Our journey to the port was a rather stress full one. The day before we had booked the transfer to George Town, Penang at one of the travel agencies on the Cenang beach strip. We had bought tickets to pick us up at 9am in time to make the 10:30am ferry. By 9:40 me and Louise were starting to worry, we had never been picked up THIS late for a transfer. We decided that we should walk into the town with our bags to the travel agent to sort it out because the telephone number on the ticket wasn’t being answered. Just as we were kitting up to march into town, the man from the agency pulled up in his own personal car, and informed us he would be taking us to the port. He said that the the driver wasn’t answering his phone and therefore it had to be him. We chucked our bags into his boot and within seconds we were flying down the dual carriageway to the port. We arrived at 10:20am giving us enough time to run through the port and get onto the boat. This part of the journey was rather stressful so sitting down on the ferry was a relief.
Once we pulled into George Town, 2 hours later, we started the walk to our hostel. Relying on “maps.me” for directions, Louise guided us to our hostel “The Rope Walk Guesthouse”. This was a cool accommodation with small courtyards, a kitchen and a nice common room. But in true L&S style we dropped our bags and went to explore the surrounding area. On this first journey out we found the coast, where palm tree fringed hotel gardens meet the sea. On our way back we passed through Little India for the first time. With Bollywood music playing from every shop, glitter covered sarees hanging and samosas for sale at every corner, Louise and I were loving it. We bought a samosa for the equivalent of 40p as our lunch and ate them as we continued to wander round and take in the atmosphere. We spent a few hours dipping in and out of various shops before heading back to our hostel. We decided that for dinner we would try out the “Red Garden” this was a type of hawkers where street stalls are found all together with shared seating area. The food was so cheap and delicious. Not only this but you could trial food from multiple stalls while sitting in the same place. E.g. Try one sushi dish, a Malaysian noodle dish and an Indian Naan.
Day two in Penang we caught the bus to Air Itam in order to see the Kek Lok Si temple. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and it didn’t disappoint. The temple spanned over a huge area with lots of smaller sub sections for worship and prayer. Unlike the more popular temples in Thailand, this one felt more authentic. The temple was clearly still in use and hadn’t been ruined by tourism and commercialisation. We were at the temple during morning worship. This meant the main pagoda was filled with visitors, all chanting in time with the monks and joining in the act of worship. It felt very special as everyone was so absorbed and invested in the worship. The temple was also found on the hillside creating great views over the town. Once we were happy we’d seen everything we wanted to walk back into the town where the street was lined with market stalls for lunch. After this we decided to explore Air Itam (the town surrounding the temple), before heading back. We walked down the street where I tried the traditional spiced ice tea… it wasn’t very pleasant. But when else would I be in the position to sip overly sweet, spiced tea from a bag? After we had exhausted ourselves strolling the streets we decided it was time to head back to George Town.
For dinner we went to a well revised Indian restaurant where Louise and I bagged ourselves a HUGE feast of Indian food. I had a dosa, with a vegetable curry while Lou had a chickpea curry with roti, and samosas. This whole meal was 20RM which is less than £4. It’s crazy how cheap, and yummy food is here!!
On our way home we went to see our friends Tabbie and Olivia (the girls we made friends with on our way to Langkawi who arrived in George Town the night before we did). When we arrived at their hostel, Tipsy Tiger, we joined in the partying. From here we went to “Beer Corner”. This is a liquor store, with plastic seating outside. This is where the the travellers of Penang congregate of an evening as it’s the cheapest place to buy beer in town. When we arrived I instantly spotted Asbørn sat amongst the groups of people. This meant that the full gang were all reunited, after journeying to Penang separately. We continued to chat and meet new, interesting people from all around the world!
The morning after was a rather slow one after our late return home the night before. We decided to stay in George Town and see the sights close by. We walked to Khoo Kongsi, which is a traditional Chinese Clan house. It was beautiful and ornate but also a bit of a different style with the Chinese influence. From here we walked to the Chew Jetty, renowned for the housing built on stilts (usually stacked on cement filled, plastic buckets- it’s Asia, anything goes). They form a neat walkway out into the sea. These are people’s homes, businesses and places of worship, a fully functioning community, giving us an insight into such an interesting way of life. After the jetty we walked to see the “Blue Mansion” which is a known common sight in George Town. Apart from being almost entirely blue it was relatively underwhelming. The day was rounded off by a night of birthday celebrations for Louise’s 19th. We went again to Tipsy Tiger and partied the night away with the whole gang!
On Louise’s birthday we booked a fancy hotel for the night as a treat. We walked with our backpacks to the hotel and left them with the concierge. Yes, the concierge, it was that posh. We then went to the roof top pool to spend the day, relaxing and living the life. As soon as it was time we could check in we went up to our room where luxury awaited. Our room came complete with towel robes, mini toiletries, free mini fridge and NOT bunk bed, normal twin beds!!! We pampered ourselves and took long hot showers, blasted out music and danced around the room as the sun set. The city’s lights slowly turned on as the sun went down leaving a twinkling skyline across the horizon. For our dinner we went to a vegan sushi restaurant, where we met Olivia and Tabbie to celebrate. We bought multiple dishes to share. They were all delicious and very different to the oily fried food so common else where in Thailand and Malaysia. We then went for one drink with the girls and played some card games. We didn’t stay too late as we wanted to take advantage of the big comfy beds at the hotel!
In the morning after Louise’s birthday we checked out of the hotel and moved our luggage to a different hostel in George Town for our final night! As usual we dumped our bags and set off on our days activities. We took the bus to the north of Penang island up to the national Park. Louise and I trekked to turtle beach, which was a tiring 1h30 hike up and down over difficult terrain. When we arrived at the beach we discovered that what I had thought were logs, and Louise thought looked like otters were actually big, swimming, lizard animals. This took the temptation out of taking a plunge. We were sat a safe distance from the water when we spotted Asbørn and Anton striding across the sand towards us. It’s crazy, we couldn’t stay away from these lot of we had tried! It was lovely to sit and catch up as a group on their activities in the city. Once Louise and I had recovered enough to stomach the trek back we left the boys on the beach and headed back into the jungle. The hike back was more intense than the way there as the sun had come out, turning the jungle into a sweltering mass of leaves and trees.
We popped back to our hostel and moved into our room where we quickly made friends with all our room mates. This meant the for dinner Louise and I brought along our 3 other room mates to meet Tabbie and Olivia who had also bought along a couple of their new pals too. This meant that dinner became a group feast at “Red Garden”, before we all paraded back to Tipsy Tiger for another night partying with our new friends.
We LOVED Penang as a whole. We spent 5 nights there which meant we could really get to know the place and settle in, find the best eats, drinks and sights. Penang has everything you’d want in somewhere to live. A 1h bus ride to the jungle, little India, china town, shopping malls, cool bars and restaurants and a short ferry ride to the beach paradise of Langkawi. Sounds good right? It was made all the better by having all our pals there to enjoy it with.