Georgetown, Penang was a great place for us to stay put for a while and get a little work done while still exploring at a less hectic pace. We knew that this UNESCO World Heritage city on the west coast island was famous as a food paradise and it had been recommended to us by some other travel bloggers.
We were looking forward to the good things that we had heard about Georgetown, but while we were there we also discovered some unexpected treats as well.
The Little Pleasures of Georgetown, Penang
Due to it’s diverse population of Chinese and Muslims, Georgetown, Penang has a huge range of religious buildings of different faiths. There are Thai-style Buddhist temples with guardian dragon sculptures, Muslim mosques with dome-shaped minarets and ornate Chinese temples with intricate gold carvings curving from their roofs.
There is the Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple) which was built in 1801 and is the most popular Chinese temple on the island. The temple offers free admission and Chinese operas and puppet shows are staged on special occasions. There is also the Kapitan Keling Mosque which is in the center of the city and offers free tours during non-prayer times. However, we were there during Ramadan and the mosque was closed to visitors so we only got to see the outside.
Late Night Archery
One night after we had been out for a few drinks Lee started leading me towards the shopping mall. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, but from the smirk on his face I could tell that it was going to be fun.
We arrived at One Indoor Archery Sport, which is located on the Komtar Walkway near Georgetown White Coffee and is open until midnight every night. We paid 8 RM each ($2.50) and ended up with a dozen arrows and some basic instructions on how to shoot.
From my late night (slightly drunken) experience, archery is a lot harder than Robin Hood makes it look. My arm began to shake after 10 minutes of holding out the heavy bow and pulling back the string. My target looked like the pincushion of a little old lady with bad eyesight. However, I didn’t care because we were having so much fun. Getting to shoot a bow and arrow is a great little cheap thrill you can enjoy in Georgetown, Penang.
Hong Kong Bar
This little hole in the wall bar is filled with memorabilia of Australian forces who were stationed across the water in Butterworth and it is run by the sweet and friendly Jenny. The walls are covered with photos and plaques and there is a stack of guestbooks with pictures of visitors throughout the decades.
Lee and I are both very social creatures and we love spending the evening engaged in conversations with interesting strangers. The Hong Kong bar was perfect for this and every time we went we ended up sharing stories from the road with other travelers and learning about Penang from the local clientele. It’s the type of place where you go in with the intention of having one pint and you end up getting kicked out at closing time because Jenny is falling asleep.
Addictive Samosas and So Much More
We had heard that Penang was famous for its food and we absolutely loved how cheap and delicious street food in this city really was.
One afternoon when I was taking a walk through the Little India neighborhood past DVD shops blasting Bollywood dance music and colorful saris on display, I spotted a food cart with fresh deep fried samosas. I brought a couple of these soft and warm pastries back to Lee and as we bit into the hot and spicy chicken and vegetable filling we fell in love. I think we ate samosas from that food cart almost every day we were in Georgetown. Even when we moved to a different hotel we still walked across town just to indulge in this Indian snack.
Samosas aren’t the only delicious thing you can find in Georgetown, Penang. We also loved the Red Garden Food Court, which is an open air food market offering you a huge selection of tasty dishes from all over Asia and the world. On any given night you can have fresh sushi, fish head curry, briyani clay-pot, teriyaki chicken, roasted duck noodle or even spaghetti and meatballs. We washed it down with bottles of Carlsberg chilled in a bucket of ice while listening to the live music.
During our two weeks in Penang we also took a trip up to the beaches of Batu Ferringhi but we returned to Georgetown after only a few days as it was the ideal place for our style of slow travel. Georgetown delivered what everyone had promised it would, with a number of other unexpected treats as well.