We decide to set out early as we had only a day in Penang. While the others got ready, I decided to take a few snaps of the place we were staying.
Old Penang Guesthouse is a restored building that retains the charms of the colonial era with rooms at rates from the current backpacker era.
Once we were all ready, we soon stepped out to head to the harbour, which was walking distance from where we were staying.
Strolling through Georgetown reminded me of Fort Kochi (I need to put up those photos as well) in Kerala, with its heritage buildings by the sea.
Just walking past the many temples – be they Indian or Chinese, mosques etc. you get a sense of the religious harmony that exists in Malaysia. Of course, this was only the start.
We reached the road by the ferry terminal and made our way to the other side.
We stepped into a few travel agencies to inquire about ferry prices to Langkawi. Everywhere, it was the standard RM60 (Rs. 900/US$20/€15). It was the same price quoted by the guy at Old Penang Guesthouse, but fearing he may have been quoting a higher rate, we thought we’d ask near the ferry terminal itself.
We bought our tickets for the next day and continued our walk.
You can read about the history behind Fort Cornwallis on its Wikipedia page, but from a tourist’s point of view, its nothing spectacular. Then again, when the entry is just RM2, you shouldn’t be expecting much.
After checking out the fort for around 15 minutes, we made our way out.
Fort Cornwalis is right near the Town Hall grounds.
Then, a young, kooky Japanese couple came excitedly towards us and asked us if we could pose for a photograph with them. Assuming they’re tourists wanting to pose with tourists from another country, we figured “Sure, why not”…
They weren’t the only Japanese we came across. The Japanese were aplenty in Penang, we would later find out.
We decided to walk towards the popular Gurney Drive.
It took us more than 30 minutes of walking to get to Gurney Drive. If you think that’s too much (or can’t do it), just hail a cab.
Though there were many restaurants along this stretch, plan was to have lunch from the food court at the end of Gurney drive, which is a very popular local joint.
But first, we had to quench our thirst.
We entered the only major shopping mall on Gurney Drive, Gurney Plaza. They have the usual gamut of mall brands and about the same as far as eateries and coffee shops go. I don’t remember how or why, but we sat down at the Chili’s in Gurney Plaza for beer.
The plan was to sit somewhere and have some beer along with lunch, but after the heavy mugs of Guinness and nachos we ordered, we were honestly quite full.
Post ‘lunch,’ we realized we still hadn’t seen any of Penang’s major attractions. So we boarded a local bus and headed to the main bus station.
Once at the Komtar bus terminal, we boarded a bus from Lane 1 that goes to Kek Lok Si temple.
Unfortunately, the locals told us that we were too late and it was closing time. Sucks.
So yeah, if you want to see Kek Lok Si temple, make sure you are here well before 6pm.
Instead of waiting around, we decided to head to Penang Hill (or Bukit Bendara as it called locally). So we hailed a cab as the locals said it would take us at least 15 minutes to walk it there.
The journey barely took 5 minutes.
But unfortunately (again)….
Turns out renovation work here as well. Couldn’t the taxi driver have told us it was closed? Of course he could have. But he didn’t… ‘cos he was a greedy b@#$%&*!
Disappointed at the turn of events, we decided to simply head back to town. Oddly enough, the very same bus we took to come here was waiting for departure near Penang hill.
We got down near the ferry terminal but contemplated going back to the rooms just yet. I wanted to have dinner at Gurney drive, so from the ferry terminal bus station, we availed the Hop-on free bus.
The Hop-on bus was taking a long route, so we got down at KOMTAR.
Once we reached KOMTAR, we checked out the adjoining mall.
The offerings are anything but glamourous. Not a high-end mall at all. Just the usual clothes, electronics, grey market goods, coffee shops etc.
We boarded another bus to get to Gurney Drive.
We got down near Gurney Drive… or at least we thought it was near Gurney Drive.
In the afternoon, Gurney Drive was quite empty…
Very limited (to virtually no-existent) pure vegetarian options though.
Before we sat down for dinner, I wanted to check out another joint near the roundabout that I had seen during the day .
But turns out it was a big ‘mid-to-high’ range restaurant. Looked nice but we didn’t want to spend too much and sit for long — because it was only going to be me & Loi eating. The vegetarian in our group Ramesh still had nothing to choose from.
Once back at the food court, myself and Loi each ordered what we wanted.
Us two had to eat first, and then head back to Gurney Plaza so that Ramesh could find some vegetarian to eat.
After we were finally done, we headed back to Gurney Plaza so that Ramesh could now eat.
We went back to our rooms by taxi.
But instead of calling it a night, I told the guys I wanted to roam around a bit more. So as Ramesh and Loi went back to the room, I walked on.
The reason I wanted to walk around a bit more was because I wasn’t truly content with all that I saw today. I don’t think I can say I ‘saw’ Penang. I visited Penang, sure, but I don’t think I saw all there was to see.
We landed in Penang after 3 crazy days in glamourous Singapore. So obviously, everything felt a world apart. Throughout the day, every mall we went to, all we talked about was how much cooler Singapore felt. Well duh. Obviously its a unfair comparison… but given how little we actually got to experience in Penang, we could only feel disappointment.
When we were planning our trip, we knew before hand there wasn’t anything stunning to see in Penang. In many ways, it is true. Especially if you have travelled throughout South India, seen Singapore or Thailand, Penang really doesn’t offer anything great in terms of new experiences. Sure, I would have loved to have gone for the tram ride up on Penang hill… and seen Kek Lok Si temple all lit up at night. But we all wanted to even take a ride on Penang Bridge. I also realized Penang isn’t just the island, but there exists Province Wellesley with towns like Butterworth and other attractions on the mainland as well.
So clearly, there was a lot more to Penang than I thought.
(You can read about the history behind Kampung Malabar here . Besides me, I didn’t find any other ‘Malabari’ — it’s all Chinese)
Would I have liked to have stayed just another day longer? Yes. I was curious what was across Penang Bridge on the mainland to see. But alas, this was our last and only day in Penang.
Tomorrow, we were going to be heading across waters to another island — Langkawi!