Persiaran Gurney drive seaside marina Penang

Malaysia 2010: Day 4 — One day in Penang (Around Georgetown, Gurney Drive, Penang Hill)

Date: 28th September 2010

When we arrived the previous night, we left a rainy Singapore to land in Malaysia, where the rain had followed. We prayed the sun would come out the next day.

Old Penang guesthouse window sunny day
And today morning, our prayers were answered

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 corridor roomsOld Penang Guesthouse is a restored building that retains the charms of the colonial era with rooms at rates from the current backpacker era.

Old Penang Guesthouse upstairs restroom
This is the shower room and toilets upstairs

Old Penang Guesthouse upstairsOld Penang Guesthouse staircase

Old Penang Guesthouse library tv room
They have a ‘living room’ of sorts where you can watch TV & read the papers while you serve yourself breakfast

Old Penang Guesthouse downstairs bathroom

Old Penang Guesthouse breakfast
This is breakfast: toast, butter (but usually margarine) & fruits

Old Penang Guesthouse dining areaOld Penang Guesthouse corridor window

Old Penang Guesthouse notice board
I made list of things I wanted to eat when in Malaysia
Old Penang Guesthouse wooden staircase
You’re instructed to walk softly at night as the flooring is all wooden
Old Penang Guesthouse breakfast area
The dining area
Old Penang Guesthouse view outside
The skies were getting clearer

Once we were all ready, we soon stepped out to head to the harbour, which was walking distance from where we were staying.

Penang Chinese buddhist temple

Penang Love Lane cheap hotels
There are a lot of budget hotels on Love Lane (that’s the name of the street we were on)

Penang Love lane alley

Penang Chulia street daytime 7-Eleven
There’s a 7-Eleven very close to our guesthouse

Penang Georgetown Kapitan Keling mosquePenang Georgetown Hindu templePenang Chulia street intersection

Penang Han Jiang ancestral temple
Han Jiang ancestral temple

Penang Georgetown towards harbour

Penang Georgetown Nagore Indian mosque
Nagore Durgha Sheriff mosque

Penang Georgetown traffic intersectionStrolling 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.

Penang Georgetown old doorway

Penang Georgetown Old Chinese temple roof
Many places of worship in and around Georgetown
Penang Georgetown old Chinese temple
Lim Kongsi Clan Temple; when we entered, there was this one dog ‘guarding’ the temple
Penang Georgetown old temple dog
Which came hopping all the way towards me and my camera. And then Loi patted it. Then it went and peed in the bushes.

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.

Penang harbour Tanjong marina car parkingPenang Tanjong marina harbour Star Cruises shipPenang Port road Rapid metro buses

Penang Tanjong marina bus station
There’s a bus station near the ferry terminal

Tanjong city marina Penang dock

Penang marina harbour restaurant
There’s a sea-facing restaurant at the end of this walkway
Tanjong marina penang docks yachts boats
That’s where the ferries dock

Penang marina harbour Hai Nan InnWisma Kastam building PenangPenang Georgetown marina road old buildingsWe 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.

Penang clock tower Georgetown circle
Georgetown’s landmark Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower
Penang sea park
A short distance from the clock tower, and you get the beautiful sea

Fort Cornwalis park Penang Georgetown

Fort Cornwalis Penang Georgetown
This where we went next; entry is just RM 2 (Rs. 30)
Fort Cornwalis Sir Francis Light statue Penang
Statue honouring Sir Francis Light

Penang The Statue of Francis Light info

Fort Cornwalis Penang Sir Francis Light statue Ramesh
Ramesh dishonouring Sir Francis Light statue

Fort Cornwallis Penang Georgetown prisonYou 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.

Fort Cornwalis Penang sea steps cannon
But we still hung around a bit longer

Fort Cornwallis Penang sea cannonFort Cornwallis park Penang cannon sea

Fort Cornwallis park Loiyumba umbrella hot Penang
It was quite sunny

Fort Cornwallis park Penang cannons flagpoleFort Cornwallis park cannons Penang GeorgetownFort Cornwallis Penang Georgetown prisonFort Cornwallis Penang old prisonFort Cornwallis Penang inside old prison cellAfter checking out the fort for around 15 minutes, we made our way out.

Fort Cornwalis garden ice cream

Fort Cornwallis Penang steps down touristsFort Cornwalis is right near the Town Hall grounds.

Georgetown Penang esplanade town hall grounds

Penang esplanade Padang Kota Lama grounds
Town Hall & City Hall buildings in the background
Penang sea park tree shade sunny day
The esplanade is a nice place to laze under a tree on a sunny day

Penang port cruise ships

Penang esplanade Mithun Loiyumba umbrella
I wasn’t imitating Loi, it was sunny (Photograph by Ramesh)
Penang bay road car parking
We continued our stroll along this path

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”…

Penang Japanese tourists Mithun Ramesh
… and so we asked them for one for ourselves too!

They weren’t the only Japanese we came across. The Japanese were aplenty in Penang, we would later find out.

Penang car parking tree plant shade

Penang Mahkamah Tinggi statue headless lady
The building in the back is the Penang High Court

Penang statue in front of Hight court headless lady

Penang Georgetown town square mushroom cloud
That was one big ‘nuclear’ cloud

Georgetown convent Light Street PenangPenang Georgetown Japanese cafeWe decided to walk towards the popular Gurney Drive.

Georgetown old museum building
Penang museum

Georgetown bus stop PenangGeorgetown walking towards Gurney drive Penang

Eastern & Oriental hotel Georgetown Penang
The Eastern & Oriental hotel

Georgetown fire hydrant PenangPenang Georgetown old houses

Georgetown Penang worship plant sea
We stopped here for a break as Ramesh was quite tired from all the walking
Penang bay boats sea facing apartments condos
Gurney Drive was over there
32 at the Mansion restaurant Georgetown Penang
The Mansion, a high end restaurant
Penang tall building club
We got back on to the main road

Wawasan Open University PenangCIMB Bank building Penang branch

Persiaran Gurney drive empty food court Penang
We even stopped by this food court for lunch but it was empty — and closed
Penang three buildings
So it was back to the main road
Persiaran Gurney drive premium condos Penang
And a few minutes later, we were finally on Gurney drive
Persiaran Gurney drive road luxury condominiums Penang
A LOT of luxury apartments on this stretch

Persiaran Gurney drive seaside car parkingPersiaran Gurney drive road parking signIt 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.

Chilis Gurney Plaza Guinness beer
We ordered Guinness… and I stared at the ceiling… for some apparent reason. (Photo by Ramesh)
Gurney Plaza stores shopping mall Penang
The mall isn’t bad at all. We picked our Malaysia SIM cards from the 3rd floor which housed a lot of tech stores.
Gurney Plaza shopping mall Gurney drive Penang
Gurney Plaza shopping mall

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.

Persiaran Gurney drive food court Penang afternoon
The food court was closed too. Seems like they only open at night.

Persiaran Gurney drive seaside marina Penang

Persiaran Gurney drive roundabout McDonalds
This is the major roundabout at the end of Gurney drive

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.

Penang public bus inside
The plan was to see Kek Lok Si temple and take the tram ride up Penang hill

Penang local bus ride Loiyumba

Inside Penang local A/C bus windows
The ride took nearly 20 minutes

Once at the Komtar bus terminal,  we boarded a bus from Lane 1 that goes to Kek Lok Si temple.

Penang Kek Lok Si Air Itam apartments
This ride took another 30 minutes and was headed towards Penang hill
Penang Air Itam restaurant
Passed through mostly residential areas and housing colonies for the middle class

Penang Air Itam food market

Penang Kek Lok Si town Air Itam
When we reached the town of Air Itam it was already well past 5pm
Penang Kek Lok Si Air Itam town
But there it was: Kek Lok Si Temple

Unfortunately, the locals told us that we were too late and it was closing time. Sucks.

Penang Kek Lok Si temple
So all we could do was zoom in and take photos
Penang Kek Lok Si Buddist temple closeup
Seemed like some renovation work was going on
Penang Kek Lok Si temple tomb
I really wanted to check out the biggest Buddhist temple in Penang…
Penang road to Kek Lok Si temple Air Itam
… but we still had to go further up to get to the temple.

So yeah, if you want to see Kek Lok Si temple, make sure you are here well before 6pm.

Penang Kek Lok Si Air Itam Chinese shrinePenang Air Itam alleyInstead 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.

Penang towards tram ride
The Chinese taxi driver quoted RM7 which sounded reasonable, so we got in

The journey barely took 5 minutes.

Penang Hill tram ride closed construction
We soon reached the foot of Penang Hill and could see the tram line

But unfortunately (again)….

Penang Hill tram ride closed sign
….
Penang hill tram ride closed Loiyumba
Loi didn’t take the news too well

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.

Penang Air Itam Kek Lok Si temple background
As you can see, Kek Lok Si temple isn’t that far from here

Penang Air Itam stores

Penang Air Itam Indian temple
The cultural mix in Malaysia is truly admirable

Penang apartment building trees

Penang Air Itam residential building
Passed through the same landmarks
Penang State Mosque Masjid Negeri Georgetown
Penang State Mosque
Penang school boys street vendors
Hmm, not that different from India isn’t it?

Penang school girls after schoolPenang roti street vendor

Penang restoran Chu Yoke
(Photograph by Loiyumba)
Rahim burger street vendor Penang
Banjo is fried egg (Photograph by Loiyumba)

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.

Georgetown Hop on free bus Penang
The Hop-on buses follow a particular route

The Hop-on bus was taking a long route, so we got down at KOMTAR.

Georgetown Komtar Tower tallest building Penang
Komtar Tower — the tallest building in Penang (Photograph by Loi)

Once we reached KOMTAR, we checked out the adjoining mall.

Georgetown Komtar ICT Mall ground floor PenangThe offerings are anything but glamourous. Not a high-end mall at all. Just the usual clothes, electronics, grey market goods, coffee shops etc.

Georgetown Komtar ICT mall shops Penang
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in here

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.

Penang Gurney Drive Solok Midlands
We walked through a residential colony

Penang Georgetown residential apartment at night

Penang Gurney Drive at night
Before finding ourselves behind Gurney Plaza

In the afternoon, Gurney Drive was quite empty…

Penang Gurney drive food court crowds
… but the scene is quite different at night!

Penang Gurney drive food court cuttlefish vendorGurney drive food court pasembur Penang

Penang Gurney drive beef slices
Beef. Looked yum.

Penang Gurney drive food court seafood

Penang Gurney drive food court seafood Sotong Bakar
As you can see from the above photos, lots of sea food available here

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 .

Penang Gurney drive seafood restaurant
Saw the lobster sign and assumed it was another food court by the sea

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.

Penang Gurney drive marina at night
Anybody notice the drain vent in the sea — or is that litter?

Once back at the food court, myself and Loi each ordered what we wanted.

Penang Gurney drive food court oyster eggs
I chose ‘raw oysters and egg’ scrambled
Penang Gurney drive food court dinner
Loi had his boiled meat on a stick. With some beer of course.

Us two had to eat first, and then head back to Gurney Plaza so that Ramesh could find some vegetarian to eat.

Penang Gurney drive food court boiled meat
But Loi wasn’t done with his boiled meat. He wanted more! 🙂
Soyabean curd dessert Penang Gurney drive food court
I had Soyabean curd with hot brown sugar sauce for dessert (RM1 = Rs. 15)

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.

Old Penang Guesthouse Red Inn New ABC pub Georgetown
Old Penang Guesthouse, next to Red Inn, next to a pub

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.

Gelugpa Buddhist Association temple Georgetown Penang
This temple was just across Old Penang Guesthouse

Tibet Gelugpa Buddhist Association temple Georgetown Penang

Love Lane Inn guesthouse at night Georgetown Penang
There are several budget hotels and guesthouses on Love Lane

The Secret Garden Inn cafe Love Lane PenangThe 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.

Red Garden food court back entrance
I saw this ‘food garden’ which I thought I’d check out

Red Garden food court vendors Penang

Red Garden food night line dancing Georgetown Penang
Line dancing + food court = Not bad
Red Garden food court Georgetown Penang
Not enough space in tummy to try out everything edible Penang had to offer

Red Garden night line dancing Penang

Red Garden food court night market entrance Georgetown Penang
This is the entrance

R & B pub bistro hotel Georgetown PenangPenang Georgetown cycle taxiPenang locals gambling at night GeorgetownOdeon theatre Endhiran Georgetown Penang

Ho Ping Chinese restaurant Georgetown Penang
Ho Ping the food is safe to eat 😛

Campbell street Georgetown Penang at night

Kampung Malabar Georgetown Penang
Yes, this street is named after Malabaris

(You can read about the history behind Kampung Malabar here . Besides me, I didn’t find any other ‘Malabari’ — it’s all Chinese)

Chinese traditional sculptures at-night Georgetown Penang
Saw these outside, what I presume was a store dealing in sculptures
Chinese stone sculptures at night Penang
Why didn’t anybody steal them? I dunno, probably too heavy to lift and run with
Penang Georgetown World Heritage building
Georgetown is a UNESCO World heritage site
Georgetown Penang brick paved roads at night
The same road was wet yesterday

Penang Kapitan Keling mosque Georgetown at night

Crystal Guesthouse backpackers Georgetown Penang
Penang is very easy on the pocket

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!


Other posts in this series:

Singapore & Malaysia 2010: Planning and preparing for the trip

Singapore 2010: Day 1 – Little India, CBD, Clarke Quay, China Town… and a lot of walking

Singapore 2010: Day 2 – Orchard Road, mall-hopping… and already shopping

Singapore 2010: Day 3 – Singapore Zoo, Marina Bay Sands; leaving Singapore for Penang

Malaysia 2010: Day 5 — Langkawi (Ferry ride from Penang, Cable car & Sky Bridge)

Malaysia 2010: Day 6 — Langkawi (Island hopping tour, Pantai Tengah beach, Night market)

Malaysia 2010: Day 7 — Kuala Lumpur (Low Yat Plaza, Petronas Towers, Jalan Alor)

Malaysia 2010: Day 8 — Kuala Lumpur (Batu Caves, Petaling Street/China Town)

Malaysia 2010: Day 9 — Kuala Lumpur (KLCC Aquaria, Merdeka Square, KL Tower observation deck)

Malaysia 2010: Leaving Kuala Lumpur… and about going back

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5 Comments

  • mimi

    12/02/2011

    Mithun, Mimi here, gimme ur no, wanna ask u abt Malaysia

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Sent it via e-mail.

    [Reply]

  • Judi

    12/03/2011

    Hi. I could do with some Malaysia/Thai travel advice

    I am planning a 2 week trip in Malaysia

    5-6 days in Penang & Langkawi

    4-5 days on Phuket & Phi Phi

    Please can you help with logistics, where to stay, etc…

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Hey Judi,
    If you are landing in Malaysia, you could spend a day or two in Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at a place called Irsia Bed & Breakfast which was right behind Berjaya Times Square — one of the biggest malls in KL. It’s an amazing location because it’s bang in the middle of all the sights and shopping zones. There’s also a monorail station right in front of the mall.

    Fly to Langkawi from KL (Air Asia has plenty of lights), spend two days in Langkawi. You can stay on Pantai Cenang beach. From Langkawi, you can head down to Penang via ferry. As for places to stay, I’ve mentioned the names and area to be in Georgetown. If you are budget traveller, check out http://www.hostels.com/ or if you don’t mind any budget range, check out http://www.agoda.com. After Penang, take the ferry to Langkawi and spend two days there. The reason why I’m advising you to head to Langkawi first and then Penang is because there are no flights from Langkawi to Phuket, only boat trips. But Air Asia and Firefly (http://www.fireflyz.com.my/) offers flights from Penang to Phuket.

    I only spent 1 evening in Phuket: http://mithunonthe.net/2010/01/19/thailand-2009-day-5-part-2-one-night-in-phuket/ … and I plan to visit Phi Phi for the first time this November.

    Have fun! 🙂

    [Reply]

  • sunil

    26/11/2012

    Great travelogue. Like the way of narration a lot.

    [Reply]

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