Penang Suggested Itinerary Day 1
On your way from the airport to George Town, stop at Snake Temple (9am-6pm), a temple of poisonous vipers and green tree snakes, said to be drugged by the incense. At night, they slither down to eat the offerings, which leave them fat and lazy the next day.
If you arrive early, start by having a plate of char kway teow. Tiger Char Kway Teow (at the intersection of Lebuh Carnarvon and Lebuh Melayu, 8am-2pm) is touted by locals to be the best char kway teow in Penang. It uses duck egg and has bamboo clams. But when we were there, there were no bamboo clams and the char kway teow wasn’t awesome.
After breakfast, walk north two streets to Sun Yat Sen’s Penang Base (120 Lebuh Armenian, +60-4-262-0123, 9am-5pm) and talk to the erudite and affable in-house guide, Alvin. Conversant in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, his grasp of history extends all the way to 16th-Century China, which has an impact on this base. According to Alvin, when Sun Yat Sen arrived in Penang in Nov 1910, there was 10, 000 silver for the price of his head (roughly equivalent to RM300,000-400, 000 today). And his friends stopped him from going to his original hideout and brought him here for safety. Seeing that his financial backers had all chickened-out because he failed to lead a revolution for the 9th time, he threw a birthday party, invited them, and used his honeyed tongue to get money from them. Their money led to the another failed uprising in Feb 1911. Haha.
Then walk 5 minutes to my future in-laws’ house, Khoo Kongsi (18 Cannon Square, +60-4-261-4609, 9am-5pm). The Khoos are one of the most successful clans in Malaysia. If you notice the architecture of Khoo Kongsi, you’d find it funny that there is one entrance/exit for such a ginormous home. When the Chinese came to Malaysia, they were all gangsters in secret societies. Back then, all rich people were mafia and to win fights, Khoo Kongsi is shaped like an impenetrable fortress. With one entrance/exit, it was easier to prevent enemies from entering. A memorable incident: The Hokkien Khoos sought the protection of the “Red Flag” Malays, while the Cantonese under the protection of “White Flag” Malays. There was a peeping Tom incident, and a riot broke out between the Red and White Flags. The British decided NOT to interfere and let them kill each other by surrounding Lebuh Cannon or Cannon Street, letting neither gangs escape. Eventually, Khoo fired a cannon, “Let this be a warning. If the White Flag doesn’t surrender, this is your consequence.” That is why the street is called “Lebuh Cannon,” and this incident forced the British to establish a permanent police force in the colony in 1867.
Head north to Little India (bounded by Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Pasar and Lebur Queen), explore the area and take a look at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, built in 1883 (although we didn’t think it was impressive. Singapore’s Sri Mariamman Temple is much better.) To be honest, Singapore’s Little India is more fun, so you can skip this.
For lunch, head over for chicken and char siew rice at Sky Hotel & Cafe (intersection of Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Masjid), sold out by 1pm. However, we weren’t particularly impressed. The char siew (roasted pork) and siew yok (roasted pork belly) were out-of-the-world, so fat and tender but the chicken was below par and the rice was normal white rice, not the chicken rice we are used to.
If you are still hungry like us, visit Kheng Pin Cafe (80 Jalan Penang, at the intersection of Jalan Penang and Jalan Sri Bahari) for its char kway teow and lor bak. It is said that Goodwood Park Hotel in Singapore invites the lor bak seller to Singapore yearly for its food festival. We Singaporeans known lor bak as braised meat but to Penangites, lor bak is actually just ngoh hiang, with dips of braised sauce. The lor bak was very, very good. Every item was miniature sized but crispy and not oily. We also had the wanton mee, which should be more accurately named as shredded-chicken-mushrom-wanton mee. It was quite awesome.
If you’re still hungry, walk down to Joo Hooi Cafe (475 Jalan Penang, at the intersection of Jalan Penang and Lebuh Keng Kwee) for Penang laksa and cendul (or chendol to us).
After lunch, explore the nearby area, known as Chinatown, bounded by Lebuh Muntri, Love Lane, Lebuh Campbell and Jalan Penang. Then shop at Prangin Mall and 1st Avenue Mall at the intersection of Lebuh Lintang and Lebuh Tek Soon. You can watch a movie at a low-quality theatre for only RM8 at Prangin Mall.
Char Kway Teow Man
Walk a street away to Lebuh Kimberley Night Market (intersection of Lebuh Kimberley and Jalan Pintal Tali) for dinner. TIP: You can sit in ANY coffeeshop and buy food from any food stall as long as you order drinks from the coffeeshop. If you are not sure how to order, just say “一人份” or “one person’s portion.”
We ate EVERYTHING in this night market. The duck kway chap (RM7 per portion), sold out by 8pm, was easily the best food we had on this trip, very savory and the duck so tender.
Soya Sauce Chicken
Yong Tou Foo
Everything we ate on Lebuh Kimberley was delicious. They cook food from charcoal fire, giving the food an extra fragrance. The char kway teow had bits of char all over it, giving it a wok hei. Usually not a fan of soya sauce chicken, this version was so tender and the marinate completely soaked in the chicken. Even the yong tou foo was delicious, very bouncy with great sweet chili sauce.
Vegetarian Economic Beehoon
For vegetarians, there was Seng Char Mee Hoon on the same street. Very, very excellent. The beehoon was stir-fried in an unbelievable texture that was bouncy without being rubbery. One of the best beehoon ever.
A must-try at the end of a meal at Lebuh Kimberley is the very refreshing 四果汤 or transliterated as “four-fruit soup.” Can you guess the four ingredients that make up the soup? Yes, it tasted like a simplified version of our chng tng, but sometimes simple is best? We tried desserts from both shops, Lo Yau Kee Dessert Shop and Shan Tou Jie and found the latter to be superior.
After dinner, either go back and rest or catch a movie at Prangin Mall.
Continue the journey with:
Suggested Itinerary Part III: The Colonial Experience
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.