We arrived at the Butterworth train station at 5am in the middle of a tropical rainstorm! As all backpacking travelers do, we laid on our bags inside the train station waiting room and waited the storm out alternating between cat naps, doing homework, and playing games. Finally at 8am we caught the ferry across to Penang island in the middle of a drizzle.
Word of advice, when looking at a map of where your hotel is, always take note of the scale of the map. That’s something I always do…. except for this time I failed. After some breakfast at a nice outside hawker stall, we decided to walk to our hotel. BIG MISTAKE. An hour and a half later, we were forced to take a break after questioning several people on the location of Lebuh Sungai Penang 3 were met with puzzled looks. I left the wife and kids at a large hawker market to fuel up while I continued onward to where people thought that street was. I returned having found the location of the street, but not our hotel.
We elected to forge onward and found a Starbucks in which we could employ the services of free Wi-Fi and Google Maps. Yup, the Vstay 2 Guesthouse should be right there where I walked by 3 times. Tia and I decided to take another look. “Daddy! It’s right there! Number 72 like Mommy said!!” Ugh. They were right. Big numbers on top of the building, 72. But no sign. We checked in, threw our bags down, and passed out for an hour or two (figuratively).
Penang Day 1
After some much needed rest, we caught a bus into Georgetown, back to the ferry terminal, or Jetty. First stop, hawker stalls just past Cornwallis Fort along the water called “Esplanade Food Center”. One of the greatest pleasures my wife and I have when traveling is sampling all the food. We almost never go into a restaurant where we see many other foreigners. We sometimes even ask locals “where do you eat?” or the person behind the counter “what do you eat?”. We ended up with a rather large plate of BBQ clams dipped in a sweet peanut sauce. Hmmmmmm.
Finding food the kids will eat while traveling can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately in Asia there’s enough places to find some kind of fried rice, rice with chicken or pork, or noodles with meat for the kids to eat.
Penang Day 2
We got a bit of a late start after having breakfast at the guesthouse and headed straight to Little India in Georgetown Penang. I had read about a North Indian restaurant in our trusty Lonely Planet guide book that has a great lunch special, Madras New Woodlands Restaurant. For less than $2 each we got 2 set lunch dishes… bread plus 6 small cups of various vegetable curries and yoghurts! That plus a few drinks and (yup) fried rice for the kids, lunch was about $10… AND WE WERE STUFFED. It was very delicious… we went back 2 days later. 🙂
We walked around Little India for a while and found lots of great street food snacks that we all loved to eat while we continued walking.
For dinner we walked along Gurney Drive along the north shore of the island. After a brief stop at a ‘natural’ water park to cool off, we kept walking to the end of Gurney Drive to the infamous Gurney Drive Hawker Stalls.
We had the best Laksa we’ve ever had here from Stall #11!!!! WOW, it was delicious. I just wanted to drink the soup! After dinner we had Ice Kechang with Ice Cream.
Penang Day 3
Today we decided to take a trip to Penang Hill. First, an early dum sum lunch in Georgetown (we were the only foreigners in there… just the way we like it). Again, delicious!
Wanting to both save some money and see a bit of the various neighborhoods around Penang, we opted to take the bus that takes about 45 minutes to get to the base of the hill. Then we rode the very steep (I mean, wow, very steep) tram up the hill to the top.
It was very beautiful at the top with stunning views of Penang island and Georgetown. Unfortunately it was a bit hazy… and at one point it got very foggy including a quick downpour.
We walked around for a while and saw lots and lots of monkeys! (see Tia’s post about the Monkey Fight here). After spending about 3 to 4 hours on the hill, we took the bus back to Georgetown and stopped off at Chinatown to eat at the Red Garden Food Paradise & Night Market. As far as food stalls go, this was way too touristy for us. We ended up with about 12 plates of Dim Sum plus (you guessed it) some fried rice. The food was very good indeed, but I don’t think it’s a place we’d need to go back to.
Penang Day 4
Our final day in Penang and we headed right back to Madras New Woodland Restaurant for another round of lunch specials. Again, they didn’t disappoint. After lunch, some Indian street snacks, and more walking, we opted to take the Penang Free Bus (CAT) that goes around key points of Georgetown in a 45 minute loop. Actually, the wife and kids took the bus around while I went to the Malaysian Train ticket counter to clear up our train tickets (more on that later). When they returned, I hoped on and we took the bus to the half way point and got off to try some Chendel then dinner at a small Chinese restaurant. More Laksa and fried rice. Hmmmm.
We finished the night off with some Rojak dessert at the hawker stalls near our hotel.
The food in Penang did not disappoint. It was by far the best food we’ve had to date on our trip. Not that Singapore nor Kuala Lumpur didn’t have great food, they did, but Penang was just a step above. We had more food than what’s listed above, but these were the best of the best we sampled during our 4 days in Penang. Now off to Thailand!