I never learn. Two years ago, I booked us a trip to Melaka over the Vesak Day weekend. It was a less than great trip, despite some good food, mainly because we spent a lot of time waiting in traffic and the weather was stupendously hot. So after we came back, I promised myself and maybe someone else that I shall refrain from travelling up north during long weekends.
This year, I arranged for a trip to Penang over the long Vesak Day weekend. But! We took a flight and went prepared with a hat and a brolly. We managed this time to escape long custom queues, but the weather, alas, was as merciless as we predicted. It did rain one day, but it only brought calf-deep floods and drowned Birkenstock sandals.
Ahh, the streets were flooded after a morning downpour.
We did enjoy ourselves mostly this time though. Penang is a nice little town to traipse around in. We walked plenty, only taking a bus for our trip to Penang Hill. There were new old things to look at, and there were good food to be had.
But, is Penang overrated? A tad.
Parking coupons. Unlike in Singapore where we pop out the relevant details, you scratch off the date and duration. A good way to reduce litter?
We stayed at the Nam Keng Hotel. The hotel is a refurbished heritage shophouse located on Cintra Street, and is very pretty. We had the Garden Suite, which is located on the ground floor; there isn’t really a garden, just a patch of yard where green things grow, but the room was clean and very comfortable. We did have some problem with connecting to the wi-fi though, and we could only get a good connection near the door.
The hotel location was decent, with some good eating joints around. The hotel arranged our airport transfers (RM80+ one way for a van), and can also arrange for transport to the various sights in Penang.
Breakfast was also provided; you get a selection of boxed cereals, local kueh and sometimes, nasi lemak.
Tek Sen Restaurant (18, Lebuh Carnarvon), we loved. We went there for dinner on our first evening, and had to fight urges to return there for all our subsequent meals. The double roasted pork was heavenly, and the assam stingray was so good.
Hum Chin Peng on Cintra Street
Along Cintra Street where our hotel was, we found an awesome “hum chin peng” (deep fried Chinese doughnut, in salty, sweet or with glutinous rice) stall. RM0.80 for doughy goodness. We approved wholeheartedly.
We also went to the hawker centre at New Lane, but the food was a little underwhelming. So at about 11pm that evening, we found ourselves in desperate need of sustenance. According to Foursquare, Hon Kei Food Corner (175, Lebuh Campbell) was one of the few restaurants within walking distance that was still open. We had a satisfying bowl of pork intestine noodles and a bowl of porridge there, and were able to not go to sleep hungry.
Pig intestine noodles at Hon Kei Food Corner
On Sunday morning, we took a walk to Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng (183, Lebuh Carnarvon) for some fish ball noodles. Their fish balls are made from eel meat. I’m sorry to report that while they make for a value-for-money meal at RM3.50, we weren’t especially blown away. Nice lah. I did really like their Milo with white coffee.
Sunday morning breakfast at Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng
We ordered additional eel balls. The Milo with white coffee is good. @ Pitt Street Koay Teow Th’ng
Penang is littered with cafes, but we didn’t go to any but one! Chinahouse (153 & 155 Beach Street, and 183B, Victoria Street) sounded interesting – it comprises 3 buildings in which there are 14 spaces for dining, arts, retail and live music. We weren’t too impressed with the spaces, actually, but try their moist-like-hell-but-good tiramisu at the Beach Street venue.
Also, we had the excellent cendol at Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (27, Lebuh Keng Kwee).
Penang Hill! Its high altitude brought us some much needed respite from the heat. We took the funicular train up (get the express tickets to avoid the queue) and once we alighted from the crowded train, we were hit with a nice cool breeze. There isn’t much to do on the Hill, but you get a pretty splendid view.
We then took the bus from Penang Hill back to Weld Quay, and headed to visit the Clan Jetties. The Chew Jetty, established in the 19th century and a Unesco World Heritage Site, looked to be the most bustling. You will find stalls selling local souvenirs and foods, as well as a local B&B. The weather called for a cold drink, so we bought a bottle of Coke, walked down the wooden passageway, peeped (when we could) into the houses on both sides, and took a few photographs.
If you’re looking for souvenirs in the form of postcards, handmade wooden stamps, or prints of retro advertisements, head to The Postcard Shop (57, Gat Lebuh Chulia). We spotted the shop’s resident cat – an unflappable ginger – hidden in a corner, but she/he seems to like being right in the middle of the action too.
On our flight back, we were sadly seated in front of two young girls who were old enough for their own iPads but not old enough to have the manners to turn the volume down or to stop kicking our seats. A glare at their accompanying father did nothing, so in the end, I had to put on my angry voice (which wasn’t hard by that time) and asked one of them to stop kicking. (And a separate rant: when did it become okay for parents to allow their kids to play on their electronic devices at full volume in a public area?)