Penang, Malaysia is a common first destination for those traveling from Thailand to Malaysia, and if you’re like us you likely took a gruelingly long van ride to reach this culturally eclectic city. But upon arrival, you may very well be wondering what the heck there is to do here. Well, there’s really quite a lot for anybody and everybody!
The Love Lane area in Georgetown is the place to stay for backpackers on a budget, with tons of budget hostel options. We highly recommend 75 Traveller’s Lodge for their cheap, clean doubles and friendly, helpful staff. The first thing you’ll want to do after checking in somewhere is stop into one of the many delicious Indian Restaurants all over and rejoice in eating something other than Thai food! For you gluten free travelers out there, Tosai is an awesome rice-papery bread kind of like a gluten-free crepe! There are tons of other GF options at most Indian restaurants as well.
Once you’ve gotten your first non-Thai meal, think about renting a bike and exploring Georgetown. There’s tons of street art, history, Indian, Chinese, and of course Thai culture, and the very awesome Ben’s Vintage Toy Museum! The maps.me smartphone app is perfect for exploring Georgetown, it does not take any data and has tons of landmarks all over the map to check out.
Once you’ve gotten your initial exploration out of the way, head out to one of the many beaches to the north, the most popular being Batu Feringghi. You can reach it by public transportation, although we had a blast flying there on a scooter we rented for about five bucks for the day. We even found ourselves a nice, secluded stretch of beach all to ourselves.
After your beach day, cool down at one of the many bars near Love Lane and then head to the nearby Taman Negara (National Park). Rent a tent near the entrance (you may have to do a lot of asking around to find a tent, and make sure it’s waterproof if there’s rain in the forecast!) and then hike to Pantai Kerachut (Turtle Beach), a sea turtle nesting beach with it’s own sea turtle wildlife center and a free campground that doubles as a Malaysian Lemur viewing area. Allie and I had a nice time relaxing on the beach until the sun set, when we headed to the camp site to make dinner. Once it got nice and dark, we walked to the long dock stretching into the sea, where we discovered that the water was full of glowing algae! By throwing sand and rocks into the water, the water lit up sporadically like fireworks, it was pretty amazing!
Once you have seen all there is to see in Penang, catch a bus to Cameron Highlands for some great hiking, fresh strawberries and breathtaking tea plantations.