Four Meals a Day: Penang
Penang is an island on the northwest side of mainland Malaysia. It is known for its excellent and cheap street food. I specifically went to George Town which is a small port city on the island of Penang developed by the British in 1786. In 2008, George Town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a side note, Malaysia is a predominately Muslim nation. The majority of people here are Malay and for the most part Malay is synonymous with being Muslim. There is also a large Chinese and Hindu population. Scattered around George Town are elaborate mosques. I particularly enjoyed hearing the adhān; the call to prayer being sung out over the city at various times throughout the day. . Ornate Chinese and Hindu temples also dot the city landscape. Vb
It is a diverse and cultural city.
My flight to Penang from Singapore took about 50 minutes. Upon landing, I took the 1 hour hour public bus ride from the airport to George Town. The total cost was $0 .80 USD. Absolutely amazing.
I spent 3 nights in Penang and most of those 3 days were spent eating new foods. I was lucky enough to meet Vincent, a Chinese native from Penang during my first night in Singapore. Vincent and his girlfriend, Quee took me out to dinner for my first night in Penang. We went to this Muslim Indian restaurant, Kabitan. It was delicious. I had chicken in this gravy sauce, nasi (rice), and bread. The best part was the Muslim tea. It was hot tea poured several times with milk. Despite being a warm drink it was quite refreshing. I liked it so much that I went back each day for the tea. I wish I knew the dish’s names but I forgot to take a photo of the menu.
After dinner I went to bed. The next day I awoke and spent the entire day walking around and eating. I had laksa, which is fish based noodle soup influenced by both the Malay and Chinese cultures. As stated earlier, I went back to Kabitan and had another chicken meal and two teas. I also bought new sunglasses; ‘Foklies’ for $5 USD.
The city here is much different from Singapore. George Town is mostly a Victorian city and for most of the day I was lost. The roads are endless, narrow, and old. Most streets don’t have street names. The people on motorbikes are crazy, sidewalks don’t exist, and pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right away. But all this is what made Penang both fun and exciting.
That night I finally meant my roommate, Steve. Steve is traveling for 6 months and is currently halfway through his trip. He is a native of South Africa and whenever he speaks I can’t but help think of the bounty hunter in Jumanji. We spent the evening socializing over a couple beers at our hostel. Only in SE Asia can you get hungover while still drinking. It is so hot and humid here that I am soaked all day and even into the night. Luckily our hostel had AC.
The next day I traveled around with Steve. We went to Fort Cornwallis, an old British fort overlooking the cape and Penang Hill; a 2,700 ft mountain overlooking the city. We took a cable train to the top. From the top you could see the whole island including the small city of George Town.
That night Steve and I meant Vincent and Quee again. They took us to a Chinese Hawkers market where they ordered us an exuberant amount of Malaysian Chinese delicacies. I particularly enjoyed the oysters. Steve had the tentacle (see below).
Penang was a great experience. It is a unique old city where a blend of cultures flow together. The city has a bunch of old Victorian buildings from the English period. It also has some poorer and less developed areas. Still among these poorer areas are world class malls and dining establishments. Thanks to Vincent and Quee I was able to experience other parts of Penang culture that I would have not otherwise been able to.