Top 10 things to do in Penang- Betel nut city

My top 10 list of things to do in

Its name means island of betel nut in mandarin. “Ping-lang yu” – possibly named by the famous China admiral Zheng He. Taiwanese – or some love betel nut.  When I first lived in Taipei, there were betel nut stalls everywhere, especially on routes taken by truck drivers. It makes your teeth red. I think the older generation, like it because its like a substitute for cigarettes and alcohol, to keep you awake while driving across boring long routes.

1. Visit Batu Ferringhi

I used to visit penang every year, and stay at Batu Ferringhi , the sandy beaches are amazing. Hill on one side and sea on the other. For the Chinese, this is very good fengshui.  There’s a night market close by and taxis prowl the area sending you there and back.  One problem of staying in Batu Ferringhi we experienced was during CNY one year, where we couldnt catch a taxi.  Another year, we simply rented a tiny car- Proton Saga but one side got hit by a mad man (hit and run), and the door was smashed.

2. Stay at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel

We got an amazing deal on tripadvisor and stayed at the E and O hotel. I can’t recommend it more.  The old timers who have stayed here prior to the renovation, scared me with stories of how there’s no air-condition and its haunted.  We stayed at the new wing, where the rooms are brightly lit, with an L-shaped sliding window into the balcony overlooking the sea. The bathrooms are spacious and clean. The breakfast is out of this world, especially if you’re looking to try local food.

Fantastic breakfast spread

Fantastic breakfast spread

E&O is very convenient, especially if you’re trying to get to Georgetown. Its situated near the UNESCO heritage site with a convenient CAT free bus shuttle near by as well as a taxi-stand if you don’t want to pay for taxi by hotel standards. There’s 24 hypermart selling drinks, although the room mini-bar provides free soft drinks. In addition, the cocktail hour from 6pm-7pm provides free drinks (alcohol) and snacks.

In front of E and O Hotel

Behind the E and O hotel

3. Have a coffee around Love Lane

We were told to stay at 23 Lovelane, a lovely heritage house with unique rooms. Personally I prefer the E and O hotel although initially I couldnt get two nites at Lovelane hotel. It has a lovely garden setting and a homely feel. Very good steak and frites. Plus situated along an exciting lane of coffee houses.

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4. Walk along Chulia Street

Cafe culture is vibrant

Cafe culture is vibrant

5. Try Street food

Fried penang noodles or Char Kway Teow is fabulous. Try the penang laksa – voted top 7th best dish in the world by CNN voters in 2011. We went to the Teochew Chendol franchise on basement of Komtar – cheap and very good. Its made of fish broth unlike the Singapore laksa which is curry base. Try the chendol too.

Otherwise my favourite is Kheng Pin cafe, 80 penang road. They close at 3pm. We were told that this is the best place for lor bak. And we agree,  returning twice in 3 days. The first day we arrived at 4pm and it was closed.

The prawn noodles is very good too, although I’ve read in other reviews that its not the best. Its good enough for me, better than any I’ve eaten in Singapore. We didnt have to queue or wait too long. The Hainanese white chicken is good too.The convenience of the location. Less than 8 mins walk from the E and O hotel makes it very appealing.

Kheng Pin Cafe - best Lor Bak

Kheng Pin Cafe – best Lor Bak

6. Hunt for wall murals

Grab a free map at the penang airport and hunt for the wall murals. Featured here is the Kungfu girl seemingly doing acrobats on the telephone wires.

Wall murals all around Georgetown

Wall murals all around Georgetown

7. Admire the heritage houses in Georgetown

Lovely Chinese houses with traditional doors and tiles

Lovely Chinese houses with traditional doors and tiles

Chinese temple with dragons, tigers and even carp on its way to transforming into a dragon

Chinese temple with dragons, tigers and even carp on its way to transforming into a dragon

8. Trek through Botanic Gardens to penang Hill

The trek can take 4 hours, or 2 hours depending on your stamina. Beware that rain showers are common.

9. Take a water taxi to Straits Quay

If you stay at the E&O, there’s a free water shuttle to Straits Quay, a modern shopping complex with yachts berthing.

10. Visit penang Hill

Visit penang Hill for some fresh air. 

We were recommended by a penang couple working in Singapore to definitely go up Penang Hill. Perhaps if you’ve a car and coming at night. The night view is fabulous.We went in the morning by bus 204 from Komtar. Took us about 1hr30 mins. Arrived at 930am. The queue was long just to buy tickets. As foreigners each ticket cost 60 MYR per pax. But this means you don’t queue for the Furnicular. You get to sit right in front. For the experience, that’s fine. If I’ve a family of 3 children, I’ll say its not worth it.

At the top us cooling. But the place is crowded with locals. I don’t think its worth coming up. Its not at all like Genting Highlands or Cameron where there’s enough to keep you occupied. Here the air is not as cool or fresh. There’s just too many people. Even the cafe that’s supposed to be good, I’m sure you can get them at Love Lane.

Honestly, I’d rather have stayed in the hotel or visited Batu FERRINGHI. If you’re short of time or need to take the Furnicular to come up, its not worth the price.

Another shocker was the Bellevue hotel It looks like its stuck in the 1970s with a layer of dust. It does have a very well maintained garden.

Overall it has a tranquil ambience. But this was quickly dispelled in less than 10 mins when screaming children and other tourists in groups of 7 enter and have their holiday making.

Although the GM said its fully booked for  the next 9 mths, I doubt I’ll ever want to stay here unless I’m from Penang and want to escape the heat. Otherwise I’ll simply go to Cameron Highlands if cool weather is what I’m after.

I would have just stayed at the E and O, or have coffee along Lovelane or just cycle through Georgetown.

Take Bus 204 from Komtar to Penang Hill. 2 MYR per pax.

Take Bus 204 from Komtar to penang Hill. 2 MYR per pax.

Secret Garden at Bellevue Hotel

Secret Garden at Bellevue hotel

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