Penang – My (temporary) island home
Greetings from Penang. I have been here for nearly a month now, staying in the World Heritage City of Georgetown. I have been here several times before on shorter visits, and I always knew I would come back to stay for an extended period. I wanted to spend some time to wander the old streets of Georgetown while getting some work done in a wifi and budget-friendly environment.
I came to Penang with the intention of hunkering down for a month to work on some website projects with as little distraction as possible. In my time here I have had some welcome relief of the work day from visiting friends.
On my second day here I was working away when I noticed a Facebook update from Johnny Jet. He posted an update: “On the ferry to Penang”. Hey, I’m in Penang as well! I quickly messaged him, and half an hour later I was down at the Eastern And Oriental Hotel where I met up with Johnny and Natalie.
[Johnny and Natalie]
For those who don’t know Johnny, he has been putting out a weekly travel newsletter since 1999. I picked up the story around 2000, so I have known him online for ages. Johnny and Natalie were on a quick stop-over on a remarkable train journey, which you can read about here.
Apart from that surprising unscheduled meetup, I have also had scheduled meetups with other friends. Two of my friends I used to work with, in Melbourne way back in 1999, are now living in the region. Paul is in Singapore, and Tasha is in Jakarta. One of our friends of this group was missing, so we took took a photo in honour of his missing in action-ness.
[Paul, Tasha, and James]
During this old work mates reunion I had an overlap of friends visiting from Chaing Mai. While Paul went back to Singapore, Tasha stayed on and met up with Shannon and Paddy, who were here on a Thai visa run. Having already been here for a week, which was a week longer than everyone else, I got to play local tour guide.
[Maysie, Shannon and Paddy]
Food in Penang
When Johnny was here he was asking me about the cost of living for food and accommodation here. So here is a brief overview. Penang has a worldwide reputation for being a foodies paradise, and I can attest to that. I’ve had to stop myself from falling into the trap of going to my favourite food places, just so I can try out some different dishes.
Some of my staple favourites are:
[Roti Canai and Roti Telur]
Roti Canai (plain) and Roti Telur (with egg) with dahl. What a great start to the day. Haven’t got sick of it yet. This and a coffee is 3.50 MYR (1.16 USD).
Asam Laksa (Penang Laksa)
I abhor hyperbole, so I can’t believe what I am about to say. This is possibly the best laksa I have ever had. I have been back to the same vendor numerous times just to make sure, and each time the laksa is as good as I remember it to be. This laksa is the large bowl with extra fish balls, and it costs 4.5 MYR (about $1.50 USD). This was at the Gurney hawker market, which is a big open air food court by the bay.
Hainan Chicken Rice
I go to this run down looking shop where all they do is chicken and rice, in the Hainan style. You sit down and they bring it out to you. You don’t order because that is all they have on the menu. Brilliant. Chicken and rice is 4 MYR.
[South Indian Thali]
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t have Indian twice a day. The Indian food is so good here though, I can’t help myself.
This South Indian Vegetarian Thali is 5 MYR ($1.66 USD). A mango lassi is 3.50 MYR ($1.16 USD). If you go the the banana leaf restaurants (where the food is served on a banana leaf), the same meal is about 4 MYR, and they tend to keep topping up your meal until you tell them to stop.
For dessert, have a go of Cendol, which is popular throughout Southeast Asia. It looks weird, but it’s a lot of sweetness on a bed of shaved ice, which is welcome in this heat.
Where to stay in Penang
For accommodation, Georgetown is the place to stay in Penang. There are lots of cheap hotels and guesthouses here with good wi-fi. I have stayed in Georgetown previously in a typical cheapo guesthouse, and even that had wi-fi.
I am now staying at a guesthouse with ensuite bathroom, wi-fi and a desk in the room for 40 MYR a night ($13 USD).
So this is my last week in Penang. I’m really quite comfortable here and could easily stay on, but I have to make an unexpected return to Thailand next week. Until then…