Hi there! Here goes my first travel post. I decided to write about my latest solo-trip as the memories are still quite fresh and simply because Penang was everything I wished for and more! Last March, I was still working remotely for a Hospitality/Tech Start-up and had the privilege to work and travel at the same time. Since my friends and family weren’t flexible with their vacation timing, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to travel alone. Why Penang? Well, I was looking to go somewhere cheap, historical and I was long-craving for authentic Peranakan and Indian cuisines. After reading numerous travel guides, I was set on my decision, booked my flights, accommodations, and made sure to note down all the co-working spaces and recommended culinary spots across the island.
Day 1: Trying out local cuisines
Upon arriving, I rushed to check into my accommodation at The Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown and luckily got to the hostel just in time for my virtual meeting. It was too early for me to check-in, but they were kind enough to let me connect to their Wi-Fi. I was overall pleased with the Hostel; decent daily breakfast served with fresh fruits, friendly staff, filtered tap to refill your water bottle (I was so grateful for this as Georgetown was super hot and humid), clean bathroom and a spacious lounge area, where I met so many other solo travelers, some that surprisingly left a mark in my heart. Right after I shut down my laptop, a girl across my table initiated a conversation and was excited to find out I was also on my own. So we exchanged contacts, made plans for dinner and ended up having the next three dinners together. Her name is Anne-Sophie.
My first eventful and memorable moment in Penang happened during lunch. I randomly stumbled upon a street food-court, eager to try my first Fried Oyster Omelette. Only after my food arrived that I realized my wallet was still in the hostel locker. Silly me! Luckily the guy spoke English. I apologized, explained my embarrassing situation and told him my hostel was just a block away (which was a lie, it was at least 4 blocks). I left my water bottle as an assurance that I would be back and in what felt like 40 degrees heat, I sprinted all the way to the hostel. I was so tempted to just leave my Omelette and go to a nearby restaurant instead, but did not have the heart to haha! Although I was greeted by friendly stares and laughter when I returned to the foodcourt, I was touched they still kept my table and food, even when I took so long and the place was packed! Here is the picture of my 4 Malaysian Ringgit Omelette – a bit too burnt I think?
On top of my list was also to try the famous Chendul. The most popular, Teo Chow Chendul at Penang Rd. is known to have long queues starting at 9am. Isn’t it wonderful how we Asians can eat anything for breakfast? Even sweet icy dessert! Haha. I was lucky they were still serving past noon. The verdict? I gave it 3/5. I personally have had much better Chenduls back in Indonesia (we Indos call it Cendol) but it definitely was a bliss during a burning hot day!
Day 2: China House & Love Lane
My second day was pretty chill. I spent most of the day at the coolest co-working space in Georgetown called MSogo. Located inside Prangin Shopping Mall, I was not expecting a grand 4-storeys of working space with showers, nap area, gaming room that has a pool table and arcade machines! Day-passes were quite pricey at most co-working spaces in Penang, but having done my research, I managed to save up heaps by booking free trial day passes from coworker site. For all you broke digital nomads out there, this site is a savior. Yeah, you’re welcome 🙂
After sun-down, me and Anne went to check out China House, a venue comprising of 14 different spaces including a bakery, open-air cafe, restaurants, a cocktail bar, a live-music space, indoor cafe, gallery and shops all in one entrance. All spaces are connected and in-between each other so to get to the open air cafe, which was at the end of the venue, we had to pass through the other 13 spaces. What I love most about this place is that each spaces have their own themes and are so well-decorated. Their bakery served at least 20 different cakes assortments that I had to return the next night to try more flavors.
Sadly, it was Anne’s last night in Penang before continuing her journey to KL. We both initially agreed to avoid the ‘party’ area of Georgetown for good reasons, but since we enjoyed each others’ company that much and did not want the night to end, we gave in and went to the Love Lane. We randomly picked one of the bars where we met other travelers from Germany and United States and were invited to go upstairs where a live performance was on.
Day 3: Clan Jetty, Pinang Peranakan Mansion & Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
The day I was waiting for. It was finally the weekend and I did not have to worry about work. I started my day early and went for a stroll around the beautiful Street of Harmony (where a Mosque, Church, Hindu and Taoist temple are located in a single street) and headed towards the Clan Jetties area. I was surprised that the area was more touristy than any other areas in Georgetown. To get here, I had to pass a small alley and bridge surrounded by souvenir shops. For lunch, I headed to Sri Weld Foodcourt, just 10 minutes walk from the Jetty area and tried another Penang specialty, Char Kway Teow (stir fried rice noodles). As this is one of the most popular foodcourt in town, you would most likely have to share tables with strangers during peak hours. Shouldn’t be a problem though, might even be an opportunity to chat with the locals!
Next destination was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. For just 20 MYR, I was in for a 45-minutes tour around the fanciest mansion in town by the best guide I’ve ever encounter. He was a passionate narrator. I was amused how he managed to bring to life an ancient house from the 19th century and made its history so incredibly fascinating – I mean, it’s really just a house with thousands of antiques, but the way he led the tour was entertaining and educational all at once.
Another main attraction in Penang is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, or more commonly known as The Blue Mansion.The difference between Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and Pinang Peranakan Mansion tour was that for the same 45-minutes and 3 MYR cheaper, you can’t really explore the whole mansion and must stick with the tour group. This is because the building is still in use as a Hotel and they restrict most areas for in-house guest privacy. So in most of the duration, we just sat down and listened to the history of the mansion.
Day 4: Kek Lok Si Temple & Giant Kuan Yin Statue
This was the day I met Liene, my very first Latvian friend 🙂 She told me how it was her first time traveling to Asia, had not really plan for her Penang-part of the trip and asked if she could tag along with my itinerary. And since I was finally going out of Georgetown to see Kek Lok Si Temple, I was glad I had someone to explore with for the day. Me and Liene are 20 years apart, she was a dental hygienist and we had nothing in common apart from having cats at home. Yay! Despite our differences and the fact we just met, we felt comfortable sharing our beliefs and struggles to our deepest secrets during our hour long bus ride. I felt this was also because we were both complete strangers so there was no harm opening up. I learnt so much about life, love, marriage, challenges and happiness of raising kids and friendship from her experiences – things that I never really conversed deeply with my parents. This was certainly one of the most meaningful encounter for me.
Kek Lok Si is an hour bus-ride from Georgetown (catch bus 201,203 or 204) and costs 1.40 MYR for a one-way trip. I was told that this is the largest & oldest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia and was surprised by the vibrant architecture that welcomed us, definitely the most colorful and stunning temple I’ve seen. You could easily get lost here as the main temple complex is surrounded by shrines, gardens, turtle pond and scenic view (as it’s situated on the hill). Also make sure not to miss out on the 30m statue of Kuan Yin that they claimed only accessible using the funicular (which isn’t true! I found a way to walk back down and easily saved 3MYR).
Before heading back to the hostel, Liene took me to Ros Mutiara, a restaurant where she previously indulged a very refreshing mango juice that also turned out to be an Indian and Malay restaurant serving affordable & delicious dishes 24/7.
Day 5: Street Art of Georgetown & Hin Bus Depot Art Centre
Another thing Penang is famous for is its street art in Georgetown. Interestingly, all the murals are tagged in Google Maps as they are scattered all over town. Some tourists actually go on a ‘hunt’ to find all the arts, while I personally did not go on this mission, chose to roam around, captured which ever mural I came across and happily ended up in an art market at Hin Bus Depot Art Centre. What used to be an old bus depot, it has now become a space for the local artists and creative community to gather and exhibit their work.
My (not so) solo-trip this time led me to meet two special kind-hearted ladies and coming back home with a belly that was in a state of great satisfaction 🙂 That’s it for now. Thank you for reading and embarking on my Penang journey! Feel free to comment or shoot any questions my way!