After 4 days of relaxing in Langkawi, I got the ferry to the popular tourist town of Penang.
I was really looking forward to Penang. I had heard so many good things about it. People raved about the food, the street art, and the general vibe.
When I arrived my stay didn’t get off to a great start. It was absolutely pissing it down. Seriously, I had never seen such heavy rainfall. One of the things I was really looking forward to about Penang was exploring, so I was hoping the weather would get better.
Thankfully, it did. The next day the sun was shining. But sadly I still didn’t fall in love with this city.
After arriving I got a taxi to my hostel, Reggae Penang. This is a really nice hostel with a bit of a novel concept. The dorms are set up like pods so you have your own space. While this is a nice idea, I have to admit it felt a little weird. As a solo traveller, I found it harder to socialise as you’re blocked away from others and it can be a little claustrophobic. There was a bar downstairs but it was never really busy, as Malaysia is pretty expensive when it comes to drinking, especially when compared to it’s neighbours like Thailand and Indonesia.
After an early night I set out the next day to see what the town had to offer. I went on a walk exploring all the street art dotted about the city. The street art was cute and definitely adds to the town, but I don’t understand why it is such a huge attraction. Whilst it adds colour and character, it’s not the kind of street art I like or am used to. It’s not provocative. It doesn’t make any bold political or cultural statements. The art was actually commissioned by the council. For me, it’s kind of the opposite of what street art is actually about.
The truth is, Penang didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’s pretty small and a lot of the bars, restaurants and cafe’s are Western prices.
The one thing I will say however, is that the food really is exquisite. In Penang there is plenty of options to choose from. There is a China Town and a Little India which both have fantastic restaurants. I went down to Little India both nights and ate there. I can’t recall where I ate but both nights the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere in Little India is incredible – with lots of colour, spice aromas rising up into the air, and Bollywood movies playing on Televisions.
Penang is also pretty nice to go to if you are an architecture buff. There is a mixture of gorgeous colonial buildings, traditional Chinese temples, and towering mosques. It is a very pretty town, that’s for sure.
If you are travelling down towards or up from KL then by all means visit Penang, just for the food. But for me it was only worth going for 2 nights and 1 full day. In this time I experienced everything I wanted and needed to. Some people stayed longer and went to the beach, but from what I hear the beach is really not good and not worth visiting. Save your beach time for Langkawi or for the Thai islands.