Malaysia Mondays: 3-4 Days in Penang

11 Aug

During our recent trip to Malaysia, my brother I spent 2 days in Singapore, 3.5 days in Penang, and 6 days in Kota Kinabalu. There weren’t a ton of detailed itineraries out there (especially for KK!), so I figured I’d give the play-by-play of our time there for future internet searchers to stumble upon. Today we’re talking about Penang– specifically, George Town– which appears to be the Malaysian center of cool, quirky, and coordinated bus systems.


Arrival: We got into Penang from Singapore via an easy AirAsia flight. Can’t recall where Singapore is located in relationship to Malaysia?  We have a handy dandy map below. Wondering what we did in Singapore? We’ll get to that at some point.

flight map 2

The taxi ride from the airport to George Town was 20-30 minutes, and we arrived about 730 pm or so.  It was already getting dark and we hadn’t yet fully adjusted to the time change, so our first night in Penang was pretty much just dinner. We checked into the amazing Coffee Atelier and then walked over to Woodlands Vegetarian Indian restaurant in little India (which was delish).  I can’t recommend Coffee Atelier enough– it was clean, staff members were gracious hosts, the included breakfast (eggs, fruit & coffee) was yummy, it’s in a great location, and it is STUNNING. Here’s what our room looked like:

Suite 47 A - living room

Day 1: We spent the morning just walking around George Town–this is a treat in and of itself. There is tons of interesting street art, several quirky shops, street-side temples, and mosques. Definitely take a stop by the Penang Heritage Trust info center near Labuh King and get the color-coded map of George Town. We walked around from about 8-1230 or so and seemed to hit just about all of the highlights. Tourism Penang is another good resource and has lots of lists of street art and street food and festival schedules so you can be sure not to miss anything.







We also swung by Fort Cornwallis for a little Revolutionary Flair:


And gave ourselves a short tour of one of the Jetties, where folks live in stilt settlements:




Afterward, we took the 204 bus to Penang Hill. The bus is clean, efficient, and super cheap–don’t get suckered into taking a taxi. Once you get there, the way to the top is STEEP and LONG–don’t get suckered into walking up; take the funicular.

IMG_1197Penang Hill is most definitely worth the trip–great views, a fun play ground for kids, a temple, an owl museum (yes, really), and a mosque await you at the top. There’s also a food court with several noodle, rice, and meat options– we had a very acceptable noodle dish, plus our first encounter with fruit ice, which is a dessert of shaved ice, fruit, and tapioca pearls (plus some other extras if sugar is your thing)–highly, HIGHLY recommended.


IMG_1199While we’re talking about getting suckered, if you have read the Penang Hill entry in the Lonely Planet guide you will have read about the “hard road” and the “easy paved path.” Turns out, BOTH are paved–don’t get suckered into walking down the ABSURDLY hard road that is a 40% incline for 3 miles. Instead, take the nice path to the left of the Buddhist temple at the top.


Pro tip: if you’re an idiot like we were and try to walk down to the Botanical Gardens the hard way, you can take a trolley through the gardens for RM4 that will drop you off near a taxi stand. They can drive you to George Town for RM25 or to back to the funicular station for RM 30 or 40. But I really don’t suggest it. The Botanical Gardens were nice but not particularly impressive–certainly not worth the walk down that hill.

After our trek, werewarded ourselves with a trip to Teksen. We ordered so many dishes that they had to move us to a bigger table–do yourself a favor and order one of everything. Definitely in the top 3 meals we had in Malaysia.


Day 2: Monkey Beach

After a perfectly lovely morning run along the water, we headed out to Taman Negara Pulau National Park (this time via the 101 bus).


There are a few options for hiking in the park–we opted for the Monkey Beach trek, which is about 3 miles each way.  It’s very well marked and was a really beautiful trek all the way through:






Why do they call it Monkey Beach? You guessed it…


There are some places outside the park to get food that you can bring it, but there’s also a restaurant at the beach that serves up some yummy grilled foods–we went for fish and corn.

IMG_1278 IMG_1279

Pro tip: If you don’t feel like trekking back, you can pay for a boat ride back to the park. Way better pro tip: outside the park are some food stands where you can get this awesome portable coconut water!


After our second consecutive day of trekking, we enjoyed some beverages at the very fancy Seven Terraces. My drink was nutmeg juice, lime, grenadine, gin, and soda–yum!


Day Three: We were so sad to leave the Coffee Atelier, but time waits for no one and neither does Ferragosto. Before we left George Town for Kota Kinabalu, we checked out the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. It’s worth it to get there for one of the two daily tours–we had a very knowledgeable and funny tour guide who gave us some great feng shui tips in addition to history about the house.


IMG_1350After the mansion tour, we strolled through the part of Little India we hadn’t seen during the daylight and sampled some street food:IMG_1387 IMG_1390 IMG_1386We had been meaning to eat a proper Nyonya meal and, as luck would have it, we stumbled upon Aunti Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery. It was beyond awesome.  Please find yourself there.


After lunch, we went for an Afternoon Caffeinated Beverage at Huang Chen Hao Tea House.  A nice older gentleman gave us a lesson on tea, and a demonstration of the proper brewing method, then left us to our own devices as we practiced making tea the “right” way.



And with that, we headed out to KK. We loved George Town and felt like 3.5 days was exactly the right amount of time–we didn’t feel rushed and we didn’t feel like we missed anything. If we had been able to stay up past 10, we would have loved to see some of the night life…but we had to get home and fall asleep watching tv like the 80 year olds we are. Tune in next week for 6 days in Kota Kinabalu–bike rides through the jungle, island hopping, and all the fried freshness you could ever want!


5 Responses to “Malaysia Mondays: 3-4 Days in Penang”

  1. QueijoKef August 16, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Loving the idea (and alliteration!) of Malaysia Mondays! #malaysiatrips

    • cookingupkefi August 17, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks, Queij! I can always count on you to love alliteration.


  1. Malaysia Monday: 6 Days in Kota Kinabalu, Part I | Cooking Up Kefi - August 18, 2014

    […] we are at the start of another week, which means more Malaysia! Last week we recapped our time in George Town (Penang), where the buses are awesome, the street art is cool, and the food is amazing. This week, […]

  2. Malaysia Monday: 6 Days in Kota Kinabalu Part II | Cooking Up Kefi - September 8, 2014

    […] a long hiatus, we’re back! To refresh your memory, we’ve already spent 3.5 days in George Town, Penang and covered local eating options, selfie sticks, and a retro railroad on the first 3 days in Kota […]

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    […] a refresher on Ferragosto, check out this rundown, or the scoop on Ferragosto 2013, or Ferragosto 2014. This is a long one, so for the short version, scroll way, way […]

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