Now that I’m traveling again, a lot of things are back… including monthly travel recaps!
Wow, this past month. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve really had the best time on Penang.
I feel like my real solo-traveling journey started with Penang, which coincidentally was also the start of a new year of travel. After I realized I had to leave KL, I decided to finally come to Penang for a change of scenery. This decision was made mostly because Laia was also traveling in Malaysia at this time. So we coordinated to both be in Penang in April. And it was perfect timing as CL was also planning to drive from KL to Penang.
Now, if you remember, CL and I were supposed to have taken this mini road-trip over a year ago, when I had first planned to visit Penang. Unfortunately, other things happened, and I never got to take that trip. Now, I was FINALLY going.
So at the very beginning of April, CL and I headed to Penang. I got such a happy feeling as soon as were driving across the bridge to the island. The scene was gorgeous. It had just rained, so there was a blanket of low heavy white clouds above us. With the white bridge below us and the tranquil ocean all around, it was such a feeling of peace. My heart already felt lighter and my troubles gone.
Now, you probably know that I’ve been in Malaysia for just over a year. And yet I had never made it to Penang. It just never called out to me for some reason. Maybe I just never read anything about Penang that really made me want to visit. But I ended up having the best month ever. I don’t know where to begin, so here is a summary and my favorite parts:
A lot of beach time
It was so nice to be by the beach again! I really think Penang is a perfect balance of city, beach, and nature. You can get it all within an approximately 30km x 20km island. I ended many days with swimming in the ocean, reading on the sand, and watching the sunset. Which speaking of…
A lot of beautiful sunsets
Orange fiery ones. Soft pink ones. I saw some of the most gorgeous sunsets here.
Met and hung out with blogger friends
It was so nice to finally meet Laia after “knowing” each other for 2 years! We are both ex-engineers who quit our jobs to travel and pursue freedom. By the time I went to Penang, Laia had already been there for 1 month. So she was able to show me places that she’s discovered. I really love when blogging friendships can transfer to real life ones!
CL (a Penang local) has also been a long-time blog friend. He so patiently drove us literally all around the island. And we had fun showing him parts of Penang he didn’t even know (link is to his post… mine coming!). And this picture here is a very rare photo of him, which I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve posted!
Towards the end of my stay on Penang, Carmela from No Wrong Turns contacted me to say they were coming. I’m so glad we got the chance to meet up! Carmela and her husband Ray were so fun. Too bad we only got a few days to hang out, but I loved showing them my favorite parts of Georgetown.
Night markets with my Airbnb host
I had probably the best Airbnb host I’ve ever had in Penang. Teresa truly became a friend (I’m even meeting up + traveling with her in June!) and took the time to chat and show me around. She had 2 guests in her apartment, and she took us to a couple of different night markets. We had fun just getting a bunch of different foods and sharing them.
Thursday Spanish classes with Laia and local couchsurfing hosts
This is no doubt my favorite part of the month. Laia started a casual Spanish conversation class after a few local couchsurfing hosts expressed interest in learning Spanish. I honestly looked forward to this every week!
Every Thursday evening, we met at Mugshot cafe in Georgetown and spent a couple of hours learning, practicing, and most of all, laughing. It was such a great group of people. These classes actually re-sparked my desire to learn Spanish for real and I’m continuing to teach myself daily now.
Went outdoor rockclimbing for the first time
And through this group, I met Gideon, who’s an avid rockclimber. After he found out that Carmela, Ray, and I all like rockclimbing too, he invited us along on one of his weekly Saturday climbs. Yes, he happened to have all the extra gear for 3 random people of different sizes. He took us to this hidden climbing spot reached after a short walk through a mini jungle. There were wild monkeys all around in the trees. It felt like discovering a part of Penang even locals don’t know about.
The wall ended up being too challenging for our level as none of us were able to reach the top (though Gideon and his friend practically scampered up there). But it was super fun. Overall, I still consider it a successful first outdoor climbing experience!
Hiked up Penang Hill
This was another favorite day! Teresa took me hiking up Penang Hill, but she did NOT warn me how hard it was going to be. We decided not to do the stairs route, but even our “gentler” route was about 3 hours of uphill walk, jungle trail, and some steps. After 3 hours of huffing and puffing to the top, all we got was this hazy view.
Full post coming (at some point…)!
Experienced the Penang club scene
One of the strangest experiences, for sure. Teresa invited me out clubbing one night, and Laia came along. I’m really not big into clubbing, but I was curious to just go along and see what a Malaysian club is like. And it was… dull and strange is putting it mildly. NO ONE WAS DANCING. About 300 people just stood around with bottles of beer, looking totally bored. What’s the point of going to a club if you’re just going to stand there?! No matter, the three of us did our thing on the dance floor, where thankfully, there was a tiny group of foreigners also dancing.
A week later, we went with some couchsurfing friends to a bar on Chulia Street. Because this is more of a backpacker district, the atmosphere was definitely more lively with a good number of people up and grooving. There, we had fun dancing along to good music, until a group of extremely drunk Aussies literally stole the stage.
So conclusion? Malaysians don’t dance. :P
Met up again with an old friend
If you’ve been around here long enough, you may remember Khee from when I went to Yehliu Geopark. We met when I was staying in Taipei for 3 months and she was a study abroad student. She’s a Penang local and has since come back to the island. After 1.5 years, we met again! She took me to eat some foods I hadn’t yet tried. And the day ended with the perfect pink sunset.
2 weeks of food festival
I feel like I came to Penang at the perfect time, because the International Food Festival was going on! Everyday had different events, but I attended the big ones over the weekends. There were dozens of booths by famous Penang local stalls and restaurants. It was a fun (insanely crowded) atmosphere to hang out with friends and eat some good food.
Hunted Georgetown street art
The famous street art is a must when you visit Penang. I didn’t find all of them, but next time!
Also hunted snakes at the Snake Temple
One of the coolest attractions in Penang! This temple is a sanctuary for dozens of venomous vipers, who are free to slither in and out. They are sheltered and taken care of there. It was pretty cool to get so close to snakes without anything in between. Full post coming also (for those of you who don’t have snake phobia!).
And of course, spent a lot of time food hunting
Now I understand why Penang is Malaysia’s foodie paradise. There is so much food everywhere and they are all SO good! I did my best to eat all the dishes Penang is famous for. I was already pretty acquainted with Malaysian food, but Penang seems to take everything to the next level. I probably will do a post on everything I ate in Penang!
The only complaint: my waistline suffered dearly. Penang seems to have a serious problem of lack of vegetables in the diet. Everything is so carb heavy. I mean, I loved it as I was eating it, but not so much a month later when my clothes are feeling slightly tight.
I really had the best time ever on Penang. I met such incredible, friendly people who really made me feel like I belong. I have such wonderful memories, but at the same, I’m already a little sad too. Because I know when I go back to Penang (and I definitely will), it won’t be the same anymore. There won’t be the Thursday night Spanish classes or foodie adventures with fellow bloggers or even awkward dancing in strange clubs. But I’m happy to have experienced Penang at this exact moment with these people.
What’s going on in May
I’m a little late with this recap, but I’ve already been on the island of Langkawi for one week (and have one more week to go). Already it’s quite a difference from the constant activity of Penang. Then in mid-May, I’m headed to Ubud, Bali! This will be my first time to Bali, and I hear nothing but good things about Ubud. The best part is that Laia is also planning on going to Ubud at the end of May, so I’ll be able to meet up with her again!
If you have any tips for Ubud, please share! I really have nothing planned, but I suppose going to see the rice terraces will be on the itinerary. :)
Have you been to Penang? What are your upcoming travel plans?