From Cameron Highlands, we took a minibus to Penang Island. Penang is a state in northern Malaysia, and also the name of an island with a rich history. It is also known as a foodie town, so you know we’ll like it!
In the late 1700’s the British East India company essentially took control of Penang Island. It quickly became a base of trade and was made one of the “Presidencies” like Bombay and Madras. Under British colonial rule the Chinese presence in Penang grew. During WWII, Penang was heavily bombed and occupied by Japanese forces. After the war, there were movements for Penang Independence, and to join Penang with Singapore, but in the end it became part of Malaysia.
One the eastern side of the island is Georgetown, a colonial gem and UNESCO World Heritage City. It is full of great architecture and great food. We spent our first few nights in an old shophouse converted into an apartment.
We spent spent about 4 days in Georgetown just exploring all its nooks and crannies and of course, its food. There were some fantastic restaurants, and the street food is great too. Here’s an example of a little alley that by day is full of hardware shops. By night the gates go down on the shops and the street food vendors set up.
Our little animal lover found a “cat cafe” so one afternoon we checked it out. Jette had fun playing with the cats, and we met some nice people (Hi Molly!).
One of the popular street food dishes is a fried noodle dish called Char Kway Teow. We ate our fair share of that all over town.
We also found a yummy local Dim Sum joint
We did do much and saw so much, it’s hard to summarize.
Here are some random photos of Georgetown:
Most of the local shops and shophouses have tiled sidewalks, and typically each one is different…
In colonial times, Penang was part of the “Straits Settlements” of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang. In these settlements there were a large number of ethnic Chinese who developed their own culture. They are known as Peranakan or “Straits Chinese.” In Georgetown, there is a large mansion – The Blue Mansion – built at the end of the 19th century by a wealthy Peranakan named Cheong Fatt Tze. Cheong Fatt Tze was a wealthy and powerful merchant, and under British rule was the de facto “mayor” of the local Chinese population. The house was built with the help of a feng shui master, and is built in the Chinese “courtyard mansion” style. It is one of the largest mansions of this type outside of China. Some of the scenes in the movie “Indochine” were filmed here. Anyway, it was really interesting to see, and woman giving the tour around the interior was very knowledgable and gave us some great insights into the history of the building, the feng shui principles that dictated the design, and the history of Cheong Fatt Tze, who was quite an interesting character.
After our days in Georgetown, we moved just bit up and around the NE part of the island to Tanjung Tokong, an upscale neighborhood with lots of high-rise condos and shopping. It’s a popular neighborhood with expats and local alike.
We found a great apartment in one of the high-rises through airbnb, and settled in. There was a great supermarket in the building, so Jette was able to do some cooking and satisfy her cravings for Tex-Mex! Many bean burritos were made and consumed.
We made a trip up to Batu Ferrenghi, a popular beach town on the North side of the island. It is also a popular expat and tourist area, but we found it to be a bit grungy. We spent an afternoon at a Starbucks on the beach doing some work, and took a stroll down the beach.
We went back into Georgetown to explore some fun shops, cafes, and restaurants. We also went to the Sunday street fair where Jette rented a hoverboard and Segway-type thing.
We had lots of fun in Penang. It’s an interesting place with a great mix of cultures.
As in so much of Asia and the rest of the world, malls are a big draw. There are two big malls in Tanjung Tokong. Plaza Gourney has lots of restaurants, a big supermarket, movie theaters, and of course tons of shops. It is a popular place for locals to hang out.
We also visited a local botanical garden – The Tropical Spice Garden.
We didn’t swim, but while we were waiting for the bus, we checked out the beach across the street from the garden.
Penang is a melting pot of cultures, and a very cosmopolitan place. We enjoyed our time here, and can see why it draws so many visitors and expats. I could go on, but we are way behind on blog posts, so I will cut it short (this is short?!) and simply leave you with a few more photos.
Oh, I have to mention Roti Cani – crispy, chewy flat bread served with curry. One of my favorite dishes and one of the things that I remember most from my previous visit to Penang decades ago. There aren’t nearly as many roti shops/stands as I remember, but we found a couple decent ones. Yum!