Penang is one of the most exciting destinations I’ve been to, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its food, street art and old world influences. Here are some of my travel tips based on my trip earlier this year:
Stuck with a small budget? Take a walk along Love Lane for the city’s top hostel picks.
I decided on one of the last hostels at the end of the street, The 80s Guesthouse. The female dorm on the second floor is equipped with four beds and four lockers in a room, plus the softest beds on this side of Penang. It attracts a healthy mix of solo backpackers and couples, but it’s far from being a party hostel. There was even a family staying when I was checked in!
Take note though that the second floor is made of wood and with people coming and going at weird times, it might be a little difficult to sleep if you’re sensitive to noise. The shared bathrooms are limited – four showers and two toilets on the first floor, plus one extra toilet on the second. They can also use some upkeep, but nothing worth squirming over. You can do worse than The 80s Guesthouse so I’d still go with them despite the little lapses.
Penang is known for its street art, particularly those by the Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic. Most hostels will give you a map with the street art highlights and everything is within walking distance.
And because this is Southeast Asia, you can get your fill of temples and mosques. I unfortunately can’t recommend which ones are good to photograph or visit but I passed by a few within the street art trail.
I mistakenly timed my visit during Chinese New Year so the whole Chinese community shut down their stores and restaurants… Which probably makes up for half of the business in the city. I managed to try Tai Tong on my last day and I was so pleased to be the only non-Chinese in the whole establishment. The aunties taking the orders and serving the food were brisk but accommodating. English won’t go a long way here but they’ll get your orders and you’ll be happy in no time.
For Indian food, try Restoran Kapitan near Little India. I ate there twice during my two day stay – once for their chicken briyani that shot my taste buds to death (it was super spicy) and once for their kaya roti and milk tea. What I would do to go back for the former!
Check the famous Cheong Fatt Tze or the Blue Mansion and inquire about the schedule. When facing the mansion take the left gate and not the right gate – that’s where you pay for the entrance. The old man selling the tickets is a bit cranky and strangely strict, you can’t buy the tickets until fifteen minutes before the next tour starts. I kept messing up the schedule so I never got around to the tour but he was kind enough to let me in to take photos from the front garden.
There’s also the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a more accommodating but also busier old house. The first floor and the gift shop gets busy especially if there’s a tour group but the second floor has a quieter, airy space. Go to the balcony and take a breather – I stayed there for half an hour and no one bothered me.
Walk around the city! Wander around Chinatown and Little India to learn more about the two cultures that wonderfully mix in Malaysia. Most, if not all, of the main tourist spots are accessible by foot, so it saves you a lot of money. I only took the bus twice: once from the pier to Love Lane (it was a five minute ride and I apparently could’ve just walked) and another going to Queensbay Mall for the Aeroline terminal where the fancy Kuala Lumpur-bound bus is.
Have you been to Penang? What are your favorite travel memories?