This Easter, my sisters and I decided surprise our mom! We decided to go Penang!
Keeping the secret was easy task for us. Breaking the news was a tough one. Coz mom didn’t believe us and kept saying we were just pulling her leg! It took us a while to convince her before she decide to pack her luggage. Eventually she became excited and so much she couldn’t sleep the night before!
DAY 1: GOOD FRIDAY
First stop, 8:30am, Sunflower Garden at Changi Airport. This is just one of the many mini gardens within the compound of Changi Airport. The huge sunflowers kick start a very happy trip for us!
By 12 noon, we arrived at our hotel in George Town (named after King George III of England), capital of Penang!
It was free and easy for the first day. We spent the afternoon roaming the streets and eating along the way too. We all agreed the Chendol along Penang Road was the best! Only RM$2.30! There was a long queue under the hot sun for it. Best Dessert of the day!
There were always a small crowd around the wall paintings with tourist like us snapping fun shots. Other than Ernest Zacharevic’s paintings, there were other artists from Japan and local ones too. There were also some metal sculptures by the state of Penang to promote tourism. Ernest Zacharevic’s wall paintings have become so famous in George Town, even the Trishaw men offered routes to tourist to visit all the sites. But do beware of their charges. Usual rates of RM$40 per hour. They usually exceed the time and charge for more. So you got to watch your own timing! Or you could rent a bicycle at RM$10-20 for the whole day!
Dinner was great at the local food street along Chulia Street. Although the weather was still hot and humid in the evening, the fresh fruit juices were great so were the Fried Kuey Teow, Satay, Wanton noodle, Assam Laksa, Lok Lok and Fried Carrot Cake in a cone-shaped take away banana leaf!
DAY 2: SATURDAY
Our friendly local guide pick us up in the morning in a mini coach and brought us to the Penang Hill. One of the oldest colonial hill station established by the British during their time in Malaysia. A 8min tram ride up took us up the 823m hill. There’s lots of nature like botanical gardens and nature walk trails. An Owl Museum great for kids. Guided hikes were available too. We took a short 30min buggy ride touring around the hill top. The air was cooling and refreshing at about 21-3º.
Just a short drive from Penang Hill, our next stop is at Kek Lok Si Temple. Situated at the slope of a hill, a seven storey pagoda of the temple or the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, was built in 1930. Some 70 years later, another 30.2m bronze statue of the Kuan Yin was completed and opened to the public. It was located on the hillside above the pagoda. The huge interior structure of the pagoda has beautiful ceiling paintings and sculptures. However the Kuan Yin bronze statue didn’t offer a good view as there were too many pillars around it.
We wrote some wishes and hang them on the wishing branches in the Pagoda. You can pick from the many wishes that were printed on colorful ribbons. Some interesting ones like: “Listen to the words of my father/mother”, “World Peace”, “Beautiful and Good Looking”!
Time for food again! Penang is known for it’s rich Peranakan heritage, Nyonya Baba food is not to be missed! Our guide drove us to Nagore Square where this area is dedicated to arts & cultural, F&B and entertainment. Lots of shophouse eateries along the streets. The Nyonya food didn’t disappoint us. Even Elkan loves it! He had 2 servings of rice!
The next attraction was a 200-year old Kuan Yin Temple. A very small temple. While mom and aunt do their prayers in the temple, I found caged birds which were sold at RM$4 each for you to release them so that they regain their freedom. Poor birds. They are kidnapped, and released if ransom is paid! Whoever paid for their freedom is their savior. This equation does not work out for me.
We get to see treasures belonging to others in the museums. But in this particular one, The Pinang Peranakan Museum, we found a treasure of ours! This museum is a mansion built in the end of the 19th century. It has over a 1000 pieces of antiques and collectables. My mom and aunt love the museum’s very rare displays. The biggest excitement was when my youngest sister, Chups, spotted a signage that says: “利昌金铺“. This signage belongs to our grandfather in the hay days when he owned a goldsmith shop. It brought back fond memories of days when we were young and running around at my grandfather’s shop house along Beach Road in Singapore. Best find of the day!
After the museum, we went to Batu Feringgi. Famous for its long stretch of beach. However, it was too hot to stroll along the beach, so we headed to the Straits Quay Marina. It’s a shopping mall by the sea and a Marina Club as well with a capacity of 40 pontoon berths. You can take a water taxi for an island tour.
By evening, our guide drove us to Gurney drive, well know for Penang’s local street food. We were dining under an umbrella to shield us from the evening’s drizzle. The variety of food is good but the queues are crazy…. And the food is a little over rated. Not the best choice so far.
Elkan was eager to move on to our next destination in the evening. The firefly boat trip. It was an hour’s drive to the mainland of Penang. We took the old Penang Bridge built in 1985 (13.5km) and traveled south along the North South Expressway. The boat trip was pleasant under the moonlight. We were well prepared with creams and sprays from mozzies! Our boat cruised along the dark riverbank with mangrove trees which were the natural habitat of fireflies. Elkan was excited to spot them and pointed out to us in a few directions. The boatman bumped gently into one of the bushes which scare the hell out of Elkan when the fireflies started to fly towards us. The boatman then handed me a net and signalled me to catch some of the fireflies. Elkan was relieved when he saw how tiny the flies were. Not some mega big bugs!
The boat trip ends our long and tiring day. We traveled back by the second Penang Bridge (24km) which was opened just about a month ago!
DAY 3: SUNDAY
We had a slow and easy morning. Elkan got to go for a fun dip at the pool while the ladies took their time the breakfast. We headed to our last attraction for this trip which was the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion or more commonly known as the “Blue Mansion”. The former home of tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze. It was rated one of the ten greatest mansions in the world by Lonely Planet in 2012. This house has a Feng Shui inspired architecture. Every corner and detail was carefully thought of.
After the mansion, the ladies preferred to stay indoors to enjoy the aircon. While Elkan wanted to try hop on to one of the colourful trishaws. So the ladies went to the nearby shopping mall while I took Elkan on our little adventure.
We went to search for the wall paintings which we missed on the first day. The trishaw man also took us to some interesting spots like the Camera Museum, Cat Cafe, Made In Penang Interactive Museum and the Clan Jetties. We stopped by the last stop, the Clan Jetties where we walked through houses on stilts to have a view of the jetty. Along the way every household sells some sort of souvenir or local food right in front of their door steps. My best find was the durian ice cream! Elkan hates the smell most. Haha… love the look on his face!
Too bad we didn’t have enough time to explore all of it. We had to head to the airport. This trip we had the best dessert, best found treasure and best of all, our family traveled together! Looking forward to the next one. Be prepared, mom 😛