We’ve just finished up a week on the island of Penang, Malaysia. This was our first time to Malaysia and as soon as we arrived, we knew we would like it. I’ve never been to a more diverse place – filled with so many different cultures, foods, religions. Malaysian people are obviously dominant, but we didn’t realise that there were so many Indian and Chinese people here too. It makes for a really interesting place.
We spent our first week in George Town, the main city in Penang, and an incredible mix of Asian and British architecture and design. Penang was colonised by Great Britain in 1786, and is filled with colonial style buildings which should look out of place in South-East Asia, but really just add to the interest of the city. George Town was a great place to explore.
Here’s some of the highlights of our week:
- Walking through Armenian Street and spotting all the street art
- Walking the George Town Heritage trail and checking out all the old buildings, as well as the Clan jetties – historic towns atop the jetty’s that have been owned by Chinese families for hundreds of years.
- Visiting some of the huge malls including Gurney Plaza & Prangin Mall
- Youth Park – an amazing huge free park with a fully accessible playground (I am ashamed that Sydney doesn’t have one like this!), pool with lots of fountains, monkeys and another great playground
- Visiting a cat cafe with 15 cats – this was probably more of a kid highlight, Pete and I don’t really like cats.
- Kidland – a cool kids play world with the biggest soft play I’ve ever seen and other little activity sessions. Elena chose to do a cooking lesson and it might have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. She was in the midst of 8 Malaysian kids, by far the smallest, following instructions just a couple of steps behind everyone else, but painstakingly making these little chocolate cookies. I was amazed that she managed to resist the temptation to eat the dough – whenever I cook with her she’s practically eating the plain flour out of the bag.
- Eating laksa and other Malaysian foods in “food courts” – big outdoor halls with a bunch of street food carts crammed together. We found one place that sold the biggest and cheapest BBQ pork buns – we couldn’t get enough of them, especially Elena and Kilian. Also loving the prices of food here – we are feasting at every meal but have never yet spent more than $15 (for all of us).
- Going to church and feeling incredibly welcome. We went to George Town Baptist church, and found it great. It was super vibrant with people dancing along to the music, had a spot on Biblical sermon and people were really kind. We were invited to lunch afterwards in the church building and well looked after by some of the congregation.
- We also went to Fort Cornwallis, the British fort here in Penang. But I wouldn’t say it was a highlight. It was great to look at from the outside, but it was pretty bare on the inside. Still, it was good to find out a bit more about the British colonisation.
George Town was full of interesting things, great for kids, and full of culture and we hope that someday we may return!
We then spent 5 nights in Batu Ferringhi.
We had a bit of a different impression of Batu Ferringhi. We had chosen to come here because it is by the beach and we’d heard that it is a nice spot to come, as well as having great night markets that stretch along the main road for a couple of kilometres.
So, we enjoyed our time in Batu Ferringhi, and we’ve made it our policy this year to have no regrets about anything we do. But I don’t think we’d come back. It felt to us like a place that was a bit past its glory days. The night markets were really disappointing, mostly filled with fake designer brands and no food stalls in sight! The beach was okay, but nowhere near as nice as Australian beaches. I think what we’ve learnt (for ourselves) is not to go to a beach destination in Asia. 2/2 disappointments.
We went to the Entopia Butterfly Farm nearby and it was amazing! A huge place filled with so many butterflies that were landing on us, as well as other little creepy crawlies and lizards that Elena and Kilian found really interesting. Elena got the chance to hold a scorpion and wasn’t even scared (she probably didn’t even realise how venomous they are!).
Kilian has finally found his legs, and started walking. He took his first steps 2 and a half months ago in Norway, and we have been diligently holding his hand and walking around with him since then, often discussing and making bets on when he will walk. We actually didn’t think he’d walk while we were still away, that’s how slow the progress has been. But he did it! And has been toddling around looking really cute ever since.
There was a dragon boat festival on while we were there, in the dam nearby, which we went and had a look at. There was even an Australian team competing. It was fairly interesting, but I admit that we didn’t stay very long (we didn’t even stay for the Aussie team!).
We’ve enjoyed a few nice days at the beach, and the kids have loved the local soft play centre, Adventure Zone, with has some huge slides which Elena was loving – I think she went 15 times by herself in one session.
We also ate heaps of Indian food, as it is quite a dominant cuisine here. Elena and Kilian’s new favourite food is naan. Elena is even choosing naan over TV. Which is quite something for her.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Penang. Tomorrow we head to Kuala Lumpur, and we are really excited. This is the place I was most looking forward to in our Asia trip. Also, it’s our last stop before coming home. This time in two weeks we will be en route to Australia!