Traveling: How to Arrive to Penang, Malaysia (From Kuala Lumpur you have to go to Buttersworth to get to Penang, which is an island.)
3 Tips when traveling by train to Buttersworth, Malaysia
1. Don’t travel Southeast Asia during the Spring Festival in February or book your sleep train tickets really early. We were in the regular passenger car. It was a rather uncomfortable night of sleeping.
2. Bring a blanket or dress warm for the train. They keep the train really cold in February.
3. Go to the bathroom on the train because the bathrooms at the train’s stop in Buttersworth are the worst bathrooms I have ever seen.
[The picture below is a moment to capture that time when we ran with our luggage for a couple of miles looking like crazy Americans. We were a sweaty mess for our 6 hour train ride. Yeah!]
The current currency rate $1= 3.15 (RM) Ringgit
Inside the train.
Once we arrived to Buttersworth we took about a 30 minute ferry to the island of Penang. It was 3 or 4am and Denny and I walked to the ferry station. Be warned all the taxi drivers at the train station will try to rip you off, you’re better walking. I felt like a sweaty elephant with sags under my eyes, I got the real backpacking experience. Not complaining, it was quite the adventure. The ferry at sunrise was gorgeous; we saw gentle pastel lights shine on Penang’s historical ruins.
When we arrived to Penang we had no maps, place to stay, or internet. You can call it poor planning or an adventure. It was 4am in the morning so we wandered around with
our my heavy backpack for hours. (This is why you pack light.) When we first got off the ferry we followed some other foreigners like spies to see if they could lead us to a watering hole place to stay. Eventually we found ourselves in Little India. Besides my heavy load viewing the locals doing their routines was incredible. It was so beautiful seeing Penang wake-up and watch people ride their bikes through the rustic chipping paint buildings. The most interesting stop was when we took a bathroom break at an Indian restaurant. We were the only foreigners at this casual authentic patio restaurant. Families were enjoying their Indian breakfast before their days work and giving us plenty of stares. I wondered who was more interested in the other cultural mannerism, them or me?
Our goal for that day was to get internet to find a hostel. We did lots of walking for hours and discovered that many of the hostels were occupied, keep in mind Penang is an island. After several hostels turned us down, I got a sense of what Mary and Joseph felt when she was in delivery with Jesus, well… without the urgency. The best part of our morning, besides the incredible site of walking breathtaking hippie streets was meeting and swapping stories for hours with two other English backpackers at a Starbucks-internet….Hallelujah!
The Spring Festival really put a damper on our travel plans. We almost splurged on an expensive hotel that night but with persistence of talking to random strangers and after lots of stress we found a place to lay our head that night, The Small Inn. This hotel is really affordable, spacious and clean.
That evening we went for a stroll looking for some food. We explored Penang’s Little India.
We were so very exhausted. By the time we got to Penang we had been to Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. That evening for dinner we ended up eating these “amezing burger(s)” and french fries. That night we also booked van tickets to take us to Krabi, Thailand through a local traveling agency. (There are lots of local traveling agency’s all over Georgetown, they are hard to miss, just look for lots of maps.)
Tourist Attraction: The Blue Mansion
There was one place I wanted to visit before our van left at 12:30pm, the Blue Mansion. When we got there and bought our tickets we learned that the museum had tours and you couldn’t just roam about it so sadly we did a “rapido” dash through the places that were open in the mansion.
The (English) guided tours are offered at 11am/ 1:30pm/ 3pm.
Cost- 12 RMB a person
The Significance of the Blue Mansion
[box] “One of the most prominent heritage buildings in Georgetown is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Often called the Blue Mansion because of its stunning blue façade, the mansion was built in the 1880′s by one of the most powerful Chinese trading and shipping tycoons, Cheong Fatt Tze. The distinct blue colour of the mansion was derived from a blend of lime and natural blue dyes from the indigo plant. Today, the mansion is a national treasure and is one of the highlights of Georgetown. The mansion was designed and built by artisans and craftsmen from China who generously applied the principles of feng shui in both the general layout as well as in the ornate decorations. Western (predominantly British) elements were incorporated in the design, probably to impress his Western trading partners. The result is a wondrous mix of East and West; best exemplified by the central courtyard which features Scottish cast-iron balusters, Art Nouveau stained glass and Chinese timber lattices.” Author: Keith Jenkins[/box]
Historical Treasures Are Discovered on Penang’s Streets
Penang, translated from the Malaysian means areca nut, is located on the Northeast coast of Malaysia. It’s history is seen in it’s unique architecture. This city is a gold mine for a photographer. Practically any picture you take will turn out fantastic because the setting is so artistic. Penang’s history wasn’t really recorded until 1786 when British Caption Francis Light landed on it’s island. “The Englishman Francis Light convinced the Sultan of Kedah to handover Penang to the British East-India Company. Francis Light founded – not long after an English board was introduced – Georgetown, after the English king George IV.” Georgetown is the capital of Penang and is where you can see all the beautiful colonial style buildings. (It was listed as the World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2008.) In 1941 the Japanese bombed Penang and the British left it. In 2004 Penang was hit and severely damaged by a Tsunami. Today Penang is ran by the Malaysian government.
5 Fun Random Trivial Facts about Penang, Malaysia
1) Penang had the first school established in Malaysia (1816)
2) “Tin” made Penang an important trading center. Today rubber is the main export.
3) Penang has the fifth largest bridge in the world.
4) Penang is a popular destination for medical tourism.
5) Penang is the 3rd largest economic center in Malaysia.
Some other worth wild attractions can be found on this site.
In Penang we roamed some but it was mostly a pit stop where we rested. I wished we had explored more of it but we were burnt on Malaysia and ready to for Thailand. If we had stayed longer I would have given it 2 full days. See more pictures of our visit in Penang, Malaysia.
For those that have visited Penang, what attractions did you see and what did you like most about Penang?