Explore Penang (Malaysia) Like a Local
This guest post about Penang, Malaysia has been written by Vivian Lee as a part of “Explore Like a Local” series. Explore Like a Local is an initiative by Drifter Planet to help you get insider tips about destinations all over the world. Want to write about your hometown? Contact me!
Introducing Penang, Malaysia
Penang has long been recognized as a world-class food paradise, the Penang cuisine is heavily influenced by the Peranakan culture (Baba and Nyonya), same goes to another historic port in Malaysia — Malacca. Penang was also featured in various major media, earning the title of “2nd best city in the world to retire in” and “4th best cities to visit by Lonely Planet”. What’s the hype all about you asked? Well, you have to come here to experience it all yourself: food, culture, heritage, history, people and Penang hospitality! Penang surely will not disappoint.
Where to stay in Penang on a budget
There are a lot of budget hostels all over Georgetown, you will never run short of selections. Price ranges from RM20 to RM40 per night. I highly recommend Red Inn right opposite to Guang Yin Ting temple because it is near to major attractions and it is along the route of the free CAT bus. but really, anywhere is fine. Cost of a bed in the dormitory is around USD 5 and a double room costs USD 11. Click here to book Red Inn.
Click here to see hotels in Penang
Things to do in Penang, Malaysia
Let’s talk about touristy things to do first:
01 | Murals and street art in Georgetown: it is touristy but really, a lot of locals do this too. Rent a bike and hunt down all the street arts in Georgetown. You will be given a “Mural Map” when picking up your bike.
02 | Cafes in Georgetown: A lot of cafes with creative themes start budding out around Georgetown since 2014. I’ll tell you some of my favorite: Moon Tree cafe and Mugshot cafe on Jalan Muntri and China House on Lebuh Pantai.
03 | Pagoda Kek Lok Si: One of the most important iconic building of Penang (other than Komtar), this is a Buddhist Temple built on a hill. You’ll have to “hike” a path linedwith souvenir stalls to get to the temple.
04 | Penang Hill: Come here to take in an unobstructed vista of the city! When you are coming down, try to snag a seat in the first compartment of the cable car and imagine you’re on a rollercoaster.
Others: Snake temple, Botanical Garden, Fort Cornwallis, Gurney Drive and many more.
Off the beaten path:
01 | Take the historical ferry across the Straits of Malacca and visit Butterworth, where good street food can be found in Raja Uda and the best seafood can be found at Pantai Bersih.
02 | Take a Rapid to the north end of the island, Teluk Bahang where you need to trek for 2 hours to reach Pantai Kerachut and the meromictic lake.
What to eat in Penang (and where)
Assam laksa (Thick rice noodle bathed in spicy sour fish soup, topped with a generous amount of raw vegetables), best in Air Itam Pasar
Hokien Mee (Prawn Mee with spicy red pork broth), best at Chew Jetty Cafe
Cendol (Green worm-like rice flour jelly served with shaved ice together with a delightful coconut milk+ palm sugar mixture.), best at Penang Street.
Char Koey Teow (Flat noodles fried on old-school charcoal stove, topped with prawns and bloody cockles), best at Lorong Selamat
Baba Nyonya Kuih (cute colorful Peranakan sweets), you can get it anywhere (all equally good).
Learn more about Penang Street Food on the blog Miss HappyFeet.
What to avoid in Penang
I can’t say that it is a tourist trap but personally, I’d advise my couch surfers to skip the food at Gurney Drive and head to Macalister Road instead. Don’t get me wrong, Gurney Drive is great, it is an amazing place to soak up the vibes in Penang, but I personally think that the Macalister road food court serves better food.
Best way to get around in Penang
The CAT bus is definitely the best way to go around Georgetown, it is convenient and not to mention, free. If you are getting out of Georgetown, take a Rapid bus.
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I am an average Malaysian girl born and raised in Penang, battling a chronic disease of itchy feet. The only cure for it is to keep exploring. In 2012, I moved 4500 miles away from Malaysia to Russia for my education but I often think about my hometown, especially when I’m hungry. Currently, I am a full-time student, part-time online magazine contributor, magazine columnist, and freelance writer. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.