Penang is a small island off of the coast of Malaysia, with a completely different feel to the rest of the country. With a huge artistic influence bursting into fruition at every corner of Georgetown, the main town in Penang, and a mixture of cultures that both exist alone and merge to create a truly unique feel. There is a large Indian influence, with it’s own little India exploding with colors and scents. China town with it’s array of foods and medicinal shops, and the British historical sites that ignite a somewhat colonial impression. Then there is the Malaysian aspect that kind of merges between the rest. Real integration exists in this quaint little island that I don’t think I have ever seen before. This reason, among others, is why I spent a year here as a base to travel the rest of Asia.
A walk of art
Walking around Georgetown, you will undoubtedly stumble upon many murals, glass works and mosaics. The best way to experience the most is to follow the steel structures dotted around the town. There are many free maps of the art work to follow that will lead you on a rather long journey around the town, and experience as much as possible along the way. Art in penang has had a large surge over the last ten years, especially with the Georgetown festival taking hold. This art festival, inclusive of art works, structural designs, woodwork and performance art, runs the entire month of August. Every hostel will have both the maps and information available.
A walk in the wilderness
One small hike you should not miss is to Monkey beach. You take bus 101 or 102 to the end of the island and exit at the last stop, this will cost roughly €0.70 and will take around 35 minutes from Georgetown. Once off the bus you march on straight forward into the national park and, after a small bridge, are faced with two directions, left and right. Turn right and continue forward at any junctions. Eventually you will arrive at Monkey Beach. Now, Turtle Beach is far more beautiful, but at monkey beach you can sleep there for the night, dig up clams and cook them, and generally drink dance and watch the moonlight twinkle your vodka bottle late into the night. Fires on this beach have never been a problem, and if you don’t feel this is the place for you, you can leave on a boat for around €2. If you just want to go for the day then Turtle Beach is the place. Far more secluded and there is a Turtle sanctuary you can visit. This would be left after the bridge.
A walk for weariness, climbing Penang hill
First and foremost, take water, this climb can get pretty hot within the jungle. From Georgetown take the number 201 bus to the Botanical gardens. Now there are three ways to reach the summit of the hill. The first is by cable car, which is expensive and boring. The second is by the road which is arduous and covered in tarmac. The third and best way is through the jungle. So when you exit the bus at the botanical gardens you want to enter the actual gardens and go through the gates, its free. Then you should keep to your left all the way up and after a while (before the small bridge and water plant) there will be a set of concrete steps on the left after maybe ten minutes walking. Take these, although it seems you should not, its fine. Sometimes you will be faced with two options, after 2 minutes of walking you maybe presented with a sign clearly stating that was the wrong option, so just turn around and take the other option. On average it takes one and a half hours but the view is spectacular. There is a food eatery in the center circle, which if you descend to the lower level, sells a nice creamy can of Guinness to celebrate your journey.
Walking with whiskey
So to the most important part of Georgetown, the drinking. There are plenty of places to drink, but the most happening place for backpackers is on love lane. Live music, cheap drinks and late closing. But before any place needs a visit you have to start at Angtarabangsa. Ask around and any and every one will direct you and it is only a short walk from Love lane. This place is great. The cheapest drinks in all Penang by far. It is basically a shop that you can purchase a multitude of drinks for consumption on the road outside. Once you are tanked up enough, you can proceed to Love lane, and particularly Micke’s Place, order the Long Island Ice Tea and bask in your own brilliance.