Penang – One Word for it? Encompassing!
That’s what this lovely region in the North west part of Malaysia does to you.
It circles you, holds you and you might think you are done with it once you leave it but then you realize it’s within you.
Penang was the next choice of place to visit after my travels to the old mining town of Ipoh.
Unlike Ipoh, Penang is very popular among tourists, especially it’s capital, the lovely multicultural Georgetown.
I chose to stay in Georgetown, especially in the older colonial side, because the culture, food, festivals, art, architecture, you name it, bursts out at you.
I had three things in mind when I landed in Georgetown. EAT.EAT.EAT!
Known as the food capital of Malaysia, I realized this statement was way under rated. Every meal was making me go into a food coma! It should be called the Food Capital of Asia!
Yet this beautiful architecturally built town does not show off, it quietly unpretentiously carries it’s tag with charm.
The famous Assam Laksa originates from here. Laksa is a fish based tamarind broth with a mix of sliced raw mango, veggies, noodles and of course the tasty sliced fish and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I have been to many Hawker stands in South East Asia, be that Bangkok or Singapore or Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh but nothing and I mean nothing compares to the vast spread that the Hawkers of Penang can give you.
Every meal became a ritual, a walk,sometimes a long or a short one would lead me to a different hawker stand or a hawkers place and I would taste something new. And Every single time, it was delicious!
And then comes the art, The young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s stamp in Georgetown.
His life size murals and installations makes you wonder why something like this cannot be done in our cities that have dilapidated buildings and walls.
And the local artists, taking inspiration from this young man, set about painting, creating artworks, murals all over the town.
The people? Friendly, so friendly that sometimes you suspect if they are going to scam you, then you berate yourself for coming to such a conclusion because you have not been used to this kind of warmth, happy going nature, hospitality at all!
Locals who directed me to the Murals, Chinese Malayans whose tea shop I walked into, had a two hour conversation about teas and yoga and got invited for lunch the very next day!
A Bangladeshi who runs a Coconut Ice cream cafe and tells me how it has been more than 5 years since he visited Dhaka. And who lovingly offers his help to post my postcards to friends, stamps included 🙂
A Chinese gentleman who makes me have the famous Kopi Luwak – a coffee berry that is sniffed out by a special cat, eats it, excretes it and that residue brews into the one of the strongest and expensive coffee.
A German born Aussie former para trooper who has been on a year long trip to South East Asia on his bike and concluding it with Penang sits with me the whole night and next morning swapping stories with lots of beer.
An amazing duo of Chef & Office Manager at the small hotel I stayed in, not only became friends for life but I have a feeling I will travel with them in the near future to their home country Philippines very soon.
That in a nutshell is Penang. I could go on and on and on about this place but I will let the pictures do the talking.
A must Visit in every aspect and there is something for everyone there.
And I would only say, before you explore the fancy Hong Kong or Singapore or Bangkok, explore Malaysia. It is Truly Asia!