Hear about travel to Penang, Malaysia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Ruth about things to do in Penang, the city she called home for about a year.
Ruth says, “Penang is a very interesting piece of Asia. Penang is one of the 13 states of Malaysia. It is the second smallest. It is the only one that has an island plus mainland components. We lived on Penang Island. You have 3 distinct people, ethnicities that make up Penang. There’s the Chinese that make up 50% which is more than most of Malaysia. Then you have 40% Malay and about 9% Indians who are mostly Tamal speakers. They are from southern India. And then we have the expat groups. In particular, there is one large group of expats that reside in Malaysia because of their MM2H program which is Malaysia My Second Home. So quite a few people have actually retired. It’s a very eclectic group of different ethnicities and different cultures and they do not intermix very much. So you really do have these distinct areas and distinct foods and distant ways of living and languages and you can do it all in a very small space. For people who have been to Singapore, Penang is about a third the size of Singapore and only has about 15% of the population.”
“I like to think of Penang as sort of Singapore before Lee Kuan You came in and modernized and sanitized everything. Penang gives you that old feel of what Singapore would have been like.”
Ruth starts us with the Pinang Peranakan Mansion which is a museum dedicated to that part of the Chinese population which is known as Peranakans, Straits-Chinese, or Baba-Nyonya. The Peranakans came to the area between the 15th and 17th century, mostly as traders. The museum is a rich merchant’s house.
From there Ruth guides us to Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clock Tower which date back to when the area was a British colony from 1867 – 1957. Because of its British history, English has been taught in schools for generations in Penang.
Ruth suggests taking a cab from the airport but after that, you can get around on foot or call a car with the Grab App. When you want to take a longer trip you can hire a driver or get a rental car through SOCAR for the number of hours you need.
We head to Georgetown which has a number of fun museums for the Instagram crowd including the Upside Down Museum and the Wonderfood Museum. In one, you can take pictures as if you are standing on the ceiling or the walls and in the other document Penang’s wonderful food scene with giant models of local foods. Georgetown is a UNESCO site and also hosts some great street art.
In little India, you can try the southern Indian cuisine or you can visit a Hindu temple. Ruth also recommends a visit to the Clan Jetties in Penang. Which started as old Chinese settlements and are now a tourist area. The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia is the hilltop temple of Kek Lok Si which is in the Air Itam neighborhood.
In preparation for all the food we need to try in Penang, Ruth suggests a hike to the top of Penang Hill, a hike to Monkey Beach in Penang National Park, and a stroll through the Penang Botanic Gardens. She does not recommend swimming at the beaches in Penang because of the water quality.
We spend some time talking about different markets like Pulau Tikus Market. Chowrasta Market, and the New Lane Hawker Centre and all the different dishes that Ruth suggests you try in Penang which include: Cendol, Char Koay Kak, Penang Laksa, Nasi lemak, Char kway teow, Nasi kandar, Kuih, and Kayak Jam. Ruth picks some of her favorite restaurants to find these dishes.
There is more to do than eating in Penang… but bring your appetite because there is a lot of eating to do.
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Pinang Peranakan Mansion
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
Jubilee Clock Tower
Grab Taxi App
Beach Street, George Town
Penang Wonderfood Museum
Upside Down Museum
“Little Children on a Bicycle” Mural, Armenian Street, George Town
Little India, Penang
Sri Ananda Bahwan Restaurant
Clan Jetties in Penang
Kek Lok Si
Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge
Pulau Tikus Market
Chowrasta Market (George Town)
Char Koay Kak
Penang National Park
Penang Botanic Gardens
Gurney Drive, George Town
Penang Laksa – Rasa Malaysia
Ali Nasi Lemak, George Town
Char kway teow
New Lane Hawker Centre
Nasi Kandar Line Clear
Restoran Mohammed Raffee Nasi Kandar
Li Er Cafe
Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay Penang
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