Sunaina Pai

Penang Island Trip 2015

In July 2015, after spending 3 nights at Kuala Lumpur, we headed to Penang Island (Pulau Pinang). We stayed at Batu Ferringhi, which is about an hour drive from the airport by taxi. There are many beach resorts in Batu Ferringhi and we had booked one such resort.

In the evening, we walked through Batu Ferringhi night market. It is infamous for selling counterfeit products. At one end of the market place, there are food joints. Kafe Long Beach is a popular place. It is a food court with several vendors serving Malay, Japanese, Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisines. One must try the waffles at Kafe Long Beach and Starfruit juice at I Love U cafe, a food court next to Kafe Long Beach. The waffles are more like Indian dosas, and there is a wide variety to choose from, each one differently delicious.

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Kafe Long Beach and interior of Kafe Long Beach, Batu Ferringhi
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Batu Ferringhi night market

Penang has a very efficient and cheap public transport in the form of Rapid Penang buses. The buses are air–conditioned and very well maintained. All we needed was an Android app called Penang Bus Info to find out how to get from one place to another using the Rapid Penang buses.

On Day 2, we took Rapid Penang buses to reach funicular train station (Stesen Bukit Bendera) at Penang Hill. The funicular train journey is from Lower Station to Upper Station at top of Penang Hill. It is a thrilling experience. 😊

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Funicular train approaching Upper Station, Penang Hill; it climbs 691.4 metres in 5 minutes

We spent some time at the top of Penang Hill enjoying the cooler air and the view.

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View of Penang, the Strait of Malacca and Penang Bridge from the top of Penang Hill

Initially, I was quite scared of the trip back to the Lower Station due to the steep slope. However, the ride turned out to be comfortable, thanks to the clever design of the compartments. We thouroughly enjoyed the ride. The floor of the entire train is shaped like a staircase. Also, the floor of each compartment is parallel to the earth as opposed to the slope of the hill. So we never feel we are lurching forward or backward when the train is running.

We then took a bus to Ayer Itam and got down at Ayer Itam market and walked to the Kek Lok Si Temple.

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Kek Lok Si temple and interior of Kek Lok Si temple, Ayer Itam; the white and yellow structure at the top left corner of the first picture is the seven–storey pagoda which has 3 tiers: Chinese octagonal base, middle tier of Thai design and a Burmese crown; the second picture shows a few of 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha
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Bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, Kek Lok Si Temple; it is 30.2 metres (99 feet) tall
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Inclined lift to reach Kuan Yin statue and the monks praying at Kek Lok Si Temple

At Ayer Itam Market, we had the delicious Asam Laksa. It is sour, most often tamarind–based, noodle soup. Going by popularity we also ordered Ais kacang (pronounced Ice Kachang and literally means ice beans). It is a dessert made of shaved ice, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, ice cream, etc. It was not as tasty as it looked. 😏

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Asam Laksa and Ice kacang
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Durian, a very popular fruit in Malaysia

Durian is regarded as the "king of fruits" by many people in southeast Asia. It has a strong and penetrating odour which some people find to be pleasant while others find it to be revolting. Durian is banned from hotels, airline cabins and public transport. In fact, "No Durian" sign can be found on the windows of all Rapid Penang buses. We ate this fruit but we did not like the taste or smell of it.

We then headed to George Town, the capital city of Penang. We spent the rest of the day at George Town.

We saw the Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion), a remarkable Chinese mansion that has been restored and converted to Bed & Breakfast–cum–museum. We passed across a large Chinese clanhouse (Khoo Kongsi).

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Blue Mansion and Chinese clanhouse

We took a trishaw ride through popular streets of George Town. The streets of George Town are famous for murals and street art.

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Trishaw ride at George Town
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Boy on a Bike and Children on a Bicycle, famous murals at George Town

On Day 3, we spent some time at the private beach accessible from the resort we stayed in. We then headed to explore the rest of the George Town. On the way, we visited Floating Mosque (Masjid Terapung), Tanjung Bunga.

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Private beach in Batu Ferringhi accessible from the resort we stayed in
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Floating Mosque, Tanjung Bunga

In George Town we went to Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, a Thai Buddhist Temple. The temple looks colorful with statues and other mythical creatures. We were asked to take off our shoes before stepping into the temple. Inside the temple, there is a beautiful Reclining Buddha statue which is the third largest of its kind in the world. There are many smaller statues of different Buddhas and Thai deities.

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Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, a Thai Buddhist Temple and Reclining Buddha statue at Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, George Town; The statue is 33 metres (108 feet) in length and third largest of its kind in the world

We walked through Little India. It is an ethnic Indian enclave that has several Indian shops and restaurants. We could hear Bollywood songs and see posters of Bollywood actors at this place.

We then took a trishaw ride to Fort Cornwallis (Kota Cornwallis). At the fort, there is a Light House that resembles a ship's mast and it does not serve any navigational purpose now. There is a street called the street of cannons which has many cannons lined up. There is a gunpowder magazine room which functioned as a storage room for explosives during the British administration. There is also a bunker gallery which served as prison. Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower which is a testament to Penang's royal connections is also visible from the fort.

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Seri Rambai Cannon at Fort Cornwallis, George Town; it is named after the Seri Rambai ship that sank with it when the British transported the cannon to Penang from Selangor when they were attacked by pirates. According to legends, the cannon surfaced from the sea on its own when a prince made a curse upon the cannon by tying a thread on his finger and commanded the cannon to resurface from the sea.

After spending some time at Fort Cornwallis we went to Made in Penang Interactive Museum. It captures the essence of Penang Island with several handmade miniatures depicting life at Penang back then and now.

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Miniatures: Local Trades, King of Fruits (Durian) & Queen of Fruits (Mangosteen) and Weld Quay Waterfront, Waterfront Commercial Buildings at Made in Penang Interactive Museum

There are many wall paintings at the museum. Interactive Trick Art is the spotlight. We had a good time experiencing it. The staff is very helpful; they guide the visitors to stand at the right place while capturing pictures with the art so that the right perspective is captured.

With this our stay at Penang Island was coming to an end. We headed back to Batu Ferringhi pondering over the time spent in Penang. Next morning, we left to Langkawi.

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Saved by Spidey 😊 at Made in Penang Interactive Museum, George Town

Penang Island Trip 2015 was published on 2016-02-09 by Sunaina Pai.


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Sunaina Pai

Avid learner, Movie buff, Gadget freak, Food lover, Travel enthusiast