Riding around Penang, Malaysia
There are few islands that should be on your itinerary if you are traveling to Malaysia. I had a chance to be at Penang and Langkawi last year. Redang is another island that is a thriving tourist destination. However, I have dedicated this article solely to Penang.
Penang is currently the most economically developed island of Malaysia. Georgetown, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the capital of Penang. We were in Penang for 3 days and our mode of transport was a scooter. Penang also offers convenient taxis and hop on-hop off buses that you can use to travel around the city. But we ditched the expensive taxis to travel wherever we wanted to go and whenever we wanted to, on our scooter.
But a word of caution for people who drive two-wheeler in the more developed nations: You will have a hard time to adjust the way people ride around in Malaysia. It could be a little risky as riders generally do not follow any lane discipline or traffic rules. It was easier for us since we come from India and we have the same traffic 'indiscipline' in our country.
Some tips while renting a bike:
- Check the condition of the scooter
- Check if the scooter papers are correct and legit
- Check if it has enough fuel to take you to the next gas-station
- Helmets are compulsory, for rider as well as pillion. Helmet for rider is included in the rent but you will be charged extra for a helmet for pillion.
- While returning the scooter make sure you return it with exact fuel you got the bike with (not a compulsion, but decency)
- Take extra efforts to find out on what days will the rental be shut. There could be a possibility that it will be closed on the day of your departure. In that case, you will need to return it a day prior (or loose on your deposit)
After renting a bike the first thing we got on to was to go and buy a cheap, yet accurate Penang map with major attractions marked clearly. Since we were on our own, this came very handy. We wasted less time in getting lost and asking for directions.
While in Penang, we stayed at a warm and welcoming homestay, Baan Talay Homestay, on Jalan Tanjung Bungah. It is on one of the main roads along the coast that connects Batu Feringghi (one of the famous beaches) and Georgetown (capital city). So our agenda for 3 days was to visit major attractions during the day and by evening we would travel towards Batu Feringghi for some peaceful and tranquil time.
The Streets of Batu Ferringhi are a sight in the evening. Hundreds of vendors throng the sidewalk offering everything from first-copy designer bags to pirated DVDs and home decor items to souvenirs.
Tip: If you like something, don’t buy it at first. Have a look around, as chances are, there would be other stalls offering the same goods at much better deals.
You will also find food vendors selling the local cuisine. Penang being a tropical island, you will find coconut vendors aplenty. We accidentally bumped into a Malaysia's special coconut ice-cream. It was served in a coconut kernel (that was cut into half). This kernel had few strands of fresh coconut flesh at the bottom, topped with scoops of coconut ice-cream. We then had an option to choose from various toppings of peanuts, boiled corn, chocolate chips and some jellies.
The only way to reach the top of the hill is the Funicular railway unless you are a resident, for whom the jeep tracks are accessible. One thing you will easily notice is the change in the temperatures as compared to the city below. Hill is on an average a couple of degrees cooler and less humid than the coastal areas. You will get to see the most amazing views of the city and the sea from the top, both during the day as well as during the night. Once on top, there are a variety of restaurants to choose from, a guided tour of the hill, a Hindu worship place, Love Lock Bridge and a bird park.
Kek Lok Si Temple
This is another place from where you can get a bird's eye view of Penang City. There are some wonderful souvenir stores around this temple. I had picked some Laughing Buddhas to gift them to my friends back home. This temple was built in the 19th century and is an important pilgrimage destination for many South-east Asians.
The Blue Mansion
All the Feng Shui enthusiasts will fall in love with this place. Every door, every window, every inch of this building are built based on Feng Shui's principles. The Blue Mansion, a.k.a. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, was built in the 19th century by a merchant known by the same name. This mansion is now converted into a boutique hotel although it is also open for general public to take a guided tour.
The Streets of Georgetown
The streets of Georgetown are full of surprises from beautiful traditional Chinese style entrances of cafe's and bars to street art by various local and international artists. I couldn't help but take hundreds of pictures because at every step something fascinated me and caught my attention. Even the street names were unique and catchy.
Some beautifully decorated doors on the streets.
Penang street art is like a treasure hunt and you will be amazed to see a new one every time you visit the place.
3D Art Museum
The 3D art museum is not a state of the art museum. There are some better ones around the world. But it wouldn't be a total time-waster either. One lazy evening can be spent here while wandering the streets of Georgetown. Some of our fun photos :)
People ask us if 3 days were too much for Penang, and honestly they are not. The days pass by in the blink of an eye. We would not mind coming here again and spending a week's time in peace.