Onto Penang !
This could be the last post for a while. We return back to KL on Saturday and have booked ourselves into a rather lush Airbnb apartment in the heart of the city for three weeks. Our budget is being run dry, so basing ourselves in one place is a cost saving measure really. It also fits in with our ‘slow travel’ philosophy. The idea is to kind of live like a local for a few weeks, cooking our own meals, having nights in etc. Looking forward to it, the idea of calling somewhere home for longer than a week, after four months of travelling, is rather quite nice 😊
We arrived in Penang last Saturday via bus from Ipoh. Travelling in Malaysia is such a bloody breeze compared to India and Sri Lanka, I even look forward to it! The bus dropped us off at the port of Butterworth, which is the departure place to get to the island of Penang, from there we took a cheap ferry ride over to the main island.
The capital of Penang is George Town, a cosmopolitan area within the north-east part of the island. Established (once again) by the East India Company in the late 1700s, it’s considered thee place to visit when heading to Malaysia. It’s fairly near to the border of Thailand so a lot of the backpackers stop here before heading north or south. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2008, we could see why within a few days of walking around GT. The streets are dotted with beautiful architecture, and the feel about the place is quite unlike anything we have seen on our travels. Our first hotel was advertised as being in ‘George Town’ and as it was the cheapest semi-decent place I could find I booked it. Unfortunately, upon arriving we realised it was a good old couple of miles from G Town! Nevermind, thank goodness for Uber eh?
After checking in we didn’t fancy doing anything else apart from having a cold beer! Tired and a bit grumpy from the hotel we took a cab to one of the newest and posher parts of the island called Strait Quays. Built on reclaimed land it offers a luxurious mall, stunning apartments, and a range of places to eat and drink. One of these was a good old Irish bar (there’s always one) which we ended up in for a few hours. Missing some Premiership action, we were hoping the Arsenal match would be shown live, alas it wasn’t, but Steve didn’t mind too much in the end (another loss for the Gooners, ooops!) … the bar was playing some great classic 80s tunes though, I was ready to get up and dance to Wham after one pint! Our tolerance to alcohol is going to shock friends and family when we come back. Two beers and we feel tipsy! It was quite interesting to see how many Western expats/immigrants there were in this area, wasn’t a backpacker to be seen, due to the price of a pint being about £5-6 you could see why I guess.
The last week and a bit have been a breeze to be honest. By Asian standards at least. George Town has a lot of street art around, mostly produced by the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. Ipoh had a fair bit of street art too, you could say it was copying GT but they actually used the same artist for most of the pieces anyway. Some of the art is so renowned that you have to que to get a picture with them. There isn’t so many ‘things to do’ in the heritage area, but just walking around and taking in the history and architecture is good enough. We were caught out again by the sun last week, walking several miles around Penang isn’t best advised – Steve used a lot of aloe vera lotion afterwards! Following this, I came down with yet another bout of the common cold… Steve has nicknamed me ‘Three Colds’ as that is how many I’ve had since being on the trip. I think it’s down to the air conditioning! The perfect cure? Plenty of rest and a bit of shopping 😊
One of the interesting things about Penang is its Chinese connection and incredible importance with how the Republic of China came about early in the 20th Century. We visited the Sun Yat Sen Museum, on Armenian Street. I had never heard Sun Yat Sen before, but he is known as the father of modern china, a revolutionary, fascinating man and history. For only £1 we were able to walk around the ground floor of the house he lived in and read up about the time that Sun lived in Penang and the historical moments that took place during that time. For a country that is almost shrouded in mystery, China really has a unique, baffling, and intriguing history. You just have to dig a little deeper to find out about it. I’ve just finished reading Wild Swans which is an auto biographical novel by Jung Chung narrating both hers, her mothers and grandmothers lives throughout the years. The book is still banned in China, which isn’t surprising, the craziest period of history under Mao and the Cultural Revolution will have you stunned. A must read though, thoroughly recommended.
On Saturday we checked ourselves into a serviced apartment, this time slightly further away from George Town but in a nice suburban area around Gurney Drive. The streets look like Beverley Hills round here, the mansions are HUGE! We got a deal with our apartment because it’s only been open for three months, we’ve been told it’s a ‘soft launch’ before the main opening at the end of the year. Apart from a couple of blocked toilets and leaking air conditioning (!) it’s a bargain, bigger than our old flat back home. Anyway, the defects give Steve a chance to brush up on his facilities management experience for a while! The view from the living room is stunning too, the famous Penang Hills and the botanical garden all in the background, set off with a beautiful Hindu Temple too.
As we’re on the outskirts of the city, we decided to hike up Penang Hill yesterday. There are numerous ways you can reach the top – by train, by foot, by Jeep or by bicycle. The train is hideously expensive for the distance, it would cost as much as it took to get us from Ipoh to Penang! Cycling up didn’t seem much fun, Jeep boring, so we decided to walk through the jungle and do it that way! Let me say now, it was the hardest physical thing we have EVER done. Seriously gruelling. At some points we were actually climbing, using our hands to get up steep parts. We walked up ridiculous gradients, lost our gripping on a couple of slippery slopes… our thighs, calves, and ankles were ruined the next day. It was worth it though, hiking through jungles hearing nothing but the sounds of the wildlife was something I won’t forget, love a good old ramble 😊
So, this is our life for now, with more to come in April. Living in Kuala Lumpar, working on our business, binging on Netflix and The Sopranos boxset (trying to set a record for how quickly a six series TV show can be watched), trying every cuisine available, and asking ourselves ‘could we live here one day?!’
Speak soon Xx
Food & Places
With Penang being a bit more busier and livelier than Ipoh there is a lot more choice available when it comes to food, as well as more options for vegetarian. I’ve yet to find any Chinese restaurant offering anything that is not meat-based, mind!
Sri Ananda Bahwan – G Town has a few streets pushed together and called ‘ Little India’. I love walking down as it feels and sounds like India but without the pollution and masses of people! hehe… the shops are pumping out Bollywood tunes, saris in the shop windows blowing in the air and the whiff of spices floats around. There a few good Indian restaurants to pick from, we settled on this one after a recommendation from our AirBnB hosts in Sri Lanka. Masala dosa glories itself in being the best breakfast you can have.
Sushi Kitchen – another day, another bit of Japanese! This place offered strictly vegan food, which is exactly what the doctor ordered, good combo of both rice, noodles and sushi dishes to pick from. Especially interesting to try warm sushi too, very nice. Oh, and after being in Malaysia for several weeks we can master chopsticks, an achievement that will have no use whatsoever when back in the UK, but who cares!
Yin’s Sourdough Bakery – and on the third day the Lord brought Yin and her Sourdough into our lives! Fantastic bread, breakfasts, cakes, homemade kaya (coconut jam), and kefir (a probiotic form of yogurt drink). What with my gut issues recently this was the natural thing to have, they offered it on its own or within a smoothie, which was delicious! Nice owners too, when saying we were from the UK they pointed us to the picture of them posing with Ainsley Harriot, Yin said whilst pointing, ‘supposedly he is big in the UK’ 😊 Had to laugh.
Gurney Paragon Food Court – as mentioned in one of my KL posts, the food is so good in Malaysia that even the food courts in the malls are fantastic. This food court is seen as one of the best in Penang, it offered so much choice, we walked around for 20 minutes before deciding on something, great variety and best to come too if the hawker stalls on the street don’t meet your hygienic levels. Have been back twice since as well.