The first time i went to Penang, was in 2012, i hadn’t decided yet if i was going to move to Malaysia or not, so i needed to explore more before i went back to Portugal. There was also a very “American-expedition” going on that that weekend, but lets keep this PG and go on about Penang instead.
Penang is one of those places that i honestly don’t mind continue visiting. I still feel like a tourist there, even though in my past 3 visits I was the tour guide. You’ll start hearing about “Diana-Graça-Oliva-Tours” in no time!
I think of Penang as a mixture between Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-and-a-hippie-cafe-in-europe. You have a little bit of everything, the Malaysian vibe and beautiful hidden beaches; the heritage buildings and cafes properly redesigned as in Singapore; and the many-many-many boutique hotels, vintage shops, hippie cafes and proper street art as in Europe.
And i believe that it’s this weird mixture that makes Penang my TOP destination for a weekend in Malaysia.
As i’ve been in Penang many times, i think i finally found the best way to visit it, so that’s what i’ll be sharing with you today…
A few important things you need to know about Penang:
It is an ISLAND. I know it has bridges connecting it to the mainland, but its still an Island.
As an island, space is limited for roads and highways (in Penang?… lol). There is basically one road to go from the Airport to Georgetown to Batu Ferringi to Taman Negara. Therefore, the traffic jam is… lets say chaotic!
Taxis don’t use meter. It doesn’t matter how much you argue, or how much you think its not fair. They still won’t use it. And because no taxi goes by meter, the prices are usually standard. So try to agree to a good fee, but be patient. (60RM from Georgetown to Taman Negara)
The BUS in Penang, on the other hand, is great! Super cheap 6RM to do the same distance, air con, and it still goes through the same exact road as all taxis and cars.
So lets do the maths, one lane road for taxis, cars and BUS… Everyone is still gonna be driving behind the BUS. So thats what i always do – take the BUS from Georgetown to Taman Negara (and all trips within that area). Taxis just to go to the Airport, as there is a small “freeway” from outskirts of Georgetown to the Airport.
Given that you now know the basics… you will understand why i believe the best place to stay in Georgetown, actually depends on want you want to visit, and what you want to do.
I would say the best way to do this is to stay in Georgetown the first day/days, i’ve been staying in Boutique Hotels and its completely worth it. Armenian House has THE BEST location, and i can vouch for them. Khim is like the friendliest person ever, and i just need to whatsapp her and we’re ON! Another beautiful place is No 12 Penang Old House, a bit further off the historical centre, but totally worth it!
Another reason why i stay in Armenian House, or anywhere near Armenian Road, is cos you have it all in a walking distance.
For breakfast you should DEFINITELY go to ChinaHouse, its like—the most trendy, fantastic, amazing, blah blah place in Penang. You can go there for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks… and they always have this AMAZING cakes and desert table for you to drool over. Did i mention they also have an Art Gallery on the first floor? Oh.. and a long tail piano in the bar……. This place alone is worth getting on a plane and fly from KL.
After breakfast, you should start your tour, get a map of the street art and go around to find it, go through Little India, the temples around Armenian Road – specially the Ancestral Temple, go to Beach Street, the Fort…..
Make sure you have time for yet another super cool cafe – Mugshot, great coffees and fresh juices, a nice open yard in the centre, and of course, the well known mugshot wall, so you can write your crime, and take the typical mugshot photo.
Once you’ve visited Georgetown and the South of Penang, you should move North, to Batu Ferringi.
The ideal is to book a different hotel, in Batu Ferringi, walking distance to Hard Rock Hotel, because this area has one and very dangerous road to be walking on, you won’t be able to walk around anywhere unless you’re near the Hard Rock.
Last time i stayed in Fifty Five Holiday Guesthouse, owned by a very friendly chinese girl. This is actually her family’s house, that she decorated and turned into a guesthouse. You can use the kitchen, the porch, living room… its like a home! Very close to the the best spot for food, drinks and sunset: Bora Bora Bar, right in the beach. So make sure you spend a sunset and night here.
The beach in Batu Ferringi in my opinion is not nice at all. Its fantastic for sunset, seriously, but not for sunbathing or anything like that. There’s too much boats, jet-skys, and overall not that clean. But sunsets are really worth it, and dinners by the beach. Batu Ferringi area had amazing restaurants and outdoor food-courts, so keep an eye out for that!
To go to a proper beautiful beach, you should take the Bus to the end of that creepy serpentine road, all the way to Taman Negara. There you either hike through the jungle or take a boat (150RM two ways per boat), and go to Turtle Beach.
Its about 10/15 min with a boat, but isolated, its not like Tioman or Phuket, but still beautiful. Its almost private, and its a beautiful place to spend the day. Just make sure you take food and drinks though, there isn’t much around there.
On your way back to the airport, make sure you have plenty of time to catch your flight, the traffic in the end of the day is CHAOS. In case you miss your flight…. Accidentally of course… Go back to ChinaHouse!