Penang – Weeks 1 & 2

It’s hard to believe we have already spent just over three weeks in the Penang region, we seem to have slotted into life here very easily. Perhaps it’s that we have already become quite familiar with Malaysia as a country before arriving here from KL. The Penang state encompasses Penang Island (which is where we are) and an area of mainland Malaysia. Georgetown, on the island, is the capital and was designated with World Heritage status by UNESCO on the 7th July 2008.

Map of PenangIt’s been so nice to get out of the big city of KL and chill out here by the sea. We have a large, 3 bedroom apartment in a complex built-in 2001, the balcony and bedrooms get the morning sun and in the afternoon/evenings the apartment is slightly cooler and the balcony is perfect for having a cool, refreshing drink on and watching the activity out on the water and along nearby Gurney Drive. We can leave the windows and balcony doors open as they also have screens to keep out what minimal bugs there are – so, so, so welcoming to have the sea breeze after barely opening the windows in our apartment in smoggy KL. The boys are enjoying the 3 different pools, the outdoor playground and the different animals we have encountered just around the water features of the complex; namely fish, turtles, geckos and water monitors.

Here’s is a bit of a review of what we have been up to during our first two weeks in beautiful Penang….

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre

One of the major reasons we booked the accommodation we did (besides the great nightly rate for our longer stay) was due to it’s incredibly close location (500m) to the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. Along with his fine budgeting and Excel skills, Logan is pretty handy at research around the local food hot spots and this one has definitely not disappointed; even if it is a night when not all of the stalls are open, there is still a vast array of different foods to select from. There are over 100 different stalls and while there are a few stalls selling the same style of dish, they all have their own little twist on it and there is still so much to choose from. We have found a few “go-to” stalls/dishes in the last three weeks –

Logan – Char Koay Teow (very famous Penang dish) from stall number 14 or 71.

Paula – Prawn Lam Mee from stall 75.

Lincoln – Dumpling Wan Than Mee (soup) from stall number 68 & chocolate waffle from stall number 43.

Braxton – Dumpling Wan Than Mee (dry) from stall number 68 & chocolate snow from stall number 97.

Find a further selection of tasty eats we have had here on our ‘Food Adventures’ page.

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre

The Movies – Despicable Me 3

Going to the movies is a big family favourite of ours (who can resist the smell of popcorn 🍿) and when we saw that Despicable Me 3 was due for release towards the end of June we decided to wait and see it once we got to Penang. We did some research (of course) and found that Wednesdays was Golden Screen Cinemas cheap ticket price day. There are cinemas really close to us at Gurney Plaza (700m), so we made the quick walk down to the plaza, had a bite to eat and then headed to the movie. It was getting close to full when we purchased tickets, but we managed to get 4 seats together pretty much right in the middle of the cinema. As it was still a recent release, adult tickets were 9.50 MYR ($3.17 NZD) (instead of the cheap Wednesday price of 8.50 MYR) and children were still just 7.50 MYR ($2.50 NZD) – bargain!! The movie candy shop prices were pretty reasonable as well, so we grabbed some popcorn (3 different flavours to choose from) and drinks and headed into the cinema. We hadn’t even thought about it until some of the adverts before the movie were spoken in Malay, but thankfully the movie itself was in English, with both Malay and Chinese subtitles. The seats were large and comfortable and we fully enjoyed the feature film, especially with a few 80’s references thrown in for the adults.

Tropical Fruit Farm

We had heard about this fruit farm (amongst other places) from one of our Facebook followers (thanks May) whose home town is Penang. We found it’s location to be 24 kms further around the island from us, past a huge dam and up a pretty windy road into the hills. The farm is around 1,000 feet above sea level and we had some very nice views as we waited about 5 minutes for the next van to leave for a tour. We loaded into a mini van with our guide and 6 nuns who were out on a “team building” day and headed up towards the farm and the starting point for our tour. We disembarked from the van and began a leisurely walk through some of the 250 types of tropical and sub-tropical fruits they have amongst their 25 acres. Our guide spoke reasonable English and we were very well-informed along the way for the 40 or so minutes of the tour.Fruit Farm_1

Fruit Farm_2
From Plant to Gift Shop

Afterwards, we went into their coconut oil, fruit enzyme and honey production area as well as the often present, gift shop. By this stage it was just after midday and great timing to head to the very impressive and very delicious, (unlimited) fruit buffet. This was all included in our entry price, as well as a freshly squeezed fruit juice of our choice. Entry price for adults was 40 MYR/$13.33 NZD and children aged 5-12 years 30 MYR/$10 NZD.Fruit Farm_3

Fish Spa

Another tip from May, and located in the highly popular beach side spot of Batu Ferringhi. We had made plans to stop here on our way back from the fruit farm and try it out as none of us had ever experienced a fish spa before. We had been dropped by our Uber and made our way across the road to find the front door closed and locked. We called the phone number on the sign and were advised that someone would be over shortly (they live just behind the shop). A lovely lady appeared and welcomed us in; a 30 minute fish spa would be 10 MYR ($3.33 NZD) each. Logan and I were in, Lincoln was a little unsure and Braxton wasn’t keen at all, so he was out. While it was a strange feeling at first, having little fish mouths sucking and nibbling on your feet, it didn’t take long to get used to it.fish-spa_1.jpg

Lincoln manged to let about 3 or 4 fish touch his feet before he spent most of the remaining time putting his feet into the pool only to snatch them back out as soon as any fish tried to get near him again. Braxton spent the time watching through the little windows on the side of the pools and dipping the smallest amount of a toe or finger in a pool.Fish Spa_2We had a great conversion with our host and she was very interested in what we were up to, having told her our background and our awesome world adventure story. The fish here seemed rather tame and didn’t do a huge amount of nibbling, but it was cheap and a good practice run for some of the fish spas I have seen in Thailand where they have loads more little fish that seem a little more hungry. Afterwards we headed over to check out the beach, and while there were a few local kids swimming, we were advised by our fish spa host to not swim in the water and it didn’t look overly appealing when we got up close to the water anyway.Batu Ferringhi

Penang Hill

According to the sign at the top, “You haven’t been to Penang until you have been up Penang Hill”, so we can now say that we have definitely “been to Penang”. We took a trusty Uber to the Penang Hill Station and got out return tickets to ride the funicular (didn’t even know that was an actual word) train to the top – adults are 30 MYR/$10 NZD, students 15 MYR/$5 NZD and children 4-6 years 5 MYR/$1.67 NZD – we thought these prices were really good. You can walk one of the trails up the hill if you so wish, but that can take about 2.5-3 hours and is very steep in places. We didn’t have to wait long for the next train to leave that station and we were pretty well crammed into the carriages for the 7-8 minute trip up. There are quite a few attractions/areas up Penang Hill, some free and some that will cost you extra. We had a really good wander around, took the all important photos, found our apartment block from one of the many viewing platforms, had some lunch and the boys played in the playground while Logan and I checked out the Temple and Mosque. We waited a little longer for our return train and you can purchase a ‘fast lane’ ticket to jump the train queues, but that will of course, cost you extra. All in all we probably spent about 3 hours here and while some have probably been to Penang and not gone up the hill, I would absolutely suggest it as a ‘must-do’ if you visit the area.Penang Hill_1Penang Hill_2

Penang Street Art

I think many people will recognise some of Penang’s Street Art pieces, even if they aren’t entirely sure where in the world they can be found; and like us, when in Penang, seeking them out is an absolute must. We headed into the centre of Georgetown one day, armed with a freely downloaded, Penang Street Art app, and began our journey. Pretty much as soon as we hopped out of our Uber in the central streets where a large portion of the art is, we were offered to be driven around in a trishaw for the handsome sum of 80 MYR ($26.67 NZD) per hour and as there were four of us, we would need two – we politely declined and continued on foot. Shortly after, we received some hardcopy maps and this helped keep the boys interested in our art treasure hunt as the app wasn’t that user friendly. Some of the artworks are more predominate than others, some of the popular ones have crowds gathered near them (thankfully small lines on the day we were looking for our photo ops), some you walk right past without even noticing, some have faded and/or peeled off when compared to the images on the map, some are hidden down little alley ways and some you come across that aren’t on the maps.Street Art_1This art project all started in 2012 when Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic was hired by Penang’s council to breath new life into some of the Chinese shop-houses around the inner city of Georgetown. Many of his works of art also have real props incorporated into them, like bicycles, motorbikes and chairs, and have become quite a talking point with locals and tourists. Many other pieces have appeared over the years and the council also commissioned some steel rod caricature dioramas to diplict Penang’s way of life. It was a pretty interesting way to spend a few hours roaming the beautiful, historic streets of Georgetown, while the boys were also kept interested by the interactive nature of some of the pieces.Street Art_2Street Art_3

Clan Jetty

While we were strolling through the streets looking at the art, we came across the entrance to the most tourist-friendly of the Clan Jetties – the Chew Jetty.  This was somewhere Logan had been recently looking into, so we took the opportunity to add it to the day’s schedule. A very interesting look into a little piece of history and present day; the stilt-houses making up these water villages are over a century old, each jetty is named after a Chinese clan and to this day none of the families pay any tax as they are not living on land. Many of the little houses on the Chew Jetty have little shop fronts where they sell anything from ice creams and sweets, clothing, tourist paraphernalia or homemade local food delicacies (which we gladly partook in as a little pre-lunch snack – very tasty with a little chilli dip on the side 😋). The Chew Jetty has the longest walkway of all the jetties and once we had made our way back to the entrance we stopped in at a local hawker restuarant for some lunch and drinks and then made our way back onto the streets for more art gazing.Clan Jetty_Chew Jetty

As usual, there are plenty more photos on our Facebook page for the majority of things we get up to. Thanks for reading and following our adventures. 😀

– Paula

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