After my Indonesia trip, we went to Penang, Malaysia for a few days. To be honest, we didn’t do much research about Malaysia before we got there, so we were incredibly surprised when we arrived. The city was filled with really nice looking high-rise apartment buildings and there seemed to be a decent amount of wealth. We were staying in George Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage area, so it looks quite different than the very much city areas we passed on our way there. We stayed at the Yeng Keng Hotel, and it is a huge part of the reason I fell in love with Penang.
The staff was incredibly kind and welcoming. They wanted to make our stay as comfortable as possible, and they did just that. The hotel was originally an Anglo-Indian bungalow residence in the 1800s. It was fairly recently renovated to become a high-end hotel, and the owners did an incredible job of keeping the authenticity of the original bungalow. None of the pictures do the hotel justice, but it’s this little haven on the busy Chulia Street.
Chulia Street is a fun street in George Town. There’s tons going on and plenty of night life there. We spent a few hours walking around there during the day. Chulia Street is super central, so it was the perfect starting point for our day. We walked over to the Jetties and piers. The piers are pretty industrial so there’s not much to see there, but I thought the Jetties were cool. They’re basically stores and homes on the docks which you can walk around. After that we went to Wholey Wonder, which is a vegan, plant-based restaurant a bit further out of George Town. It took us about thirty minutes to walk there from the hotel, so totally doable, unless its raining. We didn’t realize that we were going right in the middle of rainy season, but as soon as we got there we realized. About mid-day, every day, it would torrential downpour, so much so that the streets would temporarily flood. It was sort of fun given we didn’t have many plans for our time there. Wholey Wonder was good, expensive for Penang, but our meals were under $10 so not particularly expensive coming from New York or London. There was a cute pop up market behind the restaurant that we went to after lunch which was fun to walk around. They had crafts and some food, but mostly it was just fun to see the local side to Penang.
Since it was so rainy, we didn’t really do much more. We went to Mugshot Cafe, which is a cute coffee shop down Chulia Street. It surprised me how hipster Penang was. There’s epic street art all over and cute little cafes. Mugshot was awesome. There was a front room where people were sitting with their coffees, then another little room behind with plants and street art, and then behind that was a hidden spectacles shop. We walked around and totally fell in love with the place. It was just so fun and everyone, no matter where we went, was so nice and welcoming. There was just great energy all over the city. After our coffees we went to Sneaky Bay Café for a drink. There are a few bars on Love Lane, just off of Chulia Street, so we sat there and hung for a bit. The scene there was also pretty cool. At night, there seemed to be a number of semi-granola tourists from all over just hanging out. It was such good vibes, and everyone at the bar was just chatting with one another. It was super fun and just sort of makes you fall in love with the city even more.
Penang is known for its street food, so we knew that our dinner was going to be going around trying all of the different foods. The two main areas are on Kimberley Street and Chulia Street, so we walked around both for a bit and tried as much as we could. We tried pohpiah, laksa, muah chee, yong tau hoo, and ice kacang – and I recommend them all!
I absolutely fell in love in Penang. We were only there for a short time, and I think that’s all you need. There’s not much to do, but it’s such a warm city and not overflowing with tourists at all. It’s probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever traveled, and I’d love to go back.