Penang, the Pearl Of The Orient
17 May 2015
No matter how many times I visited Penang, I never grew tired of “The Pearl Of The Orient”. A bustling port, UNESCO World Heritage city and industrial hub all-in-one; Penang is also a world-renowned foodie’s paradise. Each visit is never complete without digging into the famous cheap hawker fares at the many roadside stalls and quaint coffee shops – Char Kuey Teow, Assam Laksa ( a type of sweet-sour-spicy fish broth noodles), Prawn Noodles, Briyani Rice (spiced Indian rice with a selection of meat and veges) and Ice Kachang (delicious shaved iced dessert ) as well as fresh tropical Fruits amongst others. Mmmm… no wonder Penang is widely regarded as the “Food Capital of Malaysia” !
However, more than just delicious food… Penang also owned it’s popularity and fame to the interesting melting pot of cultures arising from inter-marriages between it’s early inhabitants (the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Siamese amongst others). I bet there’s nowhere else in the world where you get to see grand Churches, elaborate Buddhist and Hindu temples plus magnificent Mosques so near and within walking distance of each other. Besides these places of worship, I also loved strolling through the quaint streets of Georgetown where fascinating clan houses, buildings with electic architecture and relics reflecting Penang’s rich colonial past behold. Armenian Stree and Pitt Street are always my favorites. The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Khoo Kongsi Clan Temple and Pinang Peranakan Mansion were cultural eye candies! You can book a private walking tour if you like but honestly you are able to navigate and explore on your own pretty well. Almost every local is able to converse in decent English and if you happen to be a Mandarin-speaker, well… the local ethnic Chinese would be more than happy to show you around!
Whenever the weather gets too hot and humid (at times well above 32 degrees!!) , I would venture up the Penang Hill. Quaint and green, the hill’s definitely a much-needed cool respite from the heat and buzz of the city below. The cable train service operates up to 9pm daily; so I highly recommend a late afternoon trip just in time to enjoy an English Afternoon Tea of warm scones (with clotted cream & strawberries…yummy!) followed by perfect sunset views and barely an hour later glittering night views of Georgetown’s beautiful cityscape. If you’re not pressed for time, do attempt the 2-3 hours hike up too; though being lazy I much preferred the train. Haa haa !
With commercialization and property development over the years; Penang’s beaches aint’ as tempting as they once were. However, that’s not to say the beaches have totally lost their charm. Take Shangri-La’s “Golden Sands Resort” for example. Located along the popular Batu Ferrighi beach, Shangri-La has kept its’ private strech clean and well-maintained; making evening walks with the cool breeze against my skin truly enjoyable. Depending on the weather, resorts guests might be able to witness the sunrises and sunsets. I was unfortunate as it was cloudy and rained earlier in the day, as such the skyline was pretty bland. Otherwise I imagined it would have been beautiful…. Though it can be seen that Golden Sands Resorts is targeted more towards families (there were certainly lots of kids running around), this beautiful resort is also definitely enjoyable for couples or just friends like us looking to just goof around for the weekend! (Tip : Sigi’Bar & Grill on the beachfront simply rocks! Make sure you choose a table at the outdoor upper deck for amazing sea views). The rooms were real spacious and comfy too. All-in-all, Golden Sands Resort was indeed a real delightful stay.