The Malaysian island and state of Penang offers visitors a hugely contrasting stay. Landing at Penang Airport in the south of the island at Bayan Lepas, I travelled by bus to the capital George Town. As the bus trundled along the road into the state capital the area became more built up and the palm trees faded away. George Town is a strange mixture of old Malay buildings, colonial buildings and heavy industry. During the second world war it suffered terrible aerial attacks from the Japanese and finally fell in 1941, as British troops withdrew to Singapore. Many of the Chinese population were massacred. It remained under Japanese rule until liberated by the British in September 1945.
Despite growing urbanisation of this area George Town stood up well to the whims of developers and refused to allow the destruction of its older buildings. In 2008 George Town was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status for its conservation efforts that have protected the pre-War houses. It is now officially recognised as having “a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in east and Southeast Asia.”
Without doubt one of many reasons to visit Malaysia is for its food. It is amongst the finest anywhere in the world and Pemang doesn’t disappoint. Places to go in Penang for street food is exceptional and the quality that can be purchased at a very cheap price is superb. Penang “hawker” food as it has come to be known is as good as I have eaten in many restaurants in other cities. Asam Laksa is a rich fish broth with noodles, flavoured with tamarind and galangal it has a wonderful sour taste. Char Kuay Teow is a Malaysian version of Pad Thai. Using flat noodles it is fried in a wok as egg, sea food, been sprouts, chillies, and soy sauce are stirred in. The Indian and Muslim influences on the island have resulted in Nasi Kandar, Penang’s most well known dish. A base of steamed rice is served with various meat fish and vegetable curries. Food at its best.
As I wandered around during the day time, I enjoyed the small street side restaurants along one of the main drags. The whole town was laid back and had a great feel to it as the locals strolled about, with nobody seemingly in a hurry to go anywhere. I expected a completely different feel at night, when the place would light up and come alive as cities do. It just simply got dark and maintained its relaxed charm. This is not some kind of nightlife capital of the world. The travellers I spoke to were pleasant and happy to chat as were the locals, leading to very pleasant evenings.
Tropical Spice Garden
Lot 595 Mukim 2, Jalan
Teluk Bahang, Teluk
Town, Pulau Pinang