I arrived at Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) and waited in the queue to buy my bus ticket to George Town, Penang, the girl at the counter asked me for passport and she inspected it for a while and asked me if I was from the Maldives and I replied, “Yes” and she began asking me questions about the beautiful beaches in Maldives. There was a long queue to buy tickets behind me and so I ended our touristic conversation and headed downstairs to the departure gate and soon embarked on a five-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to George Town, Penang.
It is a fascinating mix of the East and West. Penang holds modernity while preserving its ancient charms. All these characteristics reproduced a pleasant-sounding mix of cultures that further led George Town (named after the British King George III) been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural gem in South East Asia today. Penang has a long history of being the epicentre to the British settlements of the Straits of Malacca, it was a port during the ancient times and a major tourist destination today.
The bus left Kuala Lumpur at 8.30am and took a rest stop somewhere around Gopeng at 10.30am. I had some coffee and fruits and again we left and arrived at the Penang bus terminal at about 2pm, slightly late than we expected because the Penang Bridge was jammed with inbound traffic due to an accident and took a while to clear the pile. I took a taxi and arrived at my accommodation at Magpie Residence, a small hostel nestled in a residential area and in the heart of George Town – a 15 minutes walk from the UNESCO World Heritage Site buffer zone. I first found the location tricky because it was at the end of a small lane, opposite the Museum Hotel.
Magpie Residence was very quiet, clean and cozy. It’s certainly the best place to sleep if you want to avoid Chulia Street and Love Lane from the crazy young party backpackers and loud music that goes till mid night. I slept in the cube (air-conditioned dorm) and loved it, it also had a little fan, curtains for privacy, reading lights and power sockets – it was very spacious, convenient, relaxing and comfortable. The hostel provided a very basic breakfast but free – free water, tea and coffee were available at the common area near the reception throughout the day. Each dorm had an attached kitchen and bathrooms with soap, shampoo and hot water. The wifi strength was good in the dorm-room, but the internet speed was very slow downstairs at the common area. Huge lockers are provided so you can put your whole backpack in and lock them. The communal area downstairs was perfect to meet people, although Magpie Residence was not the most social hostel; I still managed to meet a few nice people. The staff were very generous and friendly. Honestly I had a great time and loved this hostel. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting George Town, Penang.
After dropping my backpack at Magpie Residence, I took off to find some food. Penang is world-famous for its hawker or street food, many of which are sold directly on the streets and one’s presence in Penang is truly appreciated when enjoyed their culinary diversity. People from different races and nationalities of Penang’s gourmet past brought in the best of their culinary skills and traditions, and today, it has resulted in one of the major draws for gastronomes searching for mouth-watering food at incredibly cheap prices. I satisfied my cravings at a local Indian cafe with a delicious Rotti Canai with Tandoori Chicken and headed back to my hostel to get some rest.
My friend Jennifer Lim, someone I made friends with two years ago at a Couchsurfing meet-up in Penang came to pick me for dinner at 9.30pm – we had dinner at Noor & Deens cafe’ located at Lebuh Noordin. I didn’t eat much, but I think the food was good, the interior of the cafe had a vintage vibe with lots of antiques around. After dinner she gave me a brief tour of the town before she dropped me back to my hostel.
I woke up very early the next morning to explore and wander through the fabulous streets of Georgetown. I also decided to extend my stay by one more night and once that was done, I grabbed a brochure and a street map from the hostel and started wandering at Lebuh Pantai, Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Armenian, and Lorong Love (Love Lane). If you don’t like walking, you can rent a bicycle or take a rickshaw to explore them all. If you are new to the area and do not have a map, you can easily get a map of the places in any of the stalls at Armenia street, any street within the UNESCO World Heritage Site buffer-zone will be full of architectural surprises. Little Children on a Bicycle is the work of a Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic when the Penang Island Municipal Council commissioned him in 2012 to create murals, paintings and interactive 3D art around the UNESCO World Heritage Site buffer-zone in George Town. The concept encouraged locals and visitors to explore the city more by foot and inspired many other artists to create similar type of art around the town.
So I spent the whole day wandering around the picturesque busy town with its alluring smell of food and art. Early evening I decided I should leave the next morning to Langkawi, and I strolled along Chulia Street looking for a travel agency to buy the ferry ticket to Langkawi and found one, I bought my ferry ticket and headed back to the hostel and grabbed dinner on my way at a local restaurant. As usual, I was up early morning at 6am and had a quick coffee and managed to get a taxi from the GrabTaxi app and took off to the ferry terminal to catch my ferry to Langkawi.
Here are my expenses:
Taxi to the hostel ~ USD 7.24/-
Accommodation ~ USD 14.96/- (Two night stay at hostel with breakfast)
Food ~ USD 8.17/-
Transport ~ Nil
Ferry-ticket ~ USD 16.90/- (Penang to Langkawi one-way)
Total ~ USD 47.27/-
* This article was originally posted on theislandlogic blog.