Tuesday, August 4, 2015

TRAVEL LOVE: Penang Chronicles




A lot of things can be said about Malaysia, but you have to agree with me that their food is simply awesome. Why not? Bring three ethnicities under one roof and you get one of the most diverse, most flavorful cuisines in the world. Malaysian cuisine's influence include Chinese, Indian and Malay. The complex combination of herbs and spices, the layers of flavors and the thousand and one ways of preparation will leave anyone wondering when the next meal is coming.

I love eating, and I love talking about food. It is through these food chats that I learned about the foodie haven that is Penang. According to my colleagues, KL food are no match with what Penang has to offer. Mind you, I like KL food a lot. So if KL was able to win me over, then I thought Penang might be able to convince me to marry him. ;) I booked a weekend solo trip to test this theory, and boy was I happy! Penang food is indeed good. Damn good. But the fact is, food is just one of the things that Penang should be proud of.

I stayed mostly in the state's capital, Georgetown. Armed with a map, a camera, and insider tips from my Air BNB hosts, I walked my way around the city and got a taste of authentic Penang food and their quirky, artsy streets. I just stayed for the weekend so I could only cover so much. I reserved the rest (mainly beach strolling in Batu Feringghi) for my next visit with my housemates and boyfriend. :)




Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown, Penang
Here are some tips to hopefully help (entice) you to visit this artsy state:
  • Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Penang is less than an hour. Bus however, will take minimum of 5 hours. For short trips, I suggest flying to save time and energy.
  • Subscribe to Air Asia. They have endless seat sales to Penang. I got my return tickets for only RM 109 (Php 1,300). Bus is about RM 40/way (Php 480). The extra RM 20-30 is so worth it.
  • From the airport, board bus number 401E for about RM 3 (Php 36) and alight at KOMTAR Shopping Center (where the bus terminal is). Prepare small bills as you need to pay exact amount and there's no change available. From KOMTAR, you can either walk (15-20 minutes), board the free shuttle that goes around Georgetown (CAT bus) or take taxi. I took the CAT bus which brought me to Penang street (Jalan Penang) and walked for 5 minutes to my hostel near the famous Love Lane (where you will find boutique cafes and small but interesting restaurants)
  • Weather is crazy hot in Penang. Hats and sunnies are musts. Wear light clothes and bring a towel. Don't forget to apply sunblock. It's the number one beauty essential!
  • Do your homework, do some research and ask the locals. You'll get the best food from the hawkers and hole-in-the-wall places and not from the fancy restos. Much cheaper too.
  • Penang is backpacker friendly. Georgetown is beaming with hostels - from the very basic (and dirt cheap) to fancy and unique. I booked Dream Catcher Travelers Refuge via Air BNB. I got the private room with AC for only RM 70 (Php 840). The location is superb, right smack in the middle of the happenings and interesting places in Georgetown, and my hosts Ranee and Naz are really wonderful. Friendly and helpful but not intrusive at all. The alleys can be a bit dodgy at night, so exercise caution
  • Food that you shouldn't miss: Asam Laksa, Char Kuey Teow, Cendol, Mee Prawn, Nasi Kandar
Penang Road Famous Laksa. Starts at 6.50 (Php 78) 
Fish-based noodle soup that comes with shredded fish (sardine or mackerel or both) and vegetables such as cucumber, pineapple, onions, red chilies and lettuce. The gravy includes tamarind juice, more chillies and lemon grass. When served, the dish would be topped with a tablespoon of prawn paste.

Kuey Teow. Get it everywhere. It's the number one hawker food! Starts at RM 6.50 (Php 78)
"Stir-fried ricecake strips", the noodles are fried with pork lard, dark and light soy sauce, chili, de-shelled cockles, bean sprouts, Chinese chives and sometimes prawn and egg. This is my most favorite Malaysian dish by far. In KL or in Penang, I've had to stop myself from ordering this on a daily basis. 

Penang Road Famous Laksa and Cendol at Lebuh Keng Kwee. Starts at RM 5.50 (Php 66)
Cendol usually consists of the conspicuous green jelly noodles immersed in shaved ice mixed with coconut milk, gula Melaka (palm sugar), and kidney beans. Some stalls would enhance the dessert by adding in chunks of pulut (glutinous rice), sweet corn and nuts. A sweet treat on a especially scorching hot days. 
  • What to do in between eating: Take a walking tour and find the best street arts for free. Visit the clan houses and century old temples. There's also some interesting museums, some free, while others charge minimal fees. Love pets? Visit the Purrfect Cat Caf√© and meet the naughty residents. My favorite is the Scottish Fold Grey cat, Bear.
Indian Boatman
Bruce Lee 
St. George Church
Camera Museum

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
 
Hello, naughty Bear!


Have fun in Penang! I did. :)

Much Love,
Dang

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