After a great time in the Highlands we returned to the coast, taking another bus several hours north to Penang Island. The large island is connected to the mainland by several bridges over the narrow Penang Strait.
Located to the northeast of the island is George Town, which is the second largest city in Malaysia and we decided to base ourselves here during our visit. Much like Melaka, the city’s historic Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is full of narrow streets and colonial style buildings.
The city is also well known for its collection of street art, and we begin our visit with a self-guided walking tour around all of the most popular artworks.
The majority of these were created by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, and were commissioned by the local authorities in an attempt to bring the city’s rich history to life. They have become a popular tourist attraction, and there was clearly lots of other people doing a similar tour of the city.
We continued our walk to the nearby Weld Quay, which is another area of the city that is steeped in history. The quay is home to six wooden jetties which were built by Chinese migrants in the 19th century. Each is home to a different clan, with many people still living on the jetties to this day. We visited Chew Jetty, which is the largest and busiest of the six. We wandered past a number of restaurants, stalls as well as a temple before arriving at the end of the walkway where we could see across to the mainland.
Later in the day we visited Tan Jetty, which was much quieter and felt far more residential. We reached the end of the jetty just in time for sunset, after cautiously stepping along the rickety wooden walkway while being genuinely concerned that we might fall into the water.
George Town has a reputation as the culinary capital of Malaysia, and we were not disappointed. We visited several Western style coffee shops, including Mugshot Cafe where we had a great lunch. As with elsewhere in Malaysia there was a wide array of street food on offer. We were sure to sample as much as possible, with the highlight this time being some tasty vegetarian samosas.
In the evening we wandered along the busy Love Lane which is lined with cafes and bars, before having dinner at Tai Tong, an extremely popular dim-sum restaurant located in Chinatown. The friendly staff had limited English, and we weren’t always entirely sure what we were eating. However, it was all delicious, with an unusual crispy noodles and gravy dish being our favourite.
We decided on a more relaxing second day in Penang, taking a trip to the popular beach resort of Batu Ferringhi which is located on the northwest of the island, and a 30 minute taxi journey from George Town.
We discovered that the Park Royal Resort sells day passes for use of their pool and other facilities, and we decided to do this rather than spending the day at the beach. The passes cost us RM52 (£10 each), with RM32 of this given as credit for purchases at the hotel’s beach bar.
The huge five star hotel was quite a change from the hostel we were staying in, with a grand lobby as well as several swimming pools and restaurants. We immediately found some perfect sunloungers on the edge of the larger pool, and made ourselves comfy.
After an incredibly relaxing morning, we enjoyed lunch at the hotel bar where we found a great table overlooking the beach. We decided to walk off the food with a stroll along the beautiful and almost empty white sand beach.
It was yet another warm day, and we were soon back by the pool where we spent the rest of the afternoon. We stayed as long as we could before begrudgingly leaving and taking a taxi back into the city.
It was great to relax after an action-packed start to our time in Malaysia, and we were hoping the change of pace would continue at our next stop, on the small island of Langkawi.