We stayed in Georgetown, Penang at about the same amount of time it took us to get there – a total of 10 hours from Kuala Lumpur, and back. It wasn’t really much of a bother as the ride was smooth and it afforded views of the Malaysian countryside I haven’t seen.
Add to this my determination to go to Penang because of all the things I’ve read about it in publications like 1000 Places to See Before You Die and more recently New York Times’ 44 Places to Go in 2009. Curious old me wanted to see what the hype was all about.
And glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. Sure,it had all the tourist traps like not being picture-pretty clean and those trikes possibly overcharging me in their quest to earn a living. The place wins on the fact that it had oodles of character, if those ancient shops, buildings and temples aren’t proof enough.
Most of all, Penang lived and breathed food 24/7. The hawker food was far from antiseptic but it was whipped up so delectably from the stalls of seasoned cooking mamas. It should rightfully be put on top of any foodie’s must-go-to list.
Anyway, our trip to Penang began and ended with a passage through the beautiful Penang Bridge, the third longest in the world. I was only able to take this candid shot from our tourist bus.
Georgetown was teeming with motorcyles. I was warned again to hold on to my bag for dear life due to previous snatching cases. I guess these warnings are getting to be fairly common in most crowded cities in Asia. particularly the tourist spots 🙁
A common sight in Penang were three-wheeled cycle rickshaws or trishaw. It can be as expensive as riding a taxi, but for someone like me who was pressed for time and didn’t know my way around, this proved to be convenient.The trishaw gives one a leisurely ride around town while you admire the old buildings and other structures in this heritage town.
A common sight was old buildings like this which even had a mark on what year they were built!
Sorry but on this trip , I wasn’t only focused on the food but also on little details of Penang’s architecture. I like old things, especially those which have been preserved well and this is probably the reason why I was impressed with Georgetown, and Penang, in general.
We were able to get the last room available at the Cathay Hotel in Leith St. on the day we arrived. The part of me believing in everything I read in magazines prevailed again, so I tried this joint because it was featured somewhere 😛 This charming, colonial era building stood out with its all-white facade over blue signage. I liked the fact that it cost me only 75 RM ( about $20 or a thousand pesos!) per night, in exchange for having an old TV and an equally old bathroom with chipped tiles. Ugh. My son, who is used to modern amenities, hated being here as he was looking for good cable and wi-fi. But I just dig the way this hotel made me feel like I was living in the 1920s.Bring it on.
A part of Cathay Hotel will always haunt me because it was unlike any other establishment I’ve stayed in. Old men manned the reception desk and they were writing in long hand in a tattered logbook to register us, before they handed out the chunky keys. I don’t think you’d even succeed if you tried to make an internet booking with this hotel, LOL.
The lobby was decorated with Chinese lanterns, colorful wooden doors and going further inside, you’d find a pretty inner courtyard where the afternoon sun shone in. The long staircase in the middle was also eyecatching.
Almost on the same street as Cathay Hotel was the legendary Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Dating back to the 1800s, this used to be the residence of China’s last mandarin and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is unmistakable from outside because of its blue facade. Its intricate decorations, latticed work and other details were patterned after feng shui principles and provide a good study of Chinese architecture in the 18th to 19th centuries. What more, the mansion has a actually been converted to a bed-and-breakfast. I made a mental note to join its daily tour or stay here, should we visit Georgetown again.
15 Leith St. Georgetown, Penang
Telephone number: (604) 262 6271
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
14 Leith St. Georgetown, Penang
Telephone Number : (604) 262 0006