Everlasting because the vacation we had planned out seemed far too long by the time we finished it, so much so that we were dying to come back home by the end of it. I know it sounds a bit weird to be happy about a vacation ending but perhaps India is so much better than many places on earth or maybe its just us who are weird. Anyhow. Our trip was mainly planned as a relaxed getaway covering Kuala lumpur, Penang and Cameron Highlands – basically spread out in a way to see city life, heritage, beaches and hillstations to get a complete feel of the country in about 11-12 days. In the course of events of course, we ended up spending maximum time in KL, so I choose to cover it last. At the begining of our trip, the husband went through the travel websites and exclaimed why did I schedule two days in Penang since he was unsure of its potential to keep him interested for long. Now talking of Penang, it is true that all the talk of being a food destination dominated my decision of choosing Penang as a pitstop of the trip, and the heritage acted as a huge bonus that made it a total value for money idea.
We flew down to Penang from KL and were impressed by the Penang International Airport – for a small town airport the array of shops were quite impressive. We chose to stay in Georgetown rather than the more popular Batu Ferringhi resorts and were happy with this decision, because, as we later discovered, the Batu Ferringhi beach isn’t much compared to most we have seen. Georgetown, on the other hand, was a complete delight to the lenses as well as the taste buds. We walked around for as much as we could and then were happy to hire a motorbike for the remaining 24 hours (@35 RM) to cover as much as possible of Penang islands. It was a workable way to get the husband, who is very fond of riding, out of the bed and the hotel to get around a bit.
Between heritage buildings in pastel shades, ornate Chinese temples in red and gold, and rich street art and graphiti in abundance, the streets of Penang were a sight to behold. The bright sun made it a tad difficult for us in the afternoons but my camera couldn’t be happier since the excess light so complimented the bright colours. A friend who has been there before said he found it comparable to Kolkata, but honestly I found it more akin to the streets of Fontainhas in Goa, except that this felt slightly more real. Here are some glimpses of how the city looks like.
Talking of the food, Penang is mainly famous for Char Kwei Tow (fried rice noodles with beansprouts and usually seafood), although we also had some good Bak tuk teh (pork stew with rice), beef ball noodle soup (clear soup with meatballs, mushrooms, handmade noodles and greens thrown in), Cendol (the favorite Malay dessert pronounced as Chendol, made with pandan noodles and red beans on ice – somewhat similar to our Falooda, just a bit milder).
Penang food has two major influences – Chinese and Indian – so when we were done with Chinese tastes and felt a bit homesick, we headed on to Ananda Bhawan in Little India for a banana leaf meal (basically a South Indian thali). Curiously, in the South Indian food we had across Malaysia, we found the vegetables were slightly undercooked and retained a bit more crunch than they do back home. Apart from the Sambar of course, which was more or less standard everywhere.
Penang does not have much of a nightlife apart from the pubs and night market along Batu Ferringhi beach, which came as a bit of surprise after our time in KL. Pretty much everything, including most of the restaurants in Georgetown close by 10 pm. We stayed very close to Komtar (the tallest building in Penang which also houses the Komtar mall and adjacent Prangin mall). I would have loved to shop around in Penang, especially for the Chinese ceramic teapots and stuff, but sadly we were worried of damage in our road trips thereafter so couldn’t 😦 On the hindsight, we should have just flown out of Penang only for this reason. Instead, we took an early morning bus to Cameron Highlands after 2 days of stay in Penang, and as we did that, we felt a tinge of sadness about leaving Penang. Even the husband who was initially not so keen on Penang admitted at Cameron “we should have stayed more in Penang”. More about what fuelled that comment in the next post on Cameron highlands.