The West Coast of Malaysia

PENANG

Global Mark : 13.86    Top 5 : No4

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 4 3 5 3 3 5 2 15.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
21 81% (17) 62% (13) 81% (17) 5 to 18 12.71


Description :
A big Island with atmosphere, historical sights, good temples and nice resorts by the so-so beach. 

Comments : You should not come to Penang for the beaches but rather the small streets full of charm and life's sights. 

What to do ? 
- In Georgetown : Visit the Tourist Office / Feel like in India or China / Change religions at various temples, churches, Wat or Mosque / Burn hell money or colorful shaped dragon incense / Follow the Penang Heritage Trail around historical colonial buildings (start at Fort Cornwallis, R1) / Walk the relaxed esplanade and feel the sea breeze / Loose your way in the small streets / Meet Francis Light, the founder of Penang and see an old Roll's Royce with stories to tell (by the museum) / Tour old houses / See a sacred tree and walk small Chinese fishing village on stilts (on the water front opp. Lebuh Armenian) / Get an elevator ride to the panoramic floor of the huge Komtar Kompleks (R5) / Admire the City Hall by night / Degust seafood / Enjoy the night scene / Once a year (but not after the above), run the international bridge marathon (see other annual events below)
- On the Island : Take a funicular (R4 return) to cool off at Penang Hill and enjoy the view, the relaxed gardens, the aviary and the temples / Then walk down the Hill toward the Botanical Garden / Visit the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia : Kek Lok Si Temple / See how snakes get high with incense at the old snake Temple (3.2km from airport) / See lots of colorful butterflies or birds / Explore the fishing village of Teluk Bahang / From there, walk Batu Ferrinhi "Foreigner's Rock", from one beach resort to the other, spotting local & western tourists on holidays / Get high with parasailing / Cross the longest bridge in Asia / Plenty of other possible discoveries on this big island if time to explore...

What you may not like ? The beggars & sights of destitute / The traffic, noise & pollution on some streets / The souvenirs stalls at the big Temple / Having to read Malay to follow the Heritage Trail / The snake touts & hordes of tourists at the Snake Temple / The disappointing beaches, far from looking as good as on the leaflets / The difference of price for foreigners at the Museum ("They came from all over the world but had to pay twice as much to visit the museum") or Butterfly Farm (R15 !) / Waiting too long for a bus / 

How long ? Three days would be a minimum to feel the atmosphere 


Where to stay ?

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online & save money ! >> Hostels

In Georgetown, the interesting part of the Island :

- Around "Little India" : 

  • Victoria Street Hotel (604 2645677), 278 Lebuh Victoria, 5mn from the Ferry / Dorm (2 on bunk bed) 10, Sgl or Dbl 22 or 28, w. AC 35 / Go there for the small dorm, the spotless rooms w. carpet, the little "extra" and to see the place once it is completed / What you may not like : the tiny basic rooms w. inside windows
  • DB Hostel (04 2634794), 9Lebuh Gereja (Church Street), 10mn from Ferry / Dorm (12 or 4) 7 or 8, Sgl 16, Dbl bunk bed 20, Dbl 22-25, w. AC 32, w. shower 38 / Laundry R3 per kg / Internet R6 per hour / Go there for the clean rooms, the 5th floor rooftop sitting area, the HW shower, the safety and to meet other backpackers / What you may not like : the bad room isolation, the rather poor service (two hours wait to have a room prepared) and the R2 luggage room 
  • Eng Loh Hotel (2623342), 48 Church St, just after the above / Dorm 8, Room 18, w. shower (but no toilet) 25 / Go there for the largest rooms, the old Chinese atmosphere and to negotiate the prices down / What you may not like : the R18 room with peeping holes in the wall and the old decrepit look
  • Coral Hostel (04 2644909), 99-101 King Street, off Chulia St / Indian management / A new place which should become soon the backpackers' favorite / Dorm w. balcony (16) 7, Sgl 14, Dbl 20-28, w. AC 40, Family room (4-5 people) w. shower & AC 60 / Backpacker's services : water, fridge, toaster, relaxed balcony, video, satellite TV, free luggage room, cheapest internet (R3 per hour) / Go there for the nice & friendly atmosphere, the clean rooms & the cheapest boat tickets to Medan (Indonesia) / What you may not like : the too small rooms or the too big dorm and the expected busyness...
  • Golden Plaza Hotel (604 2630560, plazahostel@hotmail.com), 32 Leboh Ah Quee, just South-West of the above / Dorm w. terrace (24) 8, Dorm (2,3,4) 10, Sgl 18-20, Dbl 25-30, w. AC 35-45 / Laundry R3 per kg / Internet R6 per hour / Go there for the small dorm, the outside window in all the rooms, the relaxed terrace w. view and the backpacker's services (laser movie, free locker, newspaper,...) / What you may not like : the small & basic rooms and the not so clean common bathrooms.
  • Broadway Hostel (04 2628550), 35 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, north of Lebuh Pasar / Dorm (4 or 5) 7, Sgl, Dbl or Trpl 20,25 or 30, Family room w. AC but no window 40 / Go there for the small dorm and the clean & bright rooms (all w. window) w. view / What you may not like (or like ?) : the lack of backpackers' facilities
  • Newsia Hostel (2643930), 27 Chulia Street / Dorm (10 or 14) w. shower 6, Room 15(1) or 20(2) / Go there for the clean rooms & to check the place once it is finished / What you may not like : the probable price increase (to 7/18/25) once the work is completed

- In Chinatown area, on Love Lane, a small street off Lebuh Chulia :

  • Oasis Hotel (604 2616778), No23, North of Lorond Stewart / Charming house within & with gardens / Dorm (4 or 8) 8, Room w. lavatory 20-25, w. shower 30 / 10% discount if Sgl occupancy / Go there for the quiet & relaxed atmosphere, the clean rooms w. some charm or if you love cats & fishes / What you may not like : the lack of good isolation and the door closing at midnight
  • Wan Hai Hotel (604 2616853), No35, south of the above / Dorm (6) 8, Room 18-20 / Big rooms but very badly isolated (half wall only), grotty and not too clean. The dorm was simply disgusting...
  • Love Lane Inn (4129002), No54, opposite the above / English management / Dorm (a lot of beds) 8, Sgl 16 to 20, Dbl 25 to 30, Trpl 35 to 45 / Free coffee & tea from 7 to 11am / Go there for the relaxed atmosphere, the clean rooms, the guestbooks full of tips and to get good info on Penang or your next destination / What you may not like : the cigarettes atmosphere & the basic rooms / Thks to Matthieu Delbo (France) for the add. info
  • Pin Seng Hotel (2619004), No82, south of the above / A small house a bit off the street / Room 18, w. shower 25 / Go there for the rather clean rooms at good prices / What you may not like : the half walls and disturbing the manager with your stupid questions...

- On Lebuh Chulia, a noisy street with lots of traffic

  • Eng Aun Hotel (2612333), No380 / Off the main road by a lively restaurant w. pool table / Dorm w. lavatory (8) 8, Sgl or Dbl 22 or 25, w. shower 22(1) or 25(2) / Some rooms w. lavatory / Go there for the high ceiling rooms w. some charm / What you may not like : the small dorm and the basic & not so clean rooms
  • Swiss Hotel (8074899), opp. the above / Also off the noisy road / Sgl or Dbl w. lavatory 20 or 30, w. AC 40 / The rooms are big enough and the house has got some charm but the walls are slim & incomplete and the place lack backpackers' atmosphere
  • Blue Diamond Hotel (04 2611089), No422 / Dorm (4) 8, Sgl or Dbl 20 or 25, w. shower 25 or 30, w. AC 45 / A bit off the street by a restaurant w. pool table / Go there for the charming house w. some sculpted walls, the high ceiling clean rooms or if claustrophobic / What you may not like : the old look & furniture, the incomplete walls and the outside light switch
  • Eastern Hotel (04 2614597), No509 / Room w. lavatory 22, w. shower 35 / Rather clean but noisy as next to the road and bad isolation
  • Hang Chaw Hotel, by the above / Sgl or Dbl w. lavatory 22 or 28 / Some charm & rather clean but lack the backpacker's touch & noisy.
  • White House Hotel (604 2632385), 72 Jalan Penang / Room w. HW shower (but no toilet) 25, w. AC 35 / Go there for the big clean rooms well furnished / What you may not like : it is often full and the rooms on the street are noisy
    Cathay Hotel (04 2626271), 15 Leith Street, a more quiet street / Beautiful white house / Room w. shower, local TV and old telephone 57.5, w. AC 69 / Go there for a bit of colonial luxury 

- For people who can not stand a city, there are a few cheap accommodations at Teluk Bahang, an interesting fishing village with a dirty beach. Those include Miss Loh's (dorm R8, rooms 20-30) and Fisherman Village GH.

Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand  (July 06)
We flew from Bangkok Penang by airasia . The ticket was cheap only 20 USD with a internet promotion . Check it out at Airasia.com . The airline fly to several destination in SE Asia with really a good fare.
We stayed at Hutton Lodge Penang Malaysia , the GH is excellent . It have just open two months ago and the condition is renovate . The dorm costs 20 RM each incld breakfast . Personally , I recommended this GH.
On the day one we almost miss the flight to Pinang because a bloodly long queue in the immigration line ,anyway we got through and arrived at Pinang on time . The city itself look colonial , the building is look quite difference from town to town . Malaysia was colonize by the British so there are some historical site like Fort Cornawillis - where the British fought with the local before Pinang became colozied . Almost of the time we walked around and absorb the English atmostphere in Malay country .
We visit three mansions which own by the former millionare . One of the house is Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a highlight and it opens everyday from 11 am 3 pm . The fee costs 12 RM with a guide insided
We only have two days in Penang before leaving to Medan . Go to Langkawi Express boot near the pier ( Take the cab from Hutton Lodge costs 20 RM to get there ) . From there you can buy the ferry ticket to Medan which costs 200-250 ( One way ) took 5 hrs to get to Medan .

Backpacker's Tips : Kate  (August 03)
Coral Hostel (In the Little India district). Family room sleeps 2, there were 5 of us & 2 extra single mattresses were provided - too squeezy. The kids ended up out in the dorm - suggest you amend to 3 comfortably... Ramon & Nora who run the Hostel were great - nothing is too much trouble. Ramon's information on buses etc...saved us a lot of time. There is no internet at the hostel. However they have a washing machine available at a small charge.

Backpacker's Tips : James S, USA  (July 02)
Just wanted to add my experience here. As soon as I got to Georgetown, I checked into the Oasis Hotel dorm. Very friendly staff. I thought the Oasis was a bit old, so I went later to the Love Lane Inn to check the dormitories. The manager there, an elderly man, was very rude. I explained to him that I was staying at the Oasis, and that I wanted to look at Love Lane Inn to see if it was better so I could move there tomorrow. He simply refused my request to look at the dormitory, saying it was a waste of his time to show me the room. I simply left, it wasn't worth arguing with him despite his rudeness. Just my 2 cents.

Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (Oct 01)
Since the rent decontrol acts, the costs of most places have increased.  


Where to eat ? Plenty of small Indian or Chinese restaurants in town. The Esplanade Food Centre was a disappointment with inflated prices for basic food. But I did not test all the hawkers' offerings so I may have been unlucky. 

Internet ? The cheapest place in town is at Coral Hostel : R3 per hour (min. R1 for 15mn). Other places at R4 per hour include Richard Tailor (open 11 to 21:30, close Sunday) at 521 Chulia St or Omegatech (open 9:30 to midnight) just after the Oriental Hotel on Lebuh Leith

Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (Feb02)
The cheapest internet in Penang is The Eighteen Internet Cafe of NO.18, Leboh Cintra ( off Chulia Street). It cost only RM 2 one hour, RM1 half hour, minimum charge is RM1. With good connection, cool and cozy, quiet like a Library. It is well controlled by the management. It is a good place for e-mail. But not a good place for trouble makers.  


A religious street ? 

The nicest temples are along Lebuh Pitt, from (empty) St George's Church in the North to Acheen St Mosque in the South via :

- Kuan Yin Teng "Goddess of Mercy" Temple (Chinese) : a not so great but busy temple built in 1800. A good place to watch paper or incense burning to hell or heaven

- Sri Mariamman Temple (South-Indian) on Lebuh Queen : a very colorful temple built in 1883 and featuring the priceless statue of Lord Subramaniam. Be properly dressed and ask permission before entering.

- Kapitan Kling Mosque : an original orange structure built in the early 19th century

- Yap Temple (Chinese) on Lebuh Armenia : a small temple with great stone carvings

- Khoo Kongsi Temple (Chinese), a bit off the street : a magnificent hall with intricate carvings. Open 9 to 17, except Sat to 13:00, close on Sunday. Ask permission to enter at the Kongsi Office. / It is unfortunately being restored and should not re-open before 2002. 

 << Discover a few sights


Festivals & events ?  Chap Goh Meh w. the orange throwing ceremony (Feb or March) / International Triathlon (May) / Dragon Boat Festival (June) / Flora Festival (July) / City on parade (July) / Beach Carnival (July) / Food Festival (August) / Lantern Festival (Sept) / Trade Fair & exhibitions (Nov & Dec)

Buses around ?  Buses leave from either Pengkalan Weld near the Ferry Terminal or on the GF of Komtar. The later is a very unpleasant place to wait for a bus and you sometimes have to wait quite a bit... Bring your gas mask !
- To Penang Hill : Bus No130 to Air Itam (0.95) then No 8 to Penang Hill Railway (0.60), then the funicular (R4 return, 6:30 to 21:30)
- To Botanical Garden (free, 7 to 19) : Bus No7 (0.70 to 0.90)
- To snake temple (free to enter, not to handle a snake) : Bus No66 (0.90 to 1.40)
- Over Penang Bridge : Bus No18 do the trip for R2
- To Battu Ferringhi & Teluk Bahang : white & blue bus No 93 (1.70)


How to leave Penang ? 

Express buses from Penang leave from the GF of the huge Komtar Kompleks (most buses from the City Bus Station or the jetty will go there, R0.6, 15mn). More buses leave from Butterworth, at the bus station by the ferry pier (free ferry from Penang to Butterworth, 20mn)

Boats to Langkawi leave daily at 8am (return at 17:30). The 2 hours trip cost R35 one way or R60 return. 

Boats to Medan in Sumatra (Indonesia) leave daily except Sunday at 8:00, 8:30 or 9:00 depending on the Company (return at 10am). The 4.5 hours trip cost R96 one way (incl. R6 port tax) or R166 return (plus Indonesian tax). Most western travelers are allowed a 60 days stay without visa so there is little need to visit the Indonesian Consulate. The boats companies are located near the Tourist Office but all GH can arrange for tickets. Coral Hostel can even get you a discount to Medan...

 

Bus Schedules ? 

From Butterworth :

To  Price Class D. Time Nb Freq.
Hat Yai 20 or 25 ac ? 14 1 na
Kota Bharu 19.5/24 ac/vip 8 10,22/9,21 2/2 na
Kamunting 4 ac 75mn 6:30 to 20:45 a lot 30mn
Lumut 10.3 ac 4 9:30,14:30,18 3 na
Ipoh 8-10 ac 2 8:30,9:15,11,13,14,17:30,18:30 a few na
Cameron High. 15 ac 6 8:30,14:30 2 na
KL 16.6-17.2/20 ac/vip 4.5 8:30 to 24:30/8:45 to 24:45 a few hour
Singapore 40 vip 10 '20:30,21:30,22 3 na

Notes : To Hat Yai, SE Express (3312323) cheapest at R20 / To Kota Bharu, VIP not from Penang / To Lumut via Kuala Kangsar / To KL, a few companies

From Penang :

To  Price Class D. Time Nb Freq.
Kota Bharu 19.5 ac 8 9,21 2 na
Ipoh 10-12 ac 2.5 8:15,9:15,11:15,15 to 21:15 10 na/hour
Cameron High. 14 ac 6.5 8,15:30 2 na
KL 18-20/22.1 ac/vip 5 8:15 to 18:15, 23/10,16,24 +/3 hour/na
Melaka 25 ac ? 20:30 1 na
Singapore 38 ac 10.5 '9,21 2 na


From Penang to Thailand :
  Minibus can be arranged from most of the GH, at various prices however

To  Price D. Time Nb Freq.
Hat Yai 20 4 5,8:30,12,15:30 4 na
Krabi 30 8 5,8:30,12 3 na
Surat Thani 30 8 5,8:30,12 3 na
Phuket 41 12 5,8:30,12 3 na
Ko Phi Phi 44 12 5 1 na
Ko Samui 44 10 5 1 na
Ko Pha-Ngan 50 15 5,8:30 2 na
Bangkok 74 20 5,8:30,12 3 na


The trip to Kota Bharu : Night / Nowhere / R19.5 / 7.5 hrs / Shaking AC Bus
Following my usual habits, I arrived at the bus station much too early. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy once again a breath of fresh gas : the buses were indeed waiting with the motor running but the doors closed. This situation infuriated a local ecologist : "Would it be possible to do that in your country ? Of course not, Europe is much cleaner isn't it ? Here, nobody seems to care..." 
We left Penang on time and headed toward Butterworth's station via the longest bridge in Asia. While the boat crossing takes 20mn, the road trip took twice as long, the bridge being 8km to the south. 
The bus filled up with local people at Butterworth and we left full at 10:10. There was no TV, the radio was not switched on and the lights went off rapidly so it looked like we would get some sleep. We did not ! The road was so twisted and the bus driver so excited by caffeine that the were constantly reminded of the centrifugal force. 
At midnight, all the lights went on as the driver decided to get another dose of caffeine at a road restaurant. Actually, probably more than one shot as the bus remained still for more than an hour. Well equipped with an eyes  mask, this was a great opportunity to dream a bit. 
We stopped one more time at 4am and touts jumped on the bus to promote a so called "short cut" to the Perhentian Islands. "How much does it cost ?" - "Only R45..." We all went back to our seats...
We arrived in Kota Bharu Central Station at 4:30 and were immediately under the heavy assault of taxi drivers offering R26 rides to Kuala Besut's pier for 4 passengers maximum. - "What time does the boat leave ?" - "8am but you can rest in my GH before" Fair deal if true as the speed boat was really leaving at 9am and the slow boat at 10am...
Anyway, I was not planning to go to the island this day so I left the other westerners discuss with their new friends and went to look for a GH. The bus station & night market area were at that time invaded by huge rats but they were nice enough to let me go through...

See also the trip from Taiping