The Straits Settlements series – Part 2 (Penang)
So here are brief snippets of the highlights of Penang
– The journey there was on the overnight snoozer Konsortium bus (55 SGD), which picks up at Golden Mile tower. It was a 10 hour night ride, ending at the Sungei Nibong long distance bus station on Penang island. By snoozer, it means that the seats recline to about 30 degrees, with plenty of leg space, and your own entertainment unit. I had How to Train Your Dragon on mine. The air conditioning was way too cold.
– Lodging for the day was on the New Banana Guesthouse, clean and at the back of the New Banana travel agency (70 RM for d/room), located at the junction of Lebuh Chulia and Penang Rd. The backpacker places around Chulia charge anything around 30 to 50 RM for a room. New Banana has aircon, tv and free Wifi. =)
– The Penang Hill fiasco. Penang Hill is closed till 2011. The train transport to the top of the hill is under renovation. We took the bus up to Penang hill, and ended up taking the next bus back.
– The public bus service (Rapid) is excellent, with destinations clearly displayed and easy to use. Traveling by bus is cheap and convenient.
– Gurney drive hawker centre has a great vibe, with its open air by the beach concept. Gurney Plaza next door is exactly like an Sg mall, down to its layout (cinema on top floor, supermarket on basement) and its tenants. No surprise, seeing as its under Capitaland’s retail arm.
– Food. Had everything from Nonya chicken curry, Mee goreng sotong, assam laksa, parsembur and retro egg toast in the many quaint coffeeshops littered throughout Georgetown. KW in addition had Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee. The initial reason for going to Penang is to have authentic Nasi Kandar, but that was never going to happen. I was waiting to have enough of an empty stomach before ordering Nasi Kandar, but the way I was snacking and eating everything else, that was never going to happen.
– The highlight would have to be the parsembur hawker, who stands beside his stall and to the beat of techno (I’m a Barbie girl, anyone?) sings an infectious “rojak, rojak, rojak…” ad nauseum, with his chopper on the chopping board. He drums up business that way, im sure. =)
– Penang Times Square is still halfway under construction, with the main shopping complex completed and only half-filled by tenants. It’s the next big thing though; shiny, located in the central town area, just beside current big time shopping draws, Prangin Mall and Komtar. Watch for it.
– Georgetown itself is a mixture of Chinese temples, Indian temples, mosques, and colonial buildings, depending on which part you go to. Fort Cornwallis isn’t much to look at, but it does give an insight to Penang’s history. I can understand why Penang and its smorgarsbord of sights, smells and sounds would fascinate the western traveler.
To summarise, went there, ate, walked, ate, sat down, ate, slept, ate, ate, walked, ate, went home. Did not get to savour my Nasi Kandar. Meaning I’ll just have to return here another time! =)