When reading about Penang Island, most resources rave that it is a foodie’s heaven. I found this to be a pretty accurate through my own experience. We spent most of our time in Georgetown, which is the main city on Penang. This is a beautiful city surrounded by beaches, mountains, and filled with colonial architecture and street art. While most of my activities in Penang centered around me eating as much amazing food as possible, there were also a few other things that delighted me. Here are a few of the wonderful things I experienced on Penang Island:
We took a cable car to the top of Penang Hill, which was a trip. It was so high up to the top of the mountain it was almost unreal. Once at the top, there were temples, restaurants, viewing points, and an owlery. Since it was 2,723 ft up, it was also a nice relief from the heat. There were a bunch of dogs up there running around or snoozin’ on the sidewalk. It was a really nice place to cool off and view the city.
Kek Lok Si Temple This temple is absolutely massive. Aside from the huge apartment complex that was put up right in front of the temple, it’s really a wonderful spectacle. We spent at least a few hours just walking through the temple complex. This temple is rumored to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It was definitely my favorite place that I saw on Penang Island.
Taman Negara Pulau Pinang (Penang National Park) Penang National Park is the smallest national park in the world. It still packed a punch. It was filled with lush jungle and beautiful sandy beaches. There was a turtle hatchery, some monkeys to see, and a huge spider. Meromictic Lake is also at Penang National Park. This lake can usually only be seen during rainy season, because it dries up for the rest of the year. It is a unique lake because it contains fresh and salt water which gives it a multi layer look. It was fairly dried up when we were there, but it did lead us to some gripping questions. For example: What about the fish that live in it? Can they only swim in one layer if they’re a fresh water or salt water fish? When it dries up, where do they go? Well I just googled it, and it looks like very few organisms can survive in that type of environment, except for some bacteria. So….there you go.
Batu Ferringhi Beach First impressions of this beach aren’t really great. It’s crowded, you can’t swim because of jellyfish, and every step there’s someone trying to sell you parasailing trips, jet ski rides, or horse riding. Although it’s not the most relaxing beach, it was wonderful for watching parasailers and viewing the sunset. I made a friend from Saudi Arabia who sat with me and watched all of the water activities. Her english wasn’t great, but it was nice to just sit and laugh when the people would try to land back on the beach with their parachutes.
Architecture I didn’t really take many pictures of the colonial architecture, but trust me, it was nice.
Food Ok now for the best part, the Penang food. The best place to eat was on Gurney drive, which is just a massive block filled with hawker stands, tables, and chairs. Each stall cooked something delicious, and you could just walk around and choose whatever you wanted to eat. We had most of our meals there, but we had some other tasty foods elsewhere in the city.
My favorite meal was Char Kway Teow, which is a delicious pile off noodley goodness. It’s made with long rice noodes fried up with prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, chives, egg, soy sauce, chillies, and all cooked in pork lard. It’s so delicious I’ve craved it regularly since leaving Penang.
Another tasty dish was called Wanton Mee. This dish is leafy greens cooked with pork, noodles, chillies, onions, and is served with dumplings and broth. It was ultra delicious and is making me hungry as I write this.
For dessert, I ordered up some Apom Balik. This is a little turnover pancake that has two pieces of sliced banana in the middle. It was very simple, small, and the perfect little treat.
Another dessert item I ate was called Ice Kacang. This was an odd treat. It was made with shaved ice, palm seed, sweet corn, grass jelly, coconut milk, and red beans. Yeah that’s right…red beans. Many times it’s covered in peanuts and has a maple brown sugar taste. I couldn’t really get used to the texture of the red beans, but it was surprisingly delicious and fun to eat.
In the morning we found a pasty shop with all assortments of savory baked goods. You could find a roll filled with a hot dog and mayo (a pretty common thing apparently). I opted for the chicken and mushroom pizza, which basically tasted like a chicken pot pie on a roll. It was tasty.
Not pictured, we also had an incredible Chinese breakfast and Indian dinner. Just thinking about all the amazing food there makes me want to go back just for that. I definitely look forward to when I return home and try to make these dishes for myself. They were pretty epic. I guess the takeaway from Penang was, just because it’s a dessert with red beans in it, doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious.
Onward and Upward,