Cycling through Georgetown Penang


Georgetown Penang, UNESCO site wall murals by Armenian Street

Check out above link on Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic who painted the mural above. I’m surprised he’s such a young guy which accounts for the witty nature of the paintings. But then, by now he must be famous. Let’s go for talent, and not famous names.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. –Ernest Hemingway


Vibrant Cafe culture influenced by cycling or vice versa

Wall murals and Street Art


Photo credit: L at Tiong Bahru
Wall mural Artist: Yip Yew Chong (accountant)

If you’re bored this weekend, hunt for Yew Chong’s wall murals which depict everyday life of Singapore in the 1970s. I lived through that era. He’s an accountant turned artist and paints different everyday scenes of our coffee shops, provision shops and kampung. Personally I’ve mixed feelings about these bird cages as I followed my grandma to Tiong Bahru market to do her weekly wet marketing.

More of the Wall Murals in Singapore:



Most comprehensive blog post on Georgetown street art:

10 things to do in Penang if you decide to go over for the weekend:

How do you judge the quality of wall murals?

Should they be by international artists or local artists?

Location relevant scenes or Harlem pop style graffiti?

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.


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

Dos and don’t in Penang

1. Bring a small foldable umbrella
Penang is unbelievably hot. Given the absence of trees. Umbrella is also useful in case of sudden tropical rain showers.

2. Buy a Mobile wifi sim card
At the airport to your right as you exit the immigration counter. I got a 5 day Internet for 20 MYR or 25 MYR for 300 MB and phone calls. Phone calls are unnecessary since I’ve no friends. Just in case I need to book restaurants. Internet connection is very useful for checking what to do from other bloggers. While locals are friendly, they may not go to the same places as you prefer. Especially when it rains, something to do while waiting for rain to stop.

3. Bring a big bottle of water
Hydrate yourself at all times. Its so hot here despite being an island.

4. Hop on the CAT free bus shuttle
Not only is it free. Its convenient and regular especially if you’re visiting the UNESCO sites within Georgetown core area. It also has free wifi. There’s a stop near my hotel. Watch out for the trishaw puller wall mural. Ironically we spotted it while looking out the window of lift lobby on 12th floor at E&O. It gets you to Komtar, Armenian street wall murals and the ferry jetty. We paid 16 MYR for a 5 min taxi ride from our hotel to Komtar which we could have gone for free on the shuttle. Taxis don’t go by meter from the hotel. We found a taxi stand below the Trishaw wall mural. Mr Sina Govindasamy 0174813579. He goes by the meter. So a trip to Komtar will cost about 5 MYR. He came over to our hotel to fetch us to the airport.

5. Get free maps from airport counter
The maps are separated by themes such as the one on Peranakan or the one on wall murals which details the location and CAT bus stations.

If you’re not sure, get the white taxi from airport. You pay at a counter and get a slip, then queue for taxi. Cost 44.50 MYR standard government fixed rate.

6. Keep one ringgit notes early in case you need to take public bus
Especially early in the morning, small hawkers don’t like to give out too much change. Keep the loose change for them. Taking the public bus 204 to Penang Hill, it helps to have the one dollar ringgit ready. Each ride is about 2MYR per pax from Komtar.

7. Bring plastic bags or carry on
Many shops don’t provide plastic bags. For environmental responsibility reason. Except for tourist shops which do provide.

8. Penang people are friendly
But maybe shy. I find the CAT bus drivers very helpful. So do let them know where you want to get off, surprisingly most do watch out and call you. Malaysia boleh.

9. Penang is very walkable
Except from 12pm to 5pm – in my view. After 6pm on weekends, walk and don’t take public transport if you’re going to the core area. The traffic jam is very bad. We spent 1hr on the bus for a stretch that was only 10 mins on the Friday night before. I think its because many Malaysians from other cities drive up too? You reckon?

10. Walk around in daylight as well as at night. Somehow the place looks different under different lighting. Especially Love lane. Walk towards and walk away as sometimes a wall mural may be hidden in the wall on the opposite side. We missed the trishaw man initially. Bring good walking shoes. Watch out for traffic. Cars, bicycles and scooters. Be safe. Don’t assume cars will stop for you. On a few occasions, we saw cars dashing across the red light. (Although we can’t tell if they’re from another state. )