We weren’t at all excited about our trip to Malaysia. We’d been having such a great time travelling from Bali to Flores that we were regretting our former decision to make the visa run an extended trip to see a bit of Malaysia.
The morning we arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was raining pretty heavily. We had to get a bus into the city centre from the airport in order to get another bus out of the city to Penang. It did not start so well. The bus ride there was supposed to take 5 hours… However, due to some traffic issues, our journey took about 7. It rained the entire way. I was full of regret the entire way.
We hadn’t booked a place to stay, so when we arrived at the Penang bus terminal we just got little pod rooms for 30RM per night (which is about $7/£5.50). They were not particularly glamorous, but we decided it was cheap and for two nights we crashed in these basic rooms. There was plenty of cheap street food around this area, in the morning we got some delish roti and eggs with a curry dip plus drink for 5RM then jumped on the bus for 2RM into Georgetown.
We had little to no idea what we were really doing, so we decided to walk to the tourist information… However along the way we found the artsy, quirky bit of Georgetown and jumped on a little cycle tour. I wouldn’t usually do one of these, where a local guy cycles and the lazy-ass tourist just sits in the front, but we had no internet and limited time, so we decided this would be fun and a good way of catching as much of the town as possible.
It was indeed a good idea! Along with seeing the key pieces of art around Georgetown, we got an idea of the layout and could the explore on our own after.
As someone not particularly artsy or excited about being in Malaysia, I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this quirky little place. The interactive art pieces, the funny little themes and the overall joyfulness of the places. Put simply, it was just a lovely place to visit. The art is a bit like a scavenger hunt, so there’s a fun challenge exploring all the little streets, loads of quaint little shops and plenty of culture.
One particularly interesting aspect of Georgetown is Harmony Street. This one long road has religious buildings from most of the world’s major religions side by side. We visited a mosque, church, Taoist temple, Hindu temple and Buddhist temple in the space of about two hours and 300 meters of walking. Apparently representatives from each gather every year to walk the street hand in hand to show unity. Rather beautiful, if you ask me.
One thing that should not be missed in Penang; the amazing food! In Malaysia there is a bit mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures… So you can imagine how great the food is! In Georgetown there is a little India and Chinatown. As a vegetarian I went mad for the Indian food. It was insane. The only thing I couldn’t find that I really wanted to try was a vegetarian Penang curry, but I accept that was a tall order!
On the second day we got up early and went to Penang Hill. Again, we took the bus into Gtown, then an additional bus to Penang Hill for another 2RM.
Initially we were going to walk up Penang Hill, but decided to go up the venicular and walk back down. This turned out to be an excellent decision. It was 15RM each way, which I this was well worth it as the walk down was not particularly interesting and was particularly steep in places. It also meant we maximised our time as there’s so much to do on Penang Hill!
There are a few attractions you pay for at the top, for example an earthquake simulator, but we opted to pay for ‘The Habitat’, which is basically a conserved area of forest with treetop walkways and the highest point on Penang Hill, which you can walk around for 360° views of Penang. We paid 50RM for entry, which was a little steep, but the area was lovely and you could see the rest of the forest extending across the other side of Penang Hill, which is being conserved using that fee, so it makes sense.
Following this we visited Kek Lok Si temple, which was another unexpected surprise. It was huge! Probably one of my favorite temples I’ve ever visited. It’s a Chinese Buddhist temple, with some huge gold Buddhas and the highlight of the massive Goddess of Mercy statue overlooking Penang. It’s a really cool spot, with incense burning everywhere and impressive architecture.
So in the end, we were quite sad to leave Penang and could have stayed longer! A surprise highlight of our trip and totally out of the norm for me!
- Georgetown street art. Even for those less creatively minded, this was an absolute joy to visit
- Little India. Foodies. Need I say any more?
- Penang Hill: The Habitat. For nature lovers, this is the one!
- Kek Lok Si temple. One of the most impressive temples I have seen.