Our second stop of our #PickensinSEAsia adventure was in Georgetown, which is on the island of Penang in Malaysia. We heard about this destination first in our travel guide, but after doing a bit more research, it seemed like a good stop to build into our itinerary for a few reasons. Georgetown is well known for its culinary culture as well as its rich historical background.
We arrived to Georgetown (about an hour and a half flight from Singapore), in the early afternoon on day one and after checking into our hotel, we set out to explore. There is one main road in Georgetown (Lebuh ) that has all of the main touristy religious destinations, so those were amongst our first stops.
We first went to Kapitan Keling Mosque, walked past Sri Mahamariamman temple (which was closed at the time), headed over to Kuan Yin Temple and lastly stopped at St. George’s Church. So in the span of a few hours and a few blocks we visited places of worship for Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Catholic faiths. I love that you can see all of these different sights and learn all about these different cultures so close together, it’s a pretty unique experience to say the least.
Afterwards we made our way out to the coast and soaked up the views for a while before touring Fort Cornwallis, which was actually really interesting to see with some of the vintage cannons, the unique shape and the history of the fort on the island. Next to the fort, there was a large field, The Esplanade, that happened to be featuring an exhibit of the United Buddy Bears while we were there. Although we didn’t take any pictures of the bears for who only knows what reason, they were all decorated by artists from different countries and positioned in such a way to be linked when joined to create a united circle. The bears apparently travel around the world for different exhibits and you can look up more on them here.
We wrapped up day one with a walk through Little India and a delicious diner there before calling it a night.
Day two kicked off with a visit to the Blue Mansion, aka Cheong Fatt Tze’s Mansion. If you have any interest in architecture or design at all, or if you enjoy history, or you’re just a fan of great storytelling, the Blue Mansion is worth the trip for the guided tour. We both really enjoyed the tour of the mansion for all of the aforementioned reasons. The interiors and architecture were something else. The colors, patterns, textures… talk about inspiration (I could do a whole post on this place… but I won’t)! The history and the way our guide shared the stories of how the mansion came to be were the icing on top.
After the Blue Mansion, we made our way over to the mint mansion… Okay they don’t call it that, but the colors of Penang and the Georgetown Heritage zone were really special. This second stop was at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, which also had a really unique history and some great interior and architectural inspiration. We had a tour here as well and our guide was entertaining to say the least. I’d say it was another worthwhile tour here.
When were were finished touring these mansions we found our way to some fresh dragon fruit and pineapple from a hawker stand, and then found our way down to the Klan Jetties. The jetties are series’ of stilt houses that extend out over the water where people still live today. Though many are open to tourists, you should be mindful and considerate as you walk through that these are people’s homes. We walked through the Chew Jetty, one of the more popular Klan Jetties and it was definitely worth the stroll just to see the way some of the people live here. Really unlike anything you’d see back home.
We wandered and meandered through the streets making our way back to the hotel and seeing what else we could see along the way. For dinner we had local Peranakan style cuisine that was so tasty, and followed it up with good old fashioned American dessert at a little cafe we stumbled upon.
Day Three, we opted to find the hop on, hop off bus for Penang. This bus had two route plans, one for the Heritage zone, which we felt we had thoroughly explored and one for the beach route that leads you out to the jungle. We opted for the beach route and the jungle. One winding scenic ride, loads of bug spray and 2 huge bottles of water later, we were at the trailhead and on our way out to Monkey Beach! This trail route is heavily trafficked and very clear with the exception of one tree we had to scootch under. The scenery along the trail was really awe inspiring with the water off to our right following us around the edge of the island and the jungle to our right, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before and it was stunning.
We made it out to the beach and waded in the water, took in the sights and had some snacks. We didn’t see any monkeys on the beach as the name would imply, but we did see monkeys both on our way there and back-it was amazing! There was an option to hike further past Monkey Beach out to Lighthouse Point I believe it was called, and we thought we’d try it, but we got about halfway and the path was a bit trickier which we hadn’t anticipated with our footwear and clothing choices, so we turned back. What we saw on our hike was really incredible, and if we ever go back, I’d definitely make sure to dress appropriately and hike the jungle a bit more.
After climbing out of the jungle, we had a few more snacks and bought more water while we waited for the bus. Then we made our way around the rest of the beach route, enjoying the drive past many other sites on the island. Again, with more time we would have maybe included some additional stops, but we prioritized what we wanted to do and made it through our list. Everything that we did get to see/do in our short time here I would highly recommend to anyone heading this way. Penang and specifically Georgetown, were a great cultural experience all around.
For more on our travels through Southeast Asia, come back Monday–next stop is Kuala Lumpur! Be sure to also read up about our first stop Singapore and continue on with all of the destinations of our trip!