A Stopover in Penang

I had high hopes for Penang. It was written up as a place with charming colonial architecture and the best street food scene in Malaysia.

I arrived in the afternoon and instantly started sweating. I was back in the heat. My first order of business was to figure out how I would get to Bangkok. My hostel recommended the train, like all the other travel advice I’d read so far, and that I get the ticket immediately. I was hungry and hot but I had a mission so I found my way through Little India, over a busy main road to the ferry terminal where the train ticket booth was located. I wanted to get this over with quickly, the street food was calling my name and it was already 2:30, but I wasn’t in credit card land anymore and didn’t have enough cash to buy the ticket so I had to go back out of the terminal, across the street, to find an atm and take out a measly amount of MRT with my heft US$5 foreign ATM transaction fee, then back to the road, the office – this felt harder than going to grandmother’s house. But eventually I got the ticket and could finally find some food.

I found the best looking food stall area at this weird in between lunch and dinner time and got a noodle dish with seafood that sounded close enough to one of Lonely Planet’s “must-eat” dishes. It was good, but it was also food, and at that point KFC would’ve tasted good.

I now knew I had to leave the next day by noon so I planned to make good use of my afternoon by walking around the supposedly picturesque Georgetown area of Penang. It turns out there’s not much to see there. Maybe I missed it or maybe I was mentally gone already, but this stop just felt like a time killer. I didn’t explore long before returning to my hostel for the night.

I feel a little bad about Penang; I was anxious to get to Bangkok and see Alex and Ben, and I’d just had a lovely stay in the Cameron Highlands. This felt like an in between, a stop that my have been better to avoid so I didn’t have such a mediocre opinion of Penang but was necessary to get the overnight train to Bangkok. It’s not the first time I’ve felt this way about a place and I’m sure it won’t be my last. It just happens sometimes.




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