun to see Akira experiencing all of these.


Georgetown Penang Malaysia

After going around the mall, we went outside to look for something to eat. We did not bring a stroller with us ‘coz Akira’s not used to riding one. So when he tells us that he’s tired, we listen to him and look for a spot to rest for a while.

Street Art Georgetown Penang Malaysia

What’s the interesting part here is that when he sees a shop where they sell souvenir stuff, he would automatically go in and look at the thingamajigs that catch his eye. Of course, he would talk about the thing that’s interesting to him and ask me questions about it.

Street Art Georgetown Penang Malaysia

We had lunch on one of the hawker food centers in Georgetown and it was also another rest stop for our son. We’re actually amazed on how enduring he was with the hours of walking under the intense afternoon heat. He’s not used in riding strollers when we go out so he’d just ask for a rest stop when he needed to.

Street Art Georgetown Penang Malaysia

We carried on with our afternoon stroll and found ourselves exploring random alleyways. There were times that Akira would lead us to our next destination and we’d be surprised on seeing a random gallery and vintage stores in an alley.


Chew Jetty was busier as compared to our past visits. Plus, around 90 percent of the houses were converted into shops or cafes. This is what I don’t like about touristy places getting business minded and stuff. But yeah, who are we to tell them that they shouldn’t open businesses and we’re the ones who are entering their private lives as if they were animals in a zoo every single day. I digress.

Chew Jetty Georgetown Penang Malaysia


We got to check out the night scene in Georgetown when we had our staycation. And it was fun!

Georgetown Nightlife Penang Malaysia

It was a lazy night when we needed to go out to get some milk for Akira. We didn’t expect to pass by some bars that were filled with tourists. There were acoustic bands playing and some al fresco street bars on the roads and alleys near Lebuh Chulia.

Antarabangsa Enterprises Penang Malaysia

People were doing high-fives with Akira as we go around the bars and clubs in town. We also go the chance to visit our old school Antarabangsa Enterprises beer shop where we score cheap beers in Penang. There were locals and Akira bluntly asked them if they were from Malaysia and as they confirmed, our son mentioned his nationality and other stuff that you wouldn’t expect from a three-year old.

Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Penang is one of those places that we will not get tired of going back to. One of the main reasons is because of the good food and nice people.

Check here for discounted hotels in Penang


  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.

  2. Is there a nice beach for budget traveler?

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


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