10 things to do in Penang
The city of Georgetown itself is filled with nostalgic shophouses, vintage shops and old streets that are hard to come by in big cities these days. The only thing I would concentrate on when I’m in Penang would really be the food, as they have a rich culture and many different variations of dishes to be tried. The pace of life is generally slow, and it seems that the locals start their day later in the morning, and the night scene is pretty vibrant as well.
If you put aside the commercial things to do, like visiting Penang Hill or famous monuments, the streets in Penang has enough to offer. Here are a list of things to do if you’re looking to explore a town stuck back in time.
1.Chill out at a nice quaint cafe
There are too many cafes in Penang to visit, each special in their own way. But my favourite would be “Mugshot Cafe”, which overflows with amazing vibes. The space is big, with games like Jenga and photogenic backdrops to take a “mugshot” which patrons can then put up on the wall. They serve pasta and is well known for their homemade greek yoghurt. The staff are extremely friendly and they’re also connected to the Rainforest Bakery which serves up fresh bakes.
159, 63, Muntri St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town
2. Go Vintage!
If you take enough time to venture around the streets of Georgetown, you’ll find that there are many vintage stores waiting to be discovered. These vintage stores range from your classic retro shops, to the “new age” vintage shops where items are refurbished. Despite the many different stores, there are tons to things to look through, many things that bring back memories from your past, whether you were born in the 70s, 80s, or 90s.
*Update Aug 2015*
Some of the vintage stores that used to be around Armenian St/Lebuh Cannon have all closed or become cafes. The only remaining antique shops that I’ve sourced out were all along the end of Lebuh Chulia, connecting to Jalan Penang
3. Explore Ernest Zacharevic paintings.
Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic has left his mark on almost every corner of Georgetown. Beautiful mural paintings can be found along the UNESCO Heritage Trail and in places you least expect. Pick up a map that tell you locations of these paintings and go around on food to explore !
4. Visit galleries
The Unique Penang Art Gallery has ongoing shows every now and then, featuring artworks or photographs of local artists and talents. Pop by and see what they have in store for you! When I visited this gallery, they had a photography exhibition revolving around the theme of stray animals in Penang. Also check out the E&O Gallery at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, they have 3 galleries that have amazing exhibitions
5. Wake up early and get breakfast!
Forget the free breakfast that your guesthouse provides. Most often it’s “western style” with simple toast and fruits. Why waste calories on those when you can get freshly charcoal oven toast and soft boiled eggs, traditional style at Toh Soon Cafe? This classic coffee shop tucked away in a small alley along Jalan Campbell is THE spot to have a traditional breakfast of eggs and toast. Little pyramid-shaped packets of Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaves are left on tables for patrons who like a simple yet tantalizing fusion of coconut rice and sambal chilli mixed with anchovies while waiting for their toast or coffee. Because of how small and busy the place is, go early or be prepared to wait for a table!
Toh Soon Cafe
Lebuh Campbell, Penang Malaysia
6. Pig out on Kimberley Street
Lebuh Kimberley in Malay, is a street in Georgetown that serves all sorts of local eats til late in the night. You can either head there for dinner, or supper. It runs from Penang Road to Carnavon Street, through the heart of the traditional Chinatown area of the city. The whole street is lined up with stores that sell all sorts of authentic local food, at street prices and I can assure you they are all mouthwatering and worth a try!
7. Dim Sum at Tai Tong
This gem on Cintra Street is a MUST TRY! Whether you’d like to have some piping hot dim sum for breakfast, or late into the night for supper, this dim sum joint is guaranteed to serve you fresh and delicious food at affordable prices. Traditional metal trolleys are being pushed around from table to table, and you can grab whatever you want. From century egg porridge to a wide selection of steamed buns, dimsum and fried snacks, it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed by the neverending choices!
Tai Tong Dim Sum Restaurant
45 Cintra street, Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia
8. Visit the jetties
The Clan jetties consist of eight jetties, named after their surnames, Lim, Che, Tan, Lee, Yeoh, Koh, Peng and Mixed Clans. Chew is the famous last name, which means that it’s also the most popular and commercialized village built on stilts. I would prefer to visit the other jetties, just to see the lifestyle of how the locals live. As they are less popular, you wouldn’t see stores selling souvenirs or signages “welcoming” you the commercialized way as you’d witness in Chew Jetty. If you do walk around the other clan jetties to take a look, be sure not to disturb the residents ! Some jetties also have temples hidden within, remember to always be respectful if you decide to enter.
9. Grab a drink or two at night after supper.
Party goers would want to head to Upper Penang Road where all the clubs and bars are at (The Garage) and they are all open til late. If you’re looking for something lesser than a busy club scene, to talk with your friends and have a chill time, hang out at the bars along Chulia Street or Love Lane. I chose to spend my night at a reggae bar as it had a chill vibe with great music, you can also have some shisha while enjoying a beer or two. Mikey’s place along Love Lane is also another popular watering hole.
10. Explore the streets, shophouses and the food!
Last but not least, the best way to see more but spend less is to walk around the streets. There are many little shops waiting to be found around this picturesque town. Have a traditional cup of coffee and kaya toast, or sit in a chinese tea house for a chat with the locals.