Crumbling CityGEORGE TOWN, PENANG
George Town was definitely a grower for me. My hasty first impressions put Penang in the noisy, hot, dirty and overpriced box but after some time and whilst wearing my rose tinted glasses, I started to soften to the place. If you are creatively minded you are especially going to enjoy wandering the streets of the George Town UNESCO world heritage site. They are lined with crumbling, pre-second world war Chinese shop houses, most of which don’t seem to have had much restoration and with all the original signage, so it really feels like stepping back in time.
We arrived right smack bang in the middle of The George Town Festival, so there were art exhibitions all over town. Not to mention the vibrant street art that you see absolutely everywhere.
And then there is the food… So much food! With Little India, China Town and all the hipster cafes and restaurants, when you first get to Penang it’s easy to feel confused about where you are. But this makes for excellent dining possibilities : ) You can find some of the best South Indian food in Little India. I loved Woodland’s Vegetarian for the best paper dosa in town and across the road at Sri Ananda Bahwan for a truly Indian, Indian buffet. Make sure you arrive hungry! There is amazing Chinese and Malay street food EVERYWHERE, it can be overwhelming where to start but everything I tried, I loved. There's even an Armenian area, where Jawi House Restaurant is located and it did not disappoint. It even became my local fav. Don't miss the Ming Xiang Tai Pastry shop, they make traditional Cantonese pastries and custard tarts. I also really liked Black Kettle for pastries and for homemade ice cream, try TFros where they are only using natural sugars. Although there are a lot of ice cream places that I didn’t try! Sushi Kitchen on Lebuh Acheh for delicious vegan sushi. There didn’t seem to be a lot of plant based, smoothie bowl action, but I did find Wholey Wonder in the converted Hin bus depot which also offers daily yoga classes and weekend markets. I went to one Yin class, which was fairly meh. Penang did not seem to be a big yoga place, although there were a few studios dotted around and also an Art of Living centre for those looking for meditation courses.
My favourite places to work were Cafe Ome Space, a tiny hipster coffee shop, serving cakes and Narrow Marrow which had the fastest internet I found anywhere in Penang. Wifi is really hit and miss in most places. For anything that needs super fast internet, your best bet is a co-working space. ACAT co-working space @ 25RM a day its not a bad shout. I also tried Scoopoint, which is a bit classier and the internet was on par with Narrow Marrow. Daily rates are @35RM daily rates, but there was a monthly promo for 180RM per month, which seemed like a good deal. Make sure you grab yourself a good 4g bundle because the wifi is patchy at best.
Do get up early and take the funicular up to the top of Penang Hill, it reaches 833m above sea level to bring to the top of Penang hill for spectacular views, some fresh air, quality time with nature and one red post box. Best to go early to avoid the huge queues! Totally worth the trip though. Kudos to the British for building it back in the 1920’s.
If you are a digital nomad and looking for a monthly rental, it can be a bit dire in George Town/Penang unless you want to fork out and pay a bit more. Your best bet is Airbnb or finding an agent and looking outside of George Town, although most places only allow for 12 month lease, so be prepared to lose your deposit if you leave early. I managed to find myself in a lovely artists' studio come airbnb for the 10 days I was there. Read my full post about Piano in the Garden here.
Alternatively you could stay at MoonTree47, I stayed here on my first night, at this pleasantly decorated old Chinese shop house come guest house. The guest houses here tend have super high ceilings, with open air lattice towards the top of the walls, they’re ever so charming. But this place had particularly thin walls so I got to listen to various guests stumble in at 1/2/3am. However!!! I was won over after a nice chat with the lovely owner Kent and a browse of the downstairs shop filled with vintage postcards, bicycles, black cats and dusty treasures. Not a bad stop for a night or two but defo bring earplugs.
So thank you Penang for all the delicious food, art and graphic design inspo. But mainly for the reminder that I’m really not a city girl at heart ♡