Wanting to stay longer.
My original plan was to spend a week in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. I had booked an Airbnb for 6 nights called Rose Heritage. If you like camping then you’ll have no problem at all staying here. I booked their cheapest room which was ideal for my needs, very clean with air-conditioning. Apparently there is Wi-Fi but after doing a speed test I discovered it was useless, it is also insecure. The showers and toilet are along the corridor and I soon discovered you have to plan how you use them, not because they are busy but the shower cubicle has nowhere to put your wash bag. Unless of course you have a wash bag which hangs on a hook and your clothes are going to get soaked.
I came up with a little routine to solve the problem, shave and clean my teeth in the sink outside the shower cubicles. Take everything back to my room and head to the shower wearing only my swimming shorts and flip-flops, carrying my towel and soap. Think of it as glamping and for the price in this location the minor inconvenience is worth it.
There is so much to do and see here that I decided to stay longer, I have a flight from Kuala Lumpur international on the 16th to Jakarta but for now I will explore what Penang has to offer. Most of my money has gone on accommodation therefore I would like to share with you how I enjoyed Penang on a very limited budget.
To get around the island I either walked or used the local bus service, taxis are ten times the price of the bus although still not as expensive as back home. Walking was fairly easy the only issue was the extreme heat. Walking around you find lots of food outlets which are inexpensive so I ate street food and drank water. I did treat myself to a couple of trips to the Street Art Cafe which was close to my accommodation, although delicious I discovered I could eat for 3 days for the cost of a simple meal there.
The first place I came across was by accident when exploring on my first day, I now know it’s called the Goddess of Mercy Temple. The temple was busy but I wandered inside and took photographs. There is a good atmosphere around this area and if you can find somewhere to sit then I would suggest you take a few moments to enjoy it.
This popular temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of mercy. The first foundation was laid in 1728 by Chinese settlers and was completed in 1800.
I purchased a coffee from the 7 / 11 and sat in the park right next to the Town Hall which was previously a social venue for Penang’s elite back in the 1880’s. It’s classical colonial elegance was the backdrop for scene in the popular film Ann and the King, also located nearby is an ornate fountain which was presented to the public by Koh Seang Tat in 1883.
I made my way to the Gurney shopping plaza, which was a complete waste of time. I thought I could get breakfast there and cool down. Breakfast turned out to be a chicken pie and a cup of coffee. Unless you want to shop I would avoid the Gurney shopping plaza, I did however discover a great viewpoint. I went to the very top of the car park where you get great views of the coast. I walked the 2.9 miles back to little India where I’m staying. The walk back was the most interesting, next to the Gurney Plaza is the Gurney Paragon. The Gurney Paragon is full of western style restaurants so if you’re not on a budget and want western food then head here. I avoided the mall as it was a Saturday and Thomas the tank engine and friends were visiting, so as you can probably imagine, thousands of noisy children.
Walking along the promenade was a pleasant experience and within 5 mins walk of the Gurney empire you come across Wat Chayamangkalaram. Built in 1845 this Thai Buddhist temple is one of the largest reclining Buddha statues in the world. Spectacular to behold, this statue is completely gold-plated and measures up to the length of 33 metres. Also you’ll find magnificent crafted statues of Devas and other mythical creatures on the temple grounds. Open 6:00 am – 5:30 pm
I followed the promenade until I had to go inland this is where the heat of the day was getting too much. I braved it out and although I kept stopping to drink my water I managed to get back to the part of George Town I was familiar with. I stopped at an abandoned school, unfortunately it was in poor condition and the roof had collapsed. I walked around the perimeter and got some great photos.
Next up is the protestant cemetery this old cemetery was created soon after the British East India company established a settlement in Penang in 1786. It is the final resting place of many important personalities connected to the establishment and early growth of George Town and Penang, including its founder Francis Light, Governors, Officers and official merchants all rest here. I walked slowly through the cemetery and took some unusual photographs, I got myself into a bit of a pickle as the gate I entered had a chain around it but was open the gate I wanted to exit was locked, so I attempted to climb the cemetery wall. This wasn’t as successful as I had wished for as I got stuck and had to be helped by a local.
I stumbled across some impressive Street art which is all over George Town, the Penang Tourist app is very useful as it shows you the location of all the famous Street art and makes it easy to follow a walking tour to see them, well most of them as there are hundreds of examples.
Walking around George Town is the perfect way to absorb the atmosphere and culture, people watching is a must. The only downside is the intense heat of the day, so I would suggest plan a walk either early morning just as the sun is coming up or the evenings golden hour.
The following day I walked around Little India this colourful lively and sometimes loud part of George Town is where the first Indian immigrants settled down in Penang. It is the islands epicentre of Indian music, savoury cuisine, exotic spices and authentic goods. I visited so many temples in the area that I lost count, the atmosphere is vibrant and when visiting temples don’t forget to remove your footwear and avoid photographing any blessings. You are free to photograph the architecture and interior just be respectful. I was surprised on how much there was to see in this quarter of town a worthwhile day exploring.
Close to Little India is The Kapitan Kelling Mosque founded in 1801, it is the largest historic Mosque in George Town. Designed in mogul architecture it features beautiful minarets and domes. I didn’t enter as there was a tour group looking at the Mosque so I moved on to wander the streets some more.
Dharmikarama Burmese Temple
Located in Lorong Burma, this Burmese temple is the favoured venue during Songkran festivities – Thailand’s traditional new year’s day which is celebrated in April. The temple serene surrounding feature a Bodhi tree, wishing pond and pagoda. Open 8 am – 5 pm
One of the most beautiful mosques in the country. Construction of the State Mosque was completed in 1980. Elegant and iconic, the Mosque is located on a 45 hectare land that is able to accommodate 5000 worshippers. Open 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
I still have so much more to see and do here in Penang, I am pleasantly surprised at what is possible on such a small budget. Over the last 3 months I have spent far too much and I think by the time I leave Penang and head back to Kuala Lumpur I would have brought my average spend down.