I’m a German student with some experience of travel in Malaysia. I instantaneously fell in love with Georgetown and Penang as a whole. The island has all the factors a tourist is looking for – tasty authentic food, diverse cultures, a vibrant art scene, picturesque sunsets, and enchanting landscapes.
Imagine narrow streets with old colonial buildings and small Chinese shops, trishaws riding around, and the smell of freshly stir-fried noodles in the air. You have arrived to Georgetown, the state’s capital city.
Here are some of my picks of experiences to indulge in:
1. Lebuh Armenian to discover creative street art
You have probably heard of Georgetown’s vibrant street art scene, which has become one of the island’s main tourist attractions in the last few years. Local and international artists decorate the streets with splendid murals. What makes these murals truly unique is the incorporation of objects in the paintings. For example, one of the most famous murals is a drawing of two young kids sitting on a real bicycle (located on Lebuh Armenian street).
I had made a list of all the murals I wanted to see before starting my visit. But when I wandered around the streets I came across so many artworks that were not mentioned in travel guides. What I would suggest is that you just walk around central Georgetown without a clear itinerary in mind, and you will see so much more than expected.
At the same time, you can admire the beautiful architecture the city’s streets has to offer. Colonial, Chinese, and Moorish styles blend perfectly together resulting in a colourful and diverse heritage that is really unique for Malaysia.
2. Chew Jetty for a view of the coast
Make your way to the coastal side of Georgetown and visit the jetties off Weld Quay road, near the Penang Ferry Terminal. There are six jetties and in the past they served as a Chinese settlement where each jetty was home to a different clan. Walk along the jetties built on wooden stilts in the water until you arrive to the end, where you will experience a gorgeous view of the city and the sea.
My favourite was the Chew Jetty, which has many lovely wooden houses, souvenir shops, and a few food stalls. I stopped at a small cafe at the end of the jetty that had a very nice view and served refreshing and yummy fruit juices in “lightbulbs”. I will let you figure that one out for yourselves.
3. Penang National Park to enjoy the rich flora and fauna
If you are a nature lover and wish to escape the noise and pollution of the city, opt for a half day excursion to Penang National Park, only a 45-minute drive from Georgetown.
The park offers several hiking paths, which will lead you through a dense rainforest to remote beaches. The trail I took was not too challenging, a few hills here and there but nothing unmanageable. Jumping over some fallen trees and climbing a rock or two will add to the adventure.
After trekking through the jungle for around two hours you arrive at Monkey Beach. It is a beautiful palm tree-lined beach, less crowded than Batu Ferringhi but still quite busy. You can enjoy a swim in the sea to refresh yourself and get an iced drink at one of the few restaurants on the beach. Actually, there are monkeys strolling around the beach, so if you are as lucky as I was, you even spot one swimming in the sea.
4. Batu Ferringhi beach for a picturesque sunset
While the water is not very inviting for a swim, the beach is quite clean and just lazing on the sand is a nice way of spending some time at Batu Ferringhi. Get here by the end of the afternoon when it is not too hot anymore, and enjoy a walk along the beach.
When it hits7.15pm, sit down on the sand and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Have your cameras ready, as the sky turns into a splendid mix of orange, pink, and blue that you will want to capture forever. The sunset was my personal highlight of the trip! There are plenty of bars and restaurants, so you can have a drink while watching the sunset.
5. New Lane Hawker Centre to indulge in authentic street food
Penang is known to have the best street food around Asia (if not the world), so if you are a food lover you have come to the right place. The food is very multicultural, as it is a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian and other Malaysian ethnic groups.
I decided to head to the famous New Lane Hawker Centre on Lorong Baru for dinner. It is a street full of little stalls selling mouth-watering food. The place is loud, cramped, very basic, and a bit smelly but the food is absolutely amazing, and it is the whole setting that makes the experience truly authentic.
I was overwhelmed by the massive choices, and after a long debate with my stomach I decided to order a few dishes I had previously read about: laksa (a fish broth), congee (Chinese porridge), char kway teow (rice noodles similar to pad thai), and Chendol (shaved ice in a base of coconut milk and topped with red beans). I felt like a real local, eating my char kway teow and sipping on my lime juice.