Day 1 – Singapore to Penang
We haven’t visited Penang for quite a few years now. When the children were younger, we used to drive to Penang directly and enjoyed Ferringhi Beach, Penang Hill, Georgetown, shopping and dining. So to commence our travel plans this year, we took a very short weekend break to Penang Island just to explore Georgetown area, do some shopping and enjoy the local food there.
Our flights schedules by Air Asia were as follows:
Singapore to Penang 11.45 am to 1.05 pm
Penang to Singapore 9.55 am to 11.20 am
We would be staying at Merchant Hotel in the middle of Jalan Penang close to many attractions and within easy reach for local food.
So our departure came as we made our way to Changi Airport on a Friday morning. Since we were travelling light and had no check in luggage, we went straight through custom and immigration at Terminal 1 and had a late breakfast at the McDonalds at Terminal 2. We took our time to head to the departure gate and eventually boarded our flight to Penang.
It was a full flight and we were sitting at the back of the plane. This was however the noisiest flight we had flown on any plane just like taking a bus across the Causeway to Johor. The plane was full of passengers from a certain country that talked non-stop ignoring and not listening to instructions from the air stewardess. A guy even stood up to rummage the overhead locker while the air stewardess was demonstrating safety procedures as the plane was taxiing for takeoff. Another lady got up to go to the toilet when they plane was about to land and the air stewardess had to shout at her to return to her seat. Hilarious indeed. Anyway, this was the first time we were flying with Air Asia.
Other than those incidents, our flight was uneventful and we landed at Penang Airport ahead of schedule near to 1 pm. Interestingly, we had to disembark via the mobile staircase instead of the usual aerobridge. It was a good experience as we had the privilege to take pictures of the bright and pretty yellow colour plane as we proceeded into the terminal building.
Immigration clearance was smooth and shortly we were out of the airport. Just as we stepped outside the terminal building, we saw bus 401E passing by and we rushed to catch the bus not far on the left along the road. There were some passengers alighting and some boarding so we managed to board the bus. Bus fare was just RM$2.70 per person.
We took our seats and enjoyed the ride to town. As it was a Friday afternoon, some stretches of the road was congested due to people going to mosque and their cars took up a lane on the road. After some time we reached Queensbay Mall where a number of passengers alighted. We then continued on our journey and arrived Komtar around 2.20 pm. This was pretty good timing and cost effective as well.
We entered Prangin Mall to find a decent restaurant for lunch. We worked our way up each level and finally decided to have lunch at Home Recipe Restaurant. We ordered the weekday set lunches and topped up for soup, drinks and desserts. The set lunches were reasonably priced.
We took our seats near the edge and had a nice view of the mall from above. Our food came and we tucked in to enjoy our lunch. The main course was pretty tasty however, the soup was not up to standard and the mango pudding was dilute. Drinks were fine though.
We did a quick survey of the mall, entered Parkson Store which smelled of cigarette smoke so we quickly left. The mall was having some promotional event on the ground floor but we were not really into shopping mood yet so we left the mall and headed towards Jalan Penang.
As we walked into Jalan Penang, the first side street on our right Lebuh Keng Kwee was attracting a crowd. This was where the famous Teochew Chendul was located. So we joined in the crowd, queued and bought ourselves a bowl of chendul for RM$2.50. This dessert was really good and hence, the crowd.
Tourists were taking pictures of this stall and soaked in the local atmosphere of this place, even though it was quite hot and humid on a hot day. This place had become a mini attraction. There were more food stalls further up the street. There was a fried kway teow stall where we were tempted to try but we thought better reserved our stomach for dinner.
After the nice dessert, we walked further along Jalan Penang. We passed Ho Ping Café where we had a meal there many years ago and the unmistakable Cititel Hotel was right in front of us further down the road. We knew Merchant Hotel would appear soon as the hotel would be just slightly further across the road from Cititel Hotel.
So we walked past Cititel Hotel and Merchant Hotel was just across the road from Cititel Hotel after Jalan Muntri. Being a hot day we were perspiring when we entered Merchant Hotel to process our check in matters handled by a female staff and it took a while. Meanwhile, a group of Caucasian tourists turned up at front desk for check in and another male staff attended to them. The group of Caucasians was given welcome drinks but we were not served. Anyway, the welcome drinks were just very small cups of tea or juice.
This lady staff seemed to be less competent. The Caucasian group of tourists collected their keys ahead of us while we were just two of us came ahead of them during check in. Finally, we got our keys and we deposited RM$100 cash with front desk to be returned to us upon check out. We told her we would be checking out very early at 6.30 am on the second day to catch our flight out of Penang and we would miss breakfast because breakfast would only be served from 7.30 am onwards. We were told to return the next day to inform them to see what could be done.
With check in procedures settled, we went to our room on the 8th floor. We were given a room with the windows facing a void so no room view to talk about. The advantage was we would be insulated from all the road noise but with no sunlight coming into our room, the room looked dull. The room however, was spacious and quite clean but very hot and humid as the air-conditioner had not been turned on probably for quite some time.
The king bed was good, very firm and comfortable. The pillows were too flat but good thing we had two pillows each. Because we had no window view, our room was a little dark even with all the lights turned on.
TV is wall mounted in front of the bed next to window with curtains covering the void. There are only 8 channels but they included HBO, Discovery Channel and BBC so should be good enough for English speaking foreigners. Password for wifi is indicated on the room telephone and it works pretty well.
Bottled waters and coffee and tea facility were provided and minibar was free but it consisted of only 2 packet drinks and another bottle of water in the fridge. Nothing to shout about but still better than none.
Bathroom is quite spacious with a deep bathtub but it doesn’t come with shower curtains so the floor would be wet after shower. There is also a small step after the entrance into the toilet which pose a hazard when rushing into the toilet at night.
So our room was pretty alright especially with the location being strategically located in the middle of Georgetown. Red Garden Food Centre is just behind the hotel and a bus stop is right outside the hotel along Jalan Penang where we could hop on to the free CAT tourist bus to go places.
It was just 3.45 pm and too hot to venture out to explore the streets. So we relaxed and watched TV for a while before heading out to explore and have dinner. The room was quite spacious and it took a while for the air-conditioner to cool down the room.
When it was already 6.30 pm, it was time to head out to see what Georgetown had to offer. Before heading out, we went to the 11th floor and walked up to the roof top to have a good view of the surrounding to orientate ourselves.
It was still very bright when we were up there and the views of Georgetown from the rooftop was great. We could see all the way to the ferry terminal where a big cruise was anchored there.
Towards the left we saw a nice rainbow up in the sky that welcomed our visit to Georgetown after quite a few years. We truly enjoyed this marvelous sight. It was a great feeling indeed to see a rainbow in the sky on a bright day.
Right in front was Penang Hill with the setting sun piercing fiercely through the clouds in the distance. Slightly front left was the unmistakable Komtar that used to be the pride of Penang in the yesteryears where we had dinner at the top to enjoy the splendid view of Penang from above looking as far as the Penang Bridge beautifully lit up at night.
It was wonderful to be able to look around this UNESCO Buffer Zone from Merchant Hotel to see what this place had to offer after all these years. This short orientation from the top of the hotel was useful before we head out before sundown.
So we walked back into the hotel and passed a small gym with three pieces of equipment that seemed to be in working condition. Back to front desk, we checked with the staff about the area and dining options around Georgetown. These two new staff were much better than the staff who processed our check in earlier. They were friendly and gave us great details on how to explore this area. Another 3-D map given to us was really useful as well.
We then exited Merchant Hotel, turned left and walked into Jalan Muntri. At the first junction on Leith Street, we could see Red Garden Food Centre on our left not far away after the car park of Merchant Hotel. Actually, the Chocolate Boutique Shop is just right beside the hotel car park before Red Garden Food Centre.
We skipped Red Garden Food Centre where we would come back for supper after exploring Georgetown. We walked on along Jalan Muntri and the beautiful rainbow was still visible in the sky seemingly guiding us along the way. It was a lovely sight indeed.
We passed interesting cafes, shops and hostels as we continued our walk along Jalan Muntri. These old buildings were quite well preserved but the street was quite empty during this time.
Eventually, we reached Love Lane at the end of the road. We had a quick look around, turned right and walked on towards Lebuh Chulia where we would look for dinner along the road. Along the way, there were interesting cafes, shops and guesthouse like Jalan Muntri.
When we reached Lebuh Chulia, the traffic junction was quite busy. A 7-11 convenience store was there with a street art piece on the wall outside the store. There were shops on both sides of Lebuh Chulia and not far on our left, we could see many street food stalls across the road.
So we crossed the road and walked towards the roadside food stalls. The rainbow could still be seen in front of us on the left. It was really pretty. We walked along the road and checked out the food stalls.
We decided to have Penang fried kway teow and had a fresh coconut and hoped to order more food after this. There were not many tables and chairs around the small lane at this hawker centre. We did manage to get a table after the left over plates were cleared by the hawkers.
Our food came but it also starting to drizzle. So we ate hurriedly to avoid our food and drinks getting additional seasoning from the rain. The fried kway teow portion was small and tasted fine but not the best we had tasted in Penang. Perhaps we were eating too quickly and we could not enjoy our food because of the drizzle. So no more additional food for now due to the light rain.
After this meal, we went around to roam the streets for street arts but it was also getting dark. The rain however had also stopped. Soon we were near to Komtar again so we walked towards 1st Avenue Mall next to Prangin Mall that we didn’t cover early in the afternoon.
It was already 7.45 pm when we entered 1st Avenue Mall. This mall was clean and modern. Parkson Store is an anchored tenant taking up a few floors. This Parkson Store was pleasant without cigarette smell and after a quick look around, we exited Parkson and checked out other shops.
H&M has a shop here which is quite big with two floors of shopping space. Brands Outlet is there as well. Likewise Best Store and also Royal Sporting House where we went in for a look but with no discounts going on we left the store.
Of course there are cafes and restaurants in the mall but we were not keen for another meal here. We were planning to have supper back at Red Garden Food Centre next to Merchant Hotel. 1st Avenue Mall though clean, new and modern, crowd seemed to be absent.
Next we went over to Prangin Mall again via a connecting bridge which was very convenient. Prangin Mall even though is an older mall, crowd size seems to be better than 1st Avenue Mall. Perhaps this mall is more established. In addition, there are more smaller shops selling stuff that are more reasonably priced.
We spent a little more time now to look at clothes and shoes. There was an event going on at ground floor. My wife did some shopping while I roamed around to take pictures.
After shopping, we went to the bus stop next door outside the mall to wait for the free CAT bus to go back to Merchant Hotel. The CAT bus came after about ten minutes and we boarded the bus. We alighted near the Police Station near Jalan Penang and walked back towards Merchant Hotel.
Jalan Penang looked a little different at night when lit up. It was a pleasant walk along Jalan Penang and we walked into Leith Street before Cititel Hotel. We could see Red Garden Food Centre not far away.
When we reached the food centre, it was already near 9 pm and the place was quite crowded. There were not many empty tables left. We found a table on the outer edge in the middle and settled down to order food for supper. There are many food stalls here and those having supper here would be spoilt for choice.
We had satay and barbecue chicken wings and wanton noodles as well. The food took a while to come as the food centre was crowded with diners enjoying their night out. The food was good but we still preferred the satay at Chong Pang Hawker Centre in Yishun back in Singapore. Our satay back home comes with nice peanut sauce and the satay meats are well cooked and tasty.
Red Garden Food Centre is quite a touristy place attracting many diners who are foreigners. Music entertainment was provided at night and everyone was having a great time eating and chatting the night away. The ambience was indeed good to while the evening away alfresco style, a little hot and humid though.
We were getting a little uncomfortable having walked a lot around Georgetown feeling hot and humid. So we decided to head back to Merchant Hotel next door after the Chocolate Boutique Shop. It was very easy to walk through the car park to enter the hotel lobby.
Soon we were back in our room this time nicely air-conditioned as we left the air-conditioner running due to the hot climate here. Furthermore, the hotel corridor was not air-conditioned so the room would be quite warm and would take some time to cool down.
The deep bathtub was great for some good soaking. After a nice shower, we felt great again comfortably enjoying HBO movies and chatting with the children back home.
As the night drew on we had to call it a night. We would have another full day and night in Penang before flying off early morning the following day. We were pleased with our activities for the day.
Continue to Day 2 …