Penang was the kind of place that I wanted to take photos of EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.
I'm guilty of visiting some places where my camera remains untouched in my bag for days, but in Penang - Georgetown especially - I enthusiastically lugged it around pretty much constantly.
In my opinion, every street, every building, every moment, every itsy bitsy detail was worthy of being snapped into the memory bank.
I'll admit I was skeptical of this popular Malaysian island before we arrived. I'd read a few fellow bloggers' posts about being underwhelmed by Penang so I was worried I'd feel the same. I'd also visited as a kid all the way back in 1997 and had some great memories...thankfully I was anything but disappointed!
We stayed seven nights in Georgetown, Penang state's capital city of about 750,000 people. Our days and nights were spent exploring and eating - this UNESCO World Heritage area also has a reputation of being a Foodie's paradise!
The number one rule of ambling the streets of Georgetown is: don't forget to look up! There is incredible creativity at every turn, vivid lanterns piercing the blue sky, and antique wooden shutters hiding stories from the past. Penang blinded me with colour no matter which direction I looked.
Prepare yourself for the onslaught...a plethora of photos of this island I loved.
So what did we get up to?
Georgetown is known for its diverse street art. There is such a creative vibe to this city, I was delighted with what we found at each and every turn.
We picked up a map from our guesthouse and took ourselves on a lengthy DIY walking tour of Georgetown's street art. As well as spotting many of the popular works marked on the map, it was just as fun ducking our heads around corners and getting lost down alleyways - you never know what you might discover!
As we explored the lively streets we welcomed the respite of beautiful temples and mosques, inviting us in for a few moments of peace and gratitude.
Eventually we reached the ocean, and explored some of the Clan Jetties. Established in the late 1800's by Chinese immigrants, some families still reside in these housing settlements built out over the water. Despite slowly developing into what seems to be a string of souvenir shops, a wander down Chew Jetty (and the other five remaining Clan Jetties) remains a worthwhile glimpse into another life - plus some incredible sea views!
Why yes, that is a long drop toilet going directly into the sea!
We meandered Georgetown's lanes of Little India, absorbing the rich aromas of spices cooking and Bollywood music blasting.
Whilst we were there, we couldn't resist grabbing a thali for lunch.
Perhaps followed by a few rainbow-coloured bites of Indian candy?
One evening, as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, we ventured out of Georgetown to Penang Hill, for a half-price ride (after 7pm) up the funicular!
Boasting spectacular, sweeping views right across the bright lights of Georgetown and all the way back to the mainland, it was worth the expense.
Another day, we laced up our walking shoes and spent an afternoon ambling from Chinatown to Gurney Drive, wandering along the shore and admiring the views back towards the mainland.
While we were nearby, we couldn't miss the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple. Breathtaking!
Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clocktower
For a rich lesson in Penang's trading history, we headed to Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clock Tower. Fort Cornwallis was originally built back in the late 1700's, yet has never seen a battle!
The Jubilee Clocktower was built in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Two interesting facts: 1) it is 60 feet tall, one foot per year of the Queen's reign, and 2) it is ever so slightly on a lean from the impact of bombings during WWII.
Of course, no visit to an island is complete without a day on the beach! From Georgetown, we caught a bus to Batu Ferringhi to feel the sand between our toes and have a laugh at those holding on for dear life on the banana boats.
Once back in Georgetown, why yes, we did indeed visit the local Cat Cafe! It was my first Cat Cafe experience, and despite the decadently delicious chocolate cake I'm not sure I'll be back. The cats were a bit...boring? Puppy cafe, anyone?
In addition to chocolate cake, of course we devoured plenty of tasty food. Penang has plenty of local specialties - and while we did our very best to eat as many as we could, it appears my hands were too busy shovelling food into my mouth rather than getting snap happy with the camera.
However there was one dish in particular that caught my fancy and which I perhaps ate every single day we were there. Without a doubt, the world's most perfect combination of rice noodles, cockles, prawns, bean sprouts and chives, bound together in a deliciously addictive soy sauce.
Char Kway Teow. I love you.
Hawker food centres abound in Georgetown, with anything and everything you could want to eat! If you're staying in Chinatown, Red Garden is worth getting to for dinner.
The constant heat of more than 30 degrees Celsius had us begging to quench our thirst. From many days of arduous research, Alan and I can conclude that fresh apple juice trumps all. You can thank us later.
Relax and Sleep
We escaped some hours of the exhausting heat in our peaceful room. We hunted down a brand spanking new guesthouse, in a perfectly renovated traditional building - I'd be back to stay at Rope Walk Guesthouse in a heartbeat.
We sunk deeply into the bed at night, and lapped up the extravagant shower and its multitude of settings (mist!). Seriously though, how could you resist this outlook from bed, for just NZD$30 a night?
As our guesthouse was very new and relatively unknown, we were the only guests. The friendly staff generously attended to us with delicious food, while insisting we relax and watch some TV.
We were fed fresh Roti Canai for breakfast, and brought peanut pancakes and cendol at just the slight mention that we were interested in trying them.
Oh, Penang, you really got me good.
Vibrant, colourful, creative, cultural, interesting, historical, friendly and delicious - in my opinion a place that you just can't quite get enough of.
Penang, I'll be back!
Have you visited Penang? What was your experience like?
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