We’ve been back for a couple of weeks so I thought I would put down some details from our recent visit to Penang that I hope may be useful for other potential visitors.
This was our second visit – our first being 5 years ago. You may still be able to find my first trip report from back then. We saw a lot of the “main sights” during our first visit, so this time we didn’t feel the need to repeat those things.
We stayed 7 nights which was a great length of time to enjoy some touring, eating and relaxing.
Lone Pine (I have posted a separate review) was the perfect base for us and we couldn’t fault the hotel at all. I would suggest it for any couple looking for a smaller hotel but with good facilities.
We really enjoyed staying by the ocean (although I wouldn’t swim in it) for the walking along the sand to the beach bars and the amazing sunsets.
We used GRAB for all our transport to and from Georgetown. Every trip took about half an hour, so we may have been lucky with traffic. 18-21RM per trip, however one trip was 37RM apparently due to peak time (7.30am). We had planned to use the bus but we were pleasantly surprised by the affordability and ease of GRAB (having never used this before) – so don’t be afraid to download the app and use this service, it is so easy.
We exchanged some cash on arrival into Penang airport (AUD rate 2.7) and at other times at Batu Ferringhi (opposite Park Royal) and in Georgetown (opposite Goddess of Mercy Temple). We never felt like we were being scammed (as you can in places like Bali) and rates were between 2.86-2.95.
We once again used Morgan as our driver – for airport pick-up and drop-off (60RM each way), and for a one day trip around the island (25RM per hour). I highly recommend Morgan; he is a great guide. (+60 17-403 1294 – use Whatsapp). He will put together any sort of day you like.
Don’t under-estimate the effect of the heat on your plans – It. Was. SO. HOT!! Even the locals were saying it was hotter than usual. We wanted to spend lots of time walking around Georgetown, but a couple of times we ended up doing less than we planned because it got too hot. Best advice is to utilise the earlier morning and evening when it is a little more bearable and take your time. Don’t try to fit too much into any one day. Intersperse a day with trips into air-conditioning (eg cafes or museums).
We visited the Penang Peranakan Museum (20RMpp) just as a tour was about to start, but we found it too crowded & hot with a group so we ended up breaking off and just wandering around on our own. It’s worth a visit either way.
We also went to the Colonial Penang Museum (30RMpp) – it is outside the Heritage centre at Pulau Tikus but worth a cheap GRAB ride if you enjoy colonial history. It is set in an old mansion (interesting in itself) and is really just a large eclectic private collection of all sorts of things! You are taken on a guided tour so you don’t get to just look around yourself.
I took a look at the Teddyville Museum (At the DoubleTree Hilton Resort 36RM) -hubby wasn’t interested lol. It’s more an exhibition than a museum, but if you like cute and cuddly as well as some Penang history it’s a bit of fun for 30-45min to check out and you can take some cute photos with life-sized teddy-bears! Go over the road to the Miami Café afterwards and enjoy the excellent Curry & Roti overlooking the Bay (lovely husband and wife café).
We booked a morning cycling tour with MetroBike (220RM pp). I will post a separate review, but don’t hesitate to book a tour with Ken at Metrobike (+60 12 429 0035), you will have an amazing morning. He can tailor your morning to visit places that interest you and I have to say that cycling around GT is so easy and way cooler than walking! Ken took us to some places we would not have found on our own. We chose his “try and learn” tour and it was so much fun actually getting to try out some of the local trades around GT – including making my own Char Kway Teow at a street stall!
On our day trip with Morgan we headed around the island to stop at a few places we were interested in. We thought we would spend 6 hours out, but it ended up being over 8 – you will spend more time at places than you realise and it does take a while to go short distances so don’t try to cram too much into one day.
Entopia was much better than what I was expecting even if you don’t really love bugs, it’s very interesting with good displays. We spent over an hour there. We printed out a discount voucher from the Penang Tourist website, so entry was 55RM each. (There were a few other discount vouchers on that website for attractions, so worth looking at before you go).
The Botanical Gardens was also a surprise, and well worth an hour wandering around. I was worried about reports of aggressive monkeys, but the ones we saw were not in the least interested in us thank goodness.
If you like a walk uphill, the stairs up to the Waterfall Hindu Temple (Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani – just out of Pulau Tikus) is worth the trek for the temple and the views back to Georgetown.
A highlight of our day around the island was stopping at the fish markets at Balik Pilau and then taking the fresh seafood we brought to a café (Jia Siang) for them to cook while we waited. Delicious, fresh and so cheap. We were definitely the only tourists in this spot! The café is right on the river, and we saw 2 gigantic water monitor (lizards) swimming amongst the fishing boats there. On the road down to the river we also enjoyed stopping at the Belacan Factory to see the Shrimp Paste drying in the sun (Morgan was able to translate for us in both these places as no English was spoken).
We wanted to do the free walking tour (from the Info Centre on Beach St) but when we got there to register it was already full (I think they take max 20 people) so if you want to do this, get there really early (probably minimum an hour before the tour start) to register then go over to the food court for a drink or snack while you wait.
Finally the food, which was one of the main reasons we visited Penang for a second time, and it was as good as we remembered. We wanted to eat as much “street-food” as possible, and we certainly succeeded! I had a list of places/dishes I wanted to try before we arrived. We were disappointed a few times, with places being closed or not being able to find a place so next time we might just wing it a little more and follow our noses or the crowds to the food. We loved all the food we tried and everything was so cheap (to us) we were able to order multiple plates of food for each meal! Happy to go into more detail on the food we tried if people are interested.
A small note that food is pretty abysmal at the airport! We thought we would be able to get dinner after going through immigration but we were wrong. There were only 2 small cafes and one of them only took cash, the other had nasty looking sandwiches etc and noodles (that we ordered) that were horrible. A sad end to an otherwise wonderful holiday! At least we had already eaten our fill over the previous 7 days.
Well that’s all I can think of at the moment, but happy to answer any questions anyone has.
We will come back to Penang again and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 5 years!