Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (😳embarrassing)! One sleepy afternoon years ago, we were watching Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown” stuff his face at Line Clear in Georgetown and decided then and there that any trip to Asia would have to include Penang. After all, it was street food heaven right? We had five nights planned! We decided to stay at the Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel because everyone on the backpacker trail was talking about it. The price was kind of high at 40 Ringgit for a dorm bed but included was free breakfast, all-day coffee and water, and two strong drinks at the bar. The bar area closes at 11 after the nightly beer pong tournament then everyone goes on a pub crawl down the street to Love Lane where you can continue the party as late as your heart desires.
The Tispy Tiger was a good time but after two nights of craziness we were ready for something more chill. Our second accommodation, The Frame Guesthouse, a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways. We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.
The highlight of Penang for us was the street food. Every corner had different stuff and you could really experience the fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. We tried to eat as much as possible, always opting for fourth and sometimes fifth meal. It was a hard life. Most of the food vendors have a few tables where you can sit and eat, and most require you to buy a bevarage- beer, soda or fresh-squeezed juice- if you use the table. It really was a street food heaven. Here are our favorites!
One of the best places to eat is the famous Red Garden Food Paradise. They usually have some singers and dancers in the center stage and around the edges there are so many different food vendors selling dishes from all over the world. It has a very classic feel with red plastic chairs and happy families sharing tables stacked with food. It’s always busy and opens at 6pm nightly.
My favorite late night spot was the 24-hour joint Line Clear. Always a line and barely a menu, they kind of yell “What do you want?” when you get to the front then they slop it on a plate with rice and you get a scoop of sauce from each of the curries. The food they sell is called nasi kandar, which pretty much means “country rice.” It’s simple and everything you ever wanted after having a few beers on Love Lane. Street Food Heaven indeed!
Georgetown is unique in Asia because it largely avoided the bombings of World War II and the following wars. Only a few bombs were dropped there so the old architecture has remained, giving the city a whole lot of character. The only negative is the lack of sidewalks; you basically just walk along the side of the road and hope you don’t get clobbered by a drunk, texting motorbiker. There was a lot of unique street art, most memorable of which were the cartoon wire sculptures depicting life in Penang throughout the years.
As in the rest of Malaysia, the mishmash of cultures and religious blends peacefully and beautifully in Penang. So, I’ll leave you with a sunset over the downtown mosque and Hindu temple.