Street Food Heaven – Penang, Malaysia

georgetown
Shophouses in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Buddhist ceremony in Georgetown

Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (ūüė≥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.

most popular new hostel in malaysia
Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel
Tipsy Tiger Hostel Party
The Bar At Tipsy Tiger
love lane party street
Love Lane – Party Street Penang

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.

Malaysia-139
The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop

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!

street food heaven
Laksa noodles- get in my belly
street food heaven
Pohpiah – like a large spring roll stuffed with tofu, veggies, and chili sauce!
street food heaven
Biggest Indian Meal Ever!
street food heaven
Obama Vegetarian Spring Rolls from Red Garden Food Paradise
street food heaven
Fermented pork belly noodles
street food heaven
Cendol – Icy Bean Dessert
street food heaven
More laksa bowls, yum!
penang food
Banana Leaf Indian
vegan food malaysia
In a healthy turn of events, we got vegan food from Wholey Wonder.¬† Yum!¬† The unicorn “cheesecake” is naturally-colored from the different superfruits in the layers.¬† So awesome!

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.

red garden food stalls
Red Garden

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!

line clear nasi kandar
Line Clean 24hr Nasi Kandar.  Surprisingly they even had some vegetarian options for Carrie!

24 hour nasi kandar

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.

Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

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.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque in Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple in Georgetown
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

 

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5 Things All Great Hostels Have In Common

oceanbeachhostel
USA Hostels Ocean Beach

While spending years traveling the world, we’ve stayed in a LOT of great hostels.¬† Sometimes we check out the trendy new ones, sometimes we try to save money and go bottom budget.¬† Besides the obvious necessities like cleanliness and safety, here are some things that make for great hostels:

1) Activities:

Hostel activities are the best way to make friends while traveling.  It is also usually the cheapest way to do the things that you want to do anyways.  These actives could be free yoga, beach bonfires, beer pong tournaments, surf lessons, language exchanges, exploring the market, or hiking adventures.  Some hostels go as far as to focus their whole marketing strategy around their actives, like Volcano Boarding at Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua

2) Free Breakfast

Not paying for that first meal is important to long term travel.¬† Some breakfasts are better than others but it’s nice to at least get some coffee, bread, and fruit.¬† The best breakfasts ever were at the Casas Particulares in Cuba where we one time were served 8 different types of fruit, in addition to bread, eggs, and cheese.

3) A Bar and Restaurant

Sometimes you just want to stay in and hang out with travelers.  Hostel bars are the best place to do that.  They provide an international vibe that some towns lack.  Sometimes the bar is the attraction itself, like Loki Hostels in South America or the Tipsy Tiger in Penang, Malaysia.

4) Chilling Areas

Comfortable places to meet new friends, use your laptop to advance your digital nomad dreams, and share stories of your adventures are a must.¬† These areas range from bean bag chairs, to hammocks, to comfy couches or soft green grass.¬† For places with dorms this is the area that most people will spend their time.¬† The swimming pool at Equity Point in Marrakech wins our vote for best chillin’ area.

5) Fast WiFi

Some countries just have terrible internet all over.¬† But sometimes the hostel gets cheap and goes for the internet package that wouldn’t load AIM in the 90’s.¬† You. must. have. fast. Wifi.¬† It’s so nice to be able to upload photos to Facebook or Skype your family back home in Ulakalakalakastan or wherever you’re from. Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok wins for fastest hostel WiFi ever.

6) Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff

You want tours, you want advice, you want someone who will laugh with you at your stupid mistake of waking up early to spend all of your money on taxis to the airport one day too early (oops). The staff should make you feel at home and help you have the best time possible.¬† By far the best staff we’ve met were at¬†USA Hostels Ocean Beach, San Diego, California.

We know we said 5, but wasn’t 6 better?

Other things that make your stay better:

– Privacy curtains on dorm beds.

– Water refill station.

– No bed bugs.¬† Sometimes if places look grimy it’s better to just pay the extra $1 for no bed bugs.¬† Check out our post on how to remove bed bugs from your stuff.

– Free maps.

– Free earplugs (for the party hostels).

– Instagramable decor – you know you want to brag to your friends back home.

Sometimes in the end everything is not perfect, but sometimes those imperfections are what makes great hostels an experience.¬† I mean, you could have stayed in a hotel and gotten a good nights sleep. But after you go out with your new hostel best friends and dance on the bar until 6am, you never think “man, I wish I would have gotten a hotel and some sleep!”¬† Well sometimes you do, but that doesn’t make a very good story now, does it?

If you’re interested in finding some good places to stay, check out our HOSTEL REVIEWS page and get out there on your own aventura!¬† What important in great hostels to you?¬† We’d love your feedback!