36 Hours in Penang

The first weekend trip I took was to nearby Penang, which of course has a reputation for being the food capital of South East Asia.  To be honest, I was still in my honeymoon phase with Singapore and in awe all the food choices here, so the food there didn't seem enormously different.  What I really appreciated about Penang was it felt so much more gritty than Singapore, in a great way.  Suddenly I'm reminded I'm indeed in Asia.

Arriving late at night, our first meal was at the first hawker stall we could find on Jalan Burma.  After living in Singapore for over a month we knew our way around the hawker world, but in Malaysia, hawker stalls felt different.  I guess Singapore hawker culture is highly regulated and isolated in centers, where in Malaysia they tend to be everywhere and spill into the street.

Walking around old historical George Town is one of the best things to do in Penang.  There are temples to step into, street art admire, snacks to chow down and even museums for cooling off (because it will be necessary).  Most importantly, the architecture is very much worth the walk because the colonial buildings are so well preserved.  There is still an authentic urban life here too, which in other words means it can be very chaotic.
For obvious reasons, I resonated the most with this piece of street art
The Clan Jetties were a cute place to visit, they are a series of floating neighborhoods that remains one of the last old Chinese settlements.  I loved the colorful little wooden houses.

Nearby the Jetties, we passed a bakery with a line outside so obviously had to stop by.  I'm not sure what the actual name of this place is, but I would like to think it's called "The Secret of Irresistible Pastry" because that's just good marketing.  The pastry dough itself was very sweet and flakey, but they were all filled with a surprise mystery filling that may not have been to everyone's taste.


One of the famous dishes I had read about was the delicious nasi goreng at Hameed Pata Special Mee Hotong at the hawker center next to Fort Cornwallis.  I could tell this was good because it was mainly locals and everyone was getting the same exact thing.

After the heavy nasi goreng, I craved something refreshing, and it was then that I discovered the wonderful iced kacang.  It's not so much a beverage and as it is really strange dessert (although come to think of it, the day after I got the same thing take-away and it was put in a plastic bag with a straw).  This iced kacang consisted of red beans, sweet corn, some lychees, iced slush, syrup, ice cream, and probably another 18 ingredients I can't remember because I devoured it.

We spent a day going to the GIANT Kek Lok Si temple and Penang Hill.  Kek Lok Si temple was amazing and so much better than I expected.  It's the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.  I read some reviews complaining that it's been exploited due to tourism, but quite frankly I feel like that's becoming hard to escape and I just have to get over it.  There is a moderate climb to get up there but once you're up it becomes a big maze of of pagodas and rooms.


In my experience Penang Hill wasn't really worth the time nor the ticket up on the tram.  The view isn't that impressive and once you're up there is really nothing to do.  Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the whole journey up and down is the tram was crowded with Asian tourists who insisted on holding their phones up in the air to videotape the entire ride.  WHY!

Another reason to go over to Kek Lok Si temple is to try the famous Penang style laksa. If you ask me, this is the one must-try in Penang, not because it's better than anything else, but because it's so unique and will flip what you think of laksa on its side.


First, this is a much smaller laksa with no coconut milk, therefore less filling.  The soup is more pungent, sour and fishy.  I realize that none of those words evoke yummy goodness, but that's the beauty of Southeast Asian food.  It seems off-putting but works together magically.

There's much more to say about a short weekend in Penang, including our first fish head curry and a shameless visit to TGI Fridays (for beer, not food).  But anyways, I'm sure I'll have more fish head curry soon to write about, and as for the TGI Fridays...let's hope it doesn't happen again this year. 

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