Malaysia Trip Part 2: Penang and Langkawi

I’m back in Perth now after a whirlwind trip to Malaysia. I had hoped to post this article in Malaysia but internet quality and reliability in my last few days was poor.

From Kuala Lumpur I flew north west to Penang Island, just across from Butterworth on the Malaysian Peninsula. The island is connected to the peninsula by a bridge with a second bridge almost complete.

My flight arrived arrived late at night and instead of paying MYR 38 (~AUD 13) for a taxi to George Town, I waited and paid MYR 2 to be the only passenger on the final bus at 11:30pm. I left the bus at Komtar and walked the remaining kilometre or so to my accommodation at Ryokan Muntri. On my walk I was surprised at how many people were sleeping on benches. The pro edition of offline map application was a great help on my trip, enabling me to find my way around using GPS, without requiring internet access.

The Ryokan Muntri hostel is perfectly located. Not only is the hostel right in the heart of George Town’s world heritage listed old town, it is also directly across the street from Muntri Mews Cafe, a stone’s throw from Passion Heart Cafe and a short walk from Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre. I came to Penang for its food and I wasn’t disappointed!

George Town, Penang street art

George Town, Penang, is famous for both its old architecture and modern street art

Lee Jetty, Weld Quay, George Town, Penang

Lee Jetty is one of George Town’s Weld Quay clan jetties

Cat stalking rabbit in grounds of Kapitan Keling Mosque, George Town, Penang

Rabbit stalked by a cat in the grounds of the Kapitan Keling Mosque

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the former home of a rich Baba is ornately decorated and furnished and well worth visiting. Many of the materials and furnishings came from Europe.

Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

A beaded mattress runner containing approximately 250,000 to 500,000(!) beads, Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum

The Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum adjoins Pinang Peranakan Mansion and contains traditional jewellery and accessories much of it highly elaborate and made from gold, beads and other materials.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town, Penang

The second floor entrance hall, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town

Hindu ceremony, Little India, George Town, Penang

A Hindu ceremony, Little India, George Town, Penang

George Town has significant Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. While walking through the old town’s Little India district, I came across a Hindu ceremony being performed.

Metal Street Art, George Town, Penang

Metal sculpture, Love Lane, George Town, Penang

Besides paintings on buildings, George Town’s public artwork includes metal rod sculptures depicting images and descriptions.

Looking down while going up Penang Hill on the funicular railway

Going up Penang Hill on the funicular railway (hand model identities unknown)

On Thursday fellow hostel guest Stanley and I caught a bus (MYR 2) to the base of Penang Hill. Well, we were meant to get off at Penang Hill but instead got off near Kek Lok Si, a major Buddhist temple. Our goal was Penang Hill so we walked the remaining distance to the start of Penang Hill Railway where we caught the funicular train to the top (MYR 30).

Very large pitcher plant at Monkey Cup garden and cafe, Penang Hill

A very large monkey cup (pitcher plant of the Nepenthes genus), Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill (hand model identity known)

Penang Hill Railway is a major tourist attraction and the top terminal station contained the usual cafes, lookouts and LOVE sign photo opportunities as well as an owl museum! From the top we hiked the kilometre or so to Monkey Cup Garden and Cafe. Along the way were monkeys and, on haze-free days, great views.

Monkey Cup Garden contains over 100 varieties of Monkey Cup or pitcher plants of the Nepenthes genus. Wikipedia informs me that they are named Monkey Cup because monkeys have been seen to drink out of them. It is an impressive location and collection and the manager is passionate about the plants. As a bonus, Monkey Cup customers received free rides back to the railway terminal.

Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill

Monkey Cup Garden, Penang Hill

Red Garden hawker centre is indeed food paradise, George Town, Penang

Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre, George Town, Penang

The bus back to George Town dropped us off at the Red Garden Food Paradise hawker centre where I had the have the highly regarded Kimpo Famous Roasted’s crispy skin duck. The duck did not let me down!

Kimpo Famous Roasted's crispy skin duck, Red Garden, George Town, Penang

Kimpo Famous Roasted’s crispy skin duck accompanied by dumpling soup, noodles with pork and vegetables and Royal Stout

Cakes at Passion Heart, George Town, Penang

One of Passion Heart Cafe’s two cake cabinets

As it was my last night in Penang, I decided to go out with a bang and finish with not one but two serves of cake from Passion Heart Cafe: Cempedak (jackfruit) Cake (not the cheesecake in the photo) and Black Forest Cake with Red Wine. Both were delicious and the red wine added a nice touch to the latter, although my Mum’s black forest cake still beats it. Speaking with the cafe manager, it was clear she is passionate about her cakes and the creative process behind them and was proud she makes them on the premises.Kerabu Beehoon, Muntri Mews, George Town, PenangKerabu Beehoon (spicy rice noodle salad) and Fresh Mix Tropical Fruit Frappe, Muntri Mews Cafe, George Town, Penang

After checking out of the hostel Friday, my final Penang meal was a second visit to Muntri Mews Cafe. As I had eaten enough rich food, I opted for a lighter and healthier meal. The Kerabu Beehoon (spicy rice noodle salad) and mango, pineapple and papaya Fresh Mix Tropical Frappe provided a delicious finale to three days of wonderful food. A taxi back to the airport (MYR 40) and my time in Penang was over; at least for this visit!

View from my room, Butterfly Guest House, LangkawiThe view from my Butterfly Guest House room, Langkawi

My second visit to Langkawi included my first night on the island. As Monday’s taxi driver Yusoff was waiting for his van’s air conditioning to be fixed, I took another taxi (MYR 30) to Butterfly Guest House.

Butterfly Guest House is located up a hill, outside a village and 10 minutes walk from the coast. It is run by a family of two adults and four children, including their playful five year old son Aslan. The peaceful location is a great get away from city traffic, noise, concrete and bitumen. The loudest sound while there was the squawking of the family’s geese.

The accommodation is located on the building’s upper level and consists of several mattresses on the ground with mosquito nets (the ‘dorm’) and 3 cordoned off rooms. I splurged and booked one of the private rooms for MYR 80 (AUD 26).

My room, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

My room with the mosquito net over the bed, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

Staying at the Butterfly, one almost feels a part of the family. When I realised I didn’t have enough ringgit left, the father was generous enough to give me a ride on his motorbike to the airport to change money. On the way back we stopped at two large supermarkets to buy supplies for the hostel along with drinks and peanuts. Langkawi is a duty free island and alcohol is very cheap. Cans of Royal Stout were only MYR 2.20 (AUD 0.70). Back at the guest house I watched a karaoke DVD with the family.

Also staying at the guest house were Germans, Dutch and a New Zealander who has spent over a year travelling abroad.

Butterfly on flower, Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

A butterfly at the Butterfly Guest House, Langkawi

Saturday included a walk to the coast, an iced coffee at a cafe and delicious chicken rice with a fresh carrot/orange juice at Cafe Nelayan Kak Zah. The coast in this area of Langkawi has mudflats with lots of small crabs running around, reminding me of Broome, Western Australia. On my return, I visited a spa for a soothing upper body massage (MYR 59) away from the heat of the early afternoon.

That evening Yousoff’s taxi was fixed, I said goodbye to my hosts and travelled to the airport for the late night flight to Kuala Lumpur. I spent my last night in Malaysia at the Plaza Premium Lounge, where I ate, slept and waited before going to the gate for my seventh and final AirAsia flight to Perth.

My seven flights and seven nights of accommodation cost approximately AUD 240, making the trip not only great fun but also great value.

A major purpose of this trip was to test out clothes and gear in preparation for my trip to South America and beyond this November. For Malaysia I only used a carry-on bag, making travel far easier. For South America I also intend to only take carry-on, hence the criticality of carefully choosing every single item I pack.

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