My journey in Malaysia started on mainland. Click here to read part 1 of my Malaysia travel blog.
It takes us about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Ipoh to reach the Penang bridge. The toll bridge is about 13.5 kilometres long and connects Perai (mainland) with Gelugor on Penang island. We literally cross the Penang Straight. It is cloudy outside, a bit grey… The views are not that great and it is difficult to take photographs while being on the bus. In just a few minutes we arrive at Penang.
Penang is known as the Pearl of the Orient and has been loved by travellers from all over the world for over 200 years. Since 2008, Penang has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it does have quite a few treasures. Once we drive into Penang halfway the afternoon we see how popular the island is. Plenty (and big, high-rise) hotels can be found on the island and more are being built; the island is very touristy. Penang has a different atmosphere from the mainland. The reason for this is that the island feels more Chinese than it does Malaysian. But we are still in Malaysia though!
We drive towards the north of the island, to Batu Ferringhi. It is the number 1 beach destination in Penang, for both tourists and locals. The Batu Ferringhi Beach is about 4 kilometres long and on this beach there are quite a few high-rise hotels, including the famous Hard Rock Hotel. This part of the island is the perfect holiday destination for a lot of people. It reminds me a little bit of Bali. So why is this part of Penang so popular? Well, apart from the beautiful resorts, where you can relax and enjoy the beach, you can also do various water sports at this part of the island. From Batu Ferringhi it is just a quick drive to Georgetown, which most tourists will vist and Batu Ferringhi is famous for its night market and the many restaurants who serve delicious food.
We will stay in the Golden Sands Resort. I normally do not really like high-rise hotels, I prefer to stay in small accommodations on quiet locations. But I do understand why people choose to stay in hotels like these. You can sleep, eat, drink, relax, lounge, shop, visit the spa or gym, etc. If you are tired and want to relax, you do not need to go outside your hotel, because all is there! Upon arrival we check in and have some free time. Since the sun has come out a bit, we hurry to the beach that is right outside our doorstep. We find ourselves some sun beds, go for a swim in the wonderfully warm sea (our first swim during this trip) and chat away.
We get changed for dinner, but first we get a tour around the hotel and the luxurious sister hotel, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, that is right next door. The gardens of both hotels merge and I enjoy the beautiful vegetation that can be found all over the island. It is a very different world from mainland of West Malaysia. I especially love the rain trees that provide shadow during the day, but now create a mysterious atmosphere, with the dark sky above them.
We have a tasty dinner at Sigi’s Bar and Grill on the Beach. After dinner a few of us decide to go to the night market. I love markets, any kind of market :), but mostly food markets (of course. On this one I see mainly items such as “fake” famous brand watches, bags, etc. being sold. OK, maybe not my kind of market after all. You can also find some souvenirs, but nothing original and all is “made in China”. We do enjoy the walk at night though; it is not so hot any more and I like stretching my legs after dinner.
Also present in abundance at Penang are the massage parlours. We see 2 travel companions going in and we follow. We are at salon Desire. I know what you must think right now: the name does make you wonder what kind of treatments are being given here. But all is good and decent! Desire is located on the main street. We get a great foot reflexology massage for just a few euros. It is doing us lots of good and the masseurs (both men and women) are very friendly, good at their job and it looks clean at this salon! Tired but satisfied we return to the hotel and go to sleep.
Day 6: discovering a small part of Penang
The next morning we wake up and my feet feel great after the massage! We enjoy a full breakfast and after this a nice surprise awaits us. We will go to the Tropical Spice Garden for a tour and after the tour we get a cooking course. The Tropical Spice Garden is not far away from our hotel and we arrive in just a few minutes. Across the entrance I see a beautiful tropical beach, no people and I am tempted to feel the sand between my toes. But we are here for a wonderful tour and to cook a (hopefully) tasty meal.
The Tropical Spice Garden describes itself as a bio-diverse living museum of spices and other tropical plants that have shaped our global history. The garden is 5 acres big and offers more than 500 living specimens of lush and exotic flora from around the world. They are also known as being one of the best flower gardens in Penang. It is both a fun and educational place to visit. I love the beautiful flowers and plants and their smell. Birds and butterflies fly around and cheeky monkeys pay us a visit and entertain us for a while.
It is time to learn how to cook a tasty dish with chicken, rice and various herbs and spices, that grow in this garden. We get help from a wonderful lady who tells us what we need to do. I can cook a bit, but I am not used to cook with these spices. We get beautiful aprons to protect our clothes and off we go. The tears literally stream down our faces when we start cutting the onions and herbs, but we are having a lot of fun. We have to be careful not to rub in our eyes as the spices are hot. We wear gloves, first of all for hygienic reasons and to stop our hands for taking the spices colours. We manage to prepare a decent meal and when we finish it is lunch time; how convenient. We get to taste our own culinairy creations. And it is actually really tasty. Before we leave we all end up taking some spices with us from the shop. I do wonder however if I can recreate the dish at home 😊
From the Tropical Spice Garden we go to Georgetown, where we have a city tour by foot on the on our program. Georgetown is the cultural and historical centre of Penang and really worth a visit. Our first stop is at the “English” Fort Cornwallis; the largest standing fort in Malaysia (so Mr. Loh tells us). We see the Sri Rambai cannon of the VOC, a part of Dutch history. We walk around for a while. I have seen more impressive forts, but this one is an important part of history of Penang and a must see.
From the fort we walk to Chew Jetty. Chew Jetty is part of the Penang Heritage Trail. Mr. Lo tells us there used to be seven jetties until one was destroyed by fire, so now six remain. The jetties have houses built on stilts which are of various Chinese clans. Each jetty is named after a Chinese clan and the Chew Jetty is probably the most tourist-friendly. On this jetty you find the most stilt-houses, a very long walkway and even a temple. I end up taking loads of photographs, this area is very photogenic. I already felt like I was not in Malaysia any more after arriving on Penang and now even more. But Penang is Malaysia and what a wonderful part of the country.
From Chew Jetty we walk to the old centre. I see colourful and cheerful murals, shops and galleries, restaurants, etc. We end our city tour with a visit to the most famous Chinese clan house of Malaysia. The Khoo Kongsi is the most spectacular clan temple in the entire country. It is also one of the city’s major historic attractions. It looks absolutely beautiful. The clan temple manages to keep its authentic historic setting, which includes an association building, a traditional theatre and the late 19th century row houses for clan members. The centre of all this, is a granite-paved square. Khoo Kongsi is located in Cannon Square in the heart of the oldest part of the city. The temple is beautifully decorated and really impressive. I am glad we came here.
It is late in the afternoon and we go back to our hotel in Batu Ferringhi. We have a quick shower to freshen up and get changed. I watch the sunset from our balcony, it is beautiful.
Tonight we do not have dinner at the hotel, but our driver takes us to Gurney Drive and the Hawker Centre and in small groups we walk around the market. It is a market of different food stalls, where you can get acquainted with different Eastern cuisines! I am amazed seeing the variety of food and I love it here. I cannot wait to taste. We get some food and drinks from various stalls, so we can taste a bit of everything and we sit down at a table. The market is busy, but not in an uncomfortable way. It is alive and locals get together here for a good meal. We are surprised, for the first time during our trip, by a tropical rain shower. So far we have been very lucky with the weather during this trip. We need to find shelter for a short while and then we sit back at the table to enjoy our food and a cold beer. After a few hours we make our own way back to the hotel.
Day 7: from Penang to Langkawi
The next morning, after breakfast, we check out and head to the Penang ferry terminal for the approximately 3-hour crossing to Kuah on Langkawi. If there is one downside to these promotional trips, it is that we never have enough time discover it all. Penang has more to offer than we could see in 1,5 day. But we are grateful for all that we did see. The weather is beautiful today, it is a bit hazy, but that means the sun does not burn too much. We can sit outside on the ferry boat. I am not sure if it is allowed, but we are not the only ones, so we join the locals and enjoy being outside. From the boat we take a look at the Penang Skyline. We are on the Strait of Malacca, on our way to a piece of paradise called Langkawi! The story continues here!
Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
October 28, 2014