Three Days in Georgetown, Malaysia

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.

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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!

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Three Days in Singapore

I’ve finally been sifting through all of our many many pictures from #PickensinSEAsia so that I could share about our trip. I’m breaking it down by destination and hopefully you’ll enjoy the series. First up is Singapore!

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Three days in Singapore is simply not enough. We really had 2.5 days, but who’s counting. Click on any of the images to enlarge and I apologize in advance for the oversharing of details and imagery, I couldn’t help it!

So, First things first, we landed just after midnight local time which I’d highly recommend (or any late eve landing if you can swing it) so that you can just get to your hotel, go to bed and wake up on the time–it worked swimmingly for us!

Our first day there, we opted to go in search of the hop-on hop-off bus. We’ve found that these are great ways to get to all of the main city sites especially when you have limited time. Most of the key tourist stops will be on one of their routes and you will get earphones with info along the way. The tours are all operated under different companies and you just have to look up where the routes may cross your paths and how to purchase in advance so if it’s cash on the bus, you are prepared to pay.

Unfortunately, despite adjusting well to the time, we didn’t adjust well with our sense of direction. We ended up turning right when we should have turned left and walked through a section of Chinatown, which despite not being part of our plan for that morning, was really interesting and fun. There are walking tours for Chinatown and Little India in Singapore that you can look into, or you can just wander through these areas and explore depending on your travel style.

Once we got ourselves turned around and back on track, we did find the bus and made it over to one of our first sites for the trip: The Singapore Flyer. This high flying ferris wheel was really cool, I’m not a super huge fan of heights, but P loves these types of attractions, and despite the hazy day, we still could see for miles. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to Malaysia, and if we still weren’t oriented enough, this vantage point allowed us to really get our bearings in the city.

When we got our feet back on solid ground we opted to walk across the river and made our way to the Gardens at Marina Bay. This area is one that if we had more time, I’d love to have explored at night with the sculptural trees and bridgewalk all illuminated. It looks stunning in pictures and I’m sure it would have been beautiful to see live. That said, we opted to just walk around the area for a little while, take in the Cloud and Flower Domes and explore the pathways that lead around the garden. It was a great walk, and we were able to pick back up the bus afterwards to keep our day going.

Next up, The Botanical Gardens. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I love flowers. LOVE. Any flower, any color, I just love them! So walking around the botanical gardens was a must for our trip. The gardens are so peaceful and they have a variety of of little gardens you can walk through. My favorites were the Orchid Garden (worth the fee-the botanical gardens in general are free of charge), the fragrance garden and our walk through the rainforest area.

Once we finished up here, we hopped back on the bus and stopped on Orchard Road, one of the big shopping districts in Singapore. Not really to do any shopping but our hotel and many restaurants were close enough to this stop that we just explored the area as we made our way back towards the Quays (pronounced ‘keys’–little ports along the river).

We had dinner in Clark Quay, sharing the famous Singapore Chili Crab, definitely a must try if you are okay with spicy foods, the flavor was really good, and even though it was extremely messy to eat, it was fun to share the experience and try the dish!

Day two we walked through the Quays a bit more, starting our morning in Clark Quay which is a bit quieter in the daylight than at night, but so beautiful to see with all of it’s pretty colors. We made our way back over to Orchard Road for brunch before finding the bus again (we opted for the 48 hour pass). We road around the city a bit and then transferred to a bus to go to Sentosa Island.

Sentosa Island has free shuttle/trolley transportation all around it, so we made our way to the Southernmost point of Continental Asia. Found a little spot on the beach and relaxed until the heat got to us. The palm trees were just as picturesque as you’d imagine they would be but we couldn’t stand the heat, so we made our way over to the center of the island to visit the Sentosa Merlion. I liked exploring this little part of the island. We got coffee, found a roaming peacock, saw the Merlion up close and then treated ourselves to popsicles before heading back to the bus stop.

From there we made our way back to the city center, hopped off the bus and just meandered. We made the iconic stop at Raffles Hotel and walked through the areas you are allowed if you aren’t a guest and it is stunning. If we win the lotto we will go back to Singapore and stay at the Raffles and have all the Singapore Slings and it will be fabulous. Until then, we will just enjoy the architecture.

We made our way through to the financial area, spotted a few more pretty little buildings and then found ourselves at the Singapore Merlion at sunset. It was the perfect place to see the really remarkable architecture that fills the Singapore skyline. Really a great way to end our last night in Singapore.

We walked along the river after sunset, got a little lost again and then found our way to Boat Quay for dinner where we had more delicious local foods before calling it a night.

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Day three, we took one last look around our area, behind Clark Quay and then called a cab and headed to the airport. We really enjoyed our time here, and although we made a list of all the things we would do if and when we ever come back, I think we filled our time really well and got to see everything we wanted to see.

Overall, Singapore felt like a really modern city, the food was great with a huge selection of cuisine you could get anything, the sites were beautiful and we really got our trip started on the right foot here!

Next stop in Southeast Asia: Georgetown on Penang Island, Malaysia! Check back tomorrow for all of the details.

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