The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Penang went beyond expectations. We booked a bus ticket online and went to the bus terminal. The KL terminal is felt like an airport. You must check in yourself on time and if someone is late or missing, the name will be called out. We found our bus easily, which we ride for 5 hours, quite easily. Halfway the bus driver made a lunch stop. Our bus final stop was near the harbor at a bus terminal that was also connected to the harbor by a tunnel. So we went straight to the harbor to get there on the ferry. The ferry ride was short but exciting. Despite the large bridge between Penang Island and the mainland of Malaysia, the ferries also run every half hour.
When we arrived at Georgetown, we had to walk one kilometer from the harbor to our hostel. Our hostel was located in the Indian district. The house was rather modest and unfortunately, we had a room where there was no window. But we were able to sleep well there every night because of the blindness of the room perhaps. Perhaps the reason also was the existence of an air conditioner. Despite modest conditions, the owner and staff of the hostel were very friendly and, although there was no official breakfast there, every morning there was a local snack for everyone in the kitchen. One evening, the host of the house also invited the hostel guests to dinner. We could taste the wonderful vegetables and chicken curry and get to know other hostel guests. Funny, we once again got to talk to a Finnish couple for a long time.
We had planned to stay in Georgetown for 3 days. While there, we even regretted our decision that we had so little time for being there because it was a truly multicultural center. There is a well-known UNESCO-listed old town, the already mentioned Indian district and China town, and a variety of Buddhism, Hindu temples, mosques and churches. So, it took us a day to admire all these nice buildings.
Walking in the Georgetown suburb is also fun with colorful street art. For tourists, it offers a lot of fun, as many works of art are made so that the tourist can nicely pose in the middle of the masterpiece and be part of the art. We couldn’t go through all the major street paintings, but some photos we still took 🙂
Georgetown is, of course, a historically known port city. So we also walked to the area that has become a tourist attraction, but the same areas are still local fishing boats and many families still live in wooden houses built on top of the quay. Therefore, tourists are also politely asked not to visit this area after 5 pm.
All of this multicultural life has also made Georgetown known as one of the best places in the world for good food lovers. There are tourists who just go there to enjoy food. So we tried to get an idea of the most important local dishes and taste one or the other. We also visited the Food Museum, which was a fun experience. We first learned of Malaysia’s long-lasting food culture and why locals love to eat so often. It is said that they eat up to six times a day. On the other hand, the museum was made quite enthralling, and we took a lot of funny pictures.
Like in Kuala Lumpur, we ate mostly in local hawkers, and we managed to taste, for example, Laksa (full-bodied coconut soup with fish), fresh spring rolls, oyster omelet, roti canai (special tortillas with spicy sauce), sheep curry, fried noodles, and rice, etc. From Malaysia, we took several recipes to try out at home.
On the last day in Penang, we rented a scooter to discover the island outside of Georgetown. First, we went to see Kek Lok Si Temple, one of the best known on the island, across Malaysia and also in Asia. It is also an important center of pilgrims throughout Asia. It could take a whole day to see the temple thoroughly. We just made a short visit and we saw the statue of the forgiving god, of Kuan Yin, which is over 35 meters high.
We thought that we could ride in peace around the small city next to visit the Temple of the Snakes. It turned out, however, that the suburb is quite big and busy and extends quite far. At least we did not understand where one city started and the other ended. The Snake Temple is quite tiny, and within 30 minutes exploring, you see everything there. The temple is famous because there are venomous vipers living there and they are displayed at and over the altar. At first glance, one might think that it is a statue of the snakes because they do not move much. However, there are numerous signs that they are poisonous snakes. They are said to live freely there and most of the time they sleep because incense burns in the temple make them drowsy. Once again, Jaanus was very excited about the snakes.
Further on, we discovered that the other side of the island was much less populated and calmer. There is also an exotic fruit farm that we visited next. Our guide was surprisingly from Libya and knew Estonia because of the fact that our bike tourists had been victims of kidnapping there years ago. As a guide, he was very good and we basically got a private tour through the different parts of the fruit farm. All the fruits that were ready we could also taste. There were many that we had never heard of before. But at least as exciting was to find out that pineapple and banana plants give only one fruit during the lifetime. The coconut tree starts to grow directly from the coconut nut when placed on the soil, etc. This farm also produces delicious coffee-taste honey. So, they grow coffee trees there only to make the bees come there and to have the honey taste like coffee.
At the end of the day, we decided to visit one of the local beaches and drive passed the floating mosque. We had read that Penang’s beaches are not the most beautiful. However, the beach we visited was pretty beautiful and clean. We dipped in the water and cooled ourselves a little not to get the heatstroke. The temperatures in Penang were even higher than in KL. So we were sometimes in trouble to cope with the heat.
All in all, we liked Penang very much, and we dare to recommend it to all those interested in travel to one really special place. We never felt uncomfortable coming from a different cultural space there. It is a real wonder how many different cultures in one area can peacefully exist and form such a nice multicultural and colorful city and the island.