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!
We only had from morning to evening in Singapore today, so we decided to skip Sentosa as the journey all the way to the theme park wouldn’t be worth it unless we could spend time at Universal Studios as well… for which we didn’t have “sufficient funds”. So, Singapore Zoo it was.
This being our last day in Singapore, I decided to take a few photographs of ABC Hostels, in case you were curious as to what its like from the inside.
I didn’t take a photo of the room we got because it was in a mess, but picture this: not a big room, big enough bed for 3 mid-sized adults, functional split A/C, well-lit, with a mirror and table. That’s it. If you want more than a room for just sleeping, its best you book yourself into a regular hotel.
After finding out how to get to Singapore Zoo, we set off for Bugis MRT station.
To get Singapore Zoo, we first needed to get to Ang Mo Kio MRT station, and then take a bus from there.
But as soon as we got down, there was a van waiting with a woman approaching tourists with a deal. Buy the entry ticket with 4 tram rides and a drop to the zoo in a van (one way) for SGD23 (SGD18 + 5 for the tram rides). We knew the entry fee is SGD18 (Rs. 620/$14/€10) for adults so it seemed like a good deal (but what do we know). Plus we didn’t have to take the bus.
When the van quickly filled up with other tourists, we set off.
After a 15 minute ride, we arrived at Singapore Zoo. The weren’t a whole lot of people in queue — but we just walked straight in as we already had our entry tickets.
First up, monkeys…
… then parrots.
From this point on, the zoo truly begins.
The zoo has a few sections for smaller creatures, like reptiles which are on display in enclosed exhibits.
After this, we entered a fairly large netted section which enclosed a few bats, birds and some more interesting animals of this world.
Shooting the above leopard proved to be quite difficult, and in this video you’ll see why:
The one above was a very big ape (I believe an orangutan), quite old in age who was kept in this glass enclosure and it was quite dark… so you really couldn’t see it. It was moving around very slowly but unfortunately, due to the darkness inside its “cage” and the reflection on the glass, I couldn’t really get a good shot.
With that, we were finally done. Well, sort of. We could have stayed back longer and waited for some of the animal shows. But it was 2:30pm, we had to have our lunch and the skies were quite cloudy.
I still wanted to go to Marina Bay Sands and since Ramesh and Loi were against it, I wasted no time and decided to go on my own.
I waited at the bus station just outside and in under 5 minutes, got one that goes to Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
It was nice to drive through the residential side of Singapore. Compared to all the commercial glitz and glamour of the central business district, Ang Mo Kio seemed so quaint and… nice.
Anyway, I arrived at Ang Mo Kio bus terminal in around 15 minutes and got down to take the underpass to the MRT station. Ang Mo Kio is located on the red line, so the train goes straight to Marina Bay — the last stop. The ride took another 15 minutes.
Once I was out of the station/construction site (it looked like they were upgrading the station) it was still drizzling.
Why did I smile? Because seeing the above instantly reminded me of another ‘marina’ I was at in April. I could help but go: “Ahh, so that’s where Dubai got the idea from!”
And when I got there they asked me to wait because the sky park was wet.
Turns out they have a “wet policy” which essentially closes the observation deck to visitors if the observation deck is wet. I asked them if I could go up as I was leaving Singapore in a few hours but they said sorry, they couldn’t make an exception.
I told them I couldn’t wait as I had a flight to catch in a few hours time, so I didn’t.
I made way back up disappointed and decided to check out the hotel instead.
You could tell by looking at the guests coming down to the lobby they were high rollers; in town to gamble a lot of money away.
Since I couldn’t check out the Sky Park, I thought I’d at least check out the casino.
Buuuuut… the casino has a strict dress code… and a “No Photography” rule — both of which I didn’t qualify for. I didn’t even bother using the “but I’m leaving Singapore in a few hours” excuse as one sight of the huge security men at the casino entrance will make you think otherwise.
I went to the other side of the mall to where the buses to the Marina Bay MRT station are.
It was past 4:30pm when I boarded the bus back to the MRT station. The drizzling hadn’t stopped, and I had to take the metro back to our hostel. I got to the hostel before my friends did and I used the time to get out of my wet clothes and re-pack. When the other two arrived, we took all our bags and walked towards Victoria MRT.
We took the MRT all the way to Terminal 2 at Changi. As soon as we got out, right in front of us was a board showing the layout of Changi Airport. Three big terminals… and then one tiny red square. That was our budget terminal 🙂
It was so funny, I regret not taking a photo of it. It was like the big guys just wanted to keep rubbing it in on how cheap people who avail budget carriers are, just so they would quit and use the regular airlines instead.
Anyway, we were at the budget terminal by around 6:30pm for our 8:15pm Tiger Airways flight. And then the flight got delayed by 30 minutes. While we could pass time by availing the free internet and having snacks at the airport, it was still annoying as it only meant our arrival at Penang would also be late.
Once the plane did finally take off, we all three agreed on one thing: we were definitely coming back to Singapore!
Even though it was only 3 days, we loved every bit of it. Except the rain bit, we all hated that. We also decided we would come back during F1 week but stay much longer.
We landed at Penang, got through immigration quick and soon took a pre-paid taxi to head to Georgetown, where our guesthouse was.
It took more than half an hour to reach our hotel in Georgetown, that’s how far the airport was. We were going to be staying at Old Penang Guesthouse during our time on Penang island.
Since it was nearing 12am, we quickly went out in search of dinner.
We were told there were 24 hour restaurants, mostly serving Indian cuisine, not too far from our guesthouse. We walked under our umbrellas and got into one.
Basically rice with your choice of meat and a mix of curries. Yum it was.
There were many ‘Indian’ restaurants in the area.
Once back in the room, and a warm shower later, we did our calculations and thought about what had to do tomorrow.
Our first trip to Singapore was done, and Malaysia had begun. We only hoped it would be nice & sunny in Penang tomorrow.