It wasn’t in ‘the plan’ to visit Georgetown in Malaysia, nor had it been ‘the plan’ to stay in Malaysia longer than a few weeks, but I ended up staying almost one month, as I loved it so much. I’ve soon realised that ‘the plan’ and my original route soon went out the window.
The most frequently used phrase in emails to my parents back home, was ‘change of plan’ followed by ‘I am going there’ or ‘I am staying here.’
So there I was in Georgetown. After a 4 hour bus ride from the Cameron Highlands, and after getting ripped off at the bus station, that the only way to my hostel was by taxi (a travel error I’ve made on several occasions), I made it. The colonial buildings, cafes, street art and hustle and bustle of locals drew me to loving it instantly. In 2008, Georgetown was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I had previously seen photos from other backpackers I had connected with, and it seemed like a cute wee town to base myself, before heading north into Thailand.
I ended up staying three days. Here is what I got up to.
Three days in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
After settling myself in the cute backpacker hostel ‘house of journey’, which is run by two Malaysian travellers, I set off with a trusty map to explore on foot, which is the best way to get to know a new city.
One of the first things I did was eat (no surprises there).
Eating in Georgetown
The staff at House of Journey were amazing at recommending places to eat, based on the time and day. Georgetown is quite well known for its amazing Laksa. However, this is a fish based dish, so I avoided it at all costs.
I was recommended a little place, not far from where I was staying called Yap Noodles. Owned by Mr Henry Yap; he makes and sells his own noddle dishes (the clue is in the name really!) This place is on one of the main streets through town called Chulia Street. and is rather unassuming from the outside, but the dishes were cheap (5-6 MYR or US$1.50-2.00 per meal), and were the best noodles I’ve had in a long time. So good that I returned on another occasion during my time in Georgetown to sample another dish.
Other great places to eat in Georgetown is Little India – I had one of the best curries I’ve had in a while there.
Love Lane, the popular backpacker hangout is also full of cute eateries and cafés. The Mugshot Café and neighbouring bakery is amazing for breakfast and lunch.
Exploring the street art of Georgetown
Street Art is Georgetown is now a bit of an icon. Ever since the Georgetown festival in 2012, street art has been popping up everywhere, and it is one of the top things to do here. Most hostels and guesthouses will have a street art walking map, which is easy to navigate. Although, should you find yourself lost, or are not sure where the piece of street art will be; look out for the hordes of tourists with their cameras. Sometimes there is a queue to get that perfect shot.
I spent at least two hours wandering around, taking photos. I later discovered more and more during my next few days. Some incredibly creative pieces, with quirky taglines. It was a great way to get to know the city.
Georgetown from up high – Penang Hill
Another attraction in Georgetown is Penang Hill. Accessible by foot (if you’re fit – it is a good 3 hour hike). I cheated and took the train which cost 30RM or US$12 (Budget tip – they have a promotion running until 2015) offering half price tickets after 7pm.
Penang Hill is located about 15 minutes out from the main centre. Bus number 204 will cost a mere 3 MYR (US$1) and will take you straight to the entrance.
I didn’t spend too long here, mainly as I went in midday heat, and it was quite touristic. The views were impressive, though smog had started to cover the city somewhat.
There is a cute fence, were they’ve started to do the famous ‘love locking’. Photos are offered here too. There is a Hindu temple the top and a bird park, as well as an overpriced café. So plenty to keep yourself entertained.
The kek lok Si Temple
South East Asia has a number of temples, both Buddhist and Hindu. The Kek Lok Si Temple in Georgetown is said to be the largest Buddhist Temple in South East Asia. So I thought I’d have a look on my last day.
The temple is accessible by bus, and on the same route as the bus to Penang Hill (number 204), which I hadn’t previously known about. So you can save yourself a bus fare and combine these two visits.
Unfortunately, I had most of my clothes in the laundry, and only had shorts and a small top to wear (I should invest in a sarong, I know), so I couldn’t enter the temple, but just look from a distance. Perched on a hill, this towering structure looked pretty magnificent. There is a separate part of the temple with a giant Buddha in the middle also.
Each year during the Buddhist new year, there is a huge festival with lights, and fireworks.
During my return to the city, I bumped into a local woman, after I was asking where to catch my connecting bus, as there appeared to be no marked bus stops. She gave me directions, and walked with me, so I wouldn’t get lost.
We talked for a little while. Her name from Ching Choo. She had just lost her father to illness, and was on the way to the rest home where he had been living. She believed that everyone you meet is a blessing, and then proceeded to take a one Ringgit note, and made an origami heart for me to keep as a memory of Malaysia. Quite special.
Other things to do in Georgetown
I am starting to travel much slower. Previously I had run around a city with guidebook in hand, from site to site. I’d end up exhausted, with little appreciation for where I had been, and what I had seen. So whilst I didn’t appear to do a lot during my three days in Georgetown, I felt like I saw what I wanted to, and enjoyed it.
If you have more time on Georgetown, you can check out the Botanic Gardens, visit the Penang Art Gallery and Museum, stroll along Gurney Drive by the waterfront or take a trishaw around the city on a tour.
I had a short but sweet three days in Georgetown. Its somewhere I’d easily return to.