Last time we visited SE Asia, Kuala Lumpur won a spot as one of our favourite cities in Asia– great food, easy to navigate, beautiful buildings. This time around, Georgetown, the capital of Penang, kind of stole the crown.
Why we love it:
The streets of Georgetown are lined with colonial-era buildings, some painted in vibrant shades, some with flaking paint and gaping holes, but all beautiful.
The food is amazing– cheap Indian thali, $1 fried noodles, fresh fruit stands, the best vegan Chinese food we’ve had here, and coconut icecream. As in, dairy free, oreo crumble-topped, delicious coconut icecream.
Georgetown’s Little India is colorful, noisy, and crowded. Just as it should be. We joked that this Little India had the good stuff about India, minus the poverty, touts, and crime (at least I hope we were joking, considering our plan to spend 3 months in real-deal India soon.)
Georgetown is also a short drive away from the biggest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, Kek Lok Si. We took a local bus for a few ringet, and spent a day there wandering, munching on fresh nutmeg (apparently a local specialty), and taking way too many pictures.
Penang National Park is also a short drive from Georgetown, and, like Kek Lok Si, reachable by local bus. From the National Park entrance, there are a few jungle treks to choose from. We chose to hike to Monkey Beach. Despite a rather terrifying monitor lizard sighting (I thought it was a komodo dragon, okay?), it was a nice, monkey-filled, mostly coastal walk. We even managed to nab a ride back to the park with a boat-ful of labourers working in the jungle.
In addition to all this, there’s also fantastic budget accommodation (stay away from Love Lane though), plenty of great markets, some rather fetching ladies of the night, a beach (Batu Ferringhi), and cafes up the wazoo. Phew.
All in all, Georgetown is a cheap, comfortable, pretty little city, worthy of at least a few days exploration.
Train: We took a night train from KL Sentral, for 34RM each. The economy seats were fine, but beds are available for 45RM and up. The train will get you as far as Butterworth. From there, grab the ferry across (1.20RM per person) to Penang Island (the return trip is free.)
Bus: Buses leave Puduraya Station for Georgetown every couple of hours. The bus takes you straight across the bridge to Georgetown, so no need to ferry. Night buses are available, but generally arrive in town at around 5am– perhaps not the most convenient ‘check in’ time.