Saturday, January 31, 2009

Penang, Malaysia

Destination: Penang, Malaysia

Special Entry

Penang or Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
also known as the Prince of Wales Island and the 'Pearl of the Orient'.

Founder: Captain Francis Light, 1786
Capital: Georgetown - Named after King George III of Great Britain.


Penang, the inner city of Georgetown in particular is a cultural and religious melting pot with a unique colonial heritage which will transport you two centuries back. As you step out of the inner city you will see modern Penang with skyscrapers reaching the sky, nice beaches and hills. And not forgetting Penang's renowned street food! Penang has it all!

*Click on the links provided for more information.

Before you start exploring Penang proper, head to the Penang State Museum at Farquhar Street to learn more about Penang and her history.

Opening hours :
9.00am to 5.00pm - Saturday to Thursday
Closed: Friday

Admission Fees: RM1.00 (Adult)

So far, I have brought two foreign visitors around Penang and played host to my friends from outstation and at the same time read alot of travel blogs written by foreign visitors to Penang.

Most foreign backpackers were clearly not very well-informed about Penang thus they found Penang to be boring and lack places of interest. They ended up sitting around their budget hotels in Chulia Street drinking beer and chatting with other backpackers.

As a proud Penangite, I would love to play my part in promoting Penang to the world.

Bried Facts

1. State with highest population density in Malaysia.
2. Only state in Malaysia where ethnic Chinese are the majority.
3. State with third largest economy in Malaysia after Selangor and Johor.
4. Home to multinational corporations such as Intel, Dell, AMD, Seagate and Motorola.
5. Cyber-city status and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. 9th most liveable city in Asia - ECA International Location Ranking Survey
7. Has the best street food in Asia - TIME Asia

When is the best time to visit?

Check the events calendar at the Penang Tourism website.

Annual events to look out for:
Penang International Dragon Boat Race
Penang International Floral Festival
Wesak Day Procession
Bon Odori Festival
St. Anne's Festival
Chingay Procession
Hungry Ghost Festival
Nine Emperor Gods Festival

Getting around.

Getting around Penang can be hard work, as buses (has since improved - check out RapidPenang [check the routes on the website]) tend to be infrequent and taxis uniformly refuse to use the meter. Always haggle with the taxi driver and agree on a price before jumping into a taxi. Avoid driving during the rush hours between 7.30 a.m. - 9.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. -7.30 p.m. Motorcyle riders can be undisciplined and tourists should be extra vigilant of them. One of the best ways to sightsee is to walk around Georgetown; but wear light clothes, start early in the morning, and put on plenty of sun-block during the daytime. When crossing the roads, remember to look both ways, even on a one-way street! (motorcycles/scooters/mopeds)

[source - wikitravel]

clockwise from top left: Penang trishaw, Penang ferry, Rapid Penang bus, Penang Hill tram.

The main hub for RapidPenang buses in Georgetown is at Komtar and the secondary hub is at the ferry terminal.

Express/long-distance bus terminal is located at Sungai Nibong, south of the island.

Accommodation - Try here & here

There are plenty of options ranging from budget ones along Chulia Street & Love Lane to highly exclusive hotels and resorts such as the Eastern & Oriental Hotel and Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa.

Places of interests:

clockwise from top left: Queen Victoria Clocktower, Fort Cornwallis, Church Street Pier, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.

clockwise from top left: Penang city hall, Penang town hall, Penang legislative assembly, prewar shophouses.

photo taken from - Homestead Mansion along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Georgetown Inner City which includes many heritage sites and historical buildings such as:
(click on the links!)
  1. Dr. Sun Yat Sen's Penang Base
  2. The 1886 Building
  3. ABN-UMRO Bank (Royal Bank of Scotland at present)
  4. Ban Hin Lee Bank building
  5. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
  6. Church Street Pier
  7. City Hall Buildings
  8. Eastern & Oriental Hotel
  9. Fort Cornwallis
  10. Francis Light's Tomb
  11. The Garage,
  12. Ghee Hiang biscuits
  13. House of Yap Chor Ee (The Sire Museum Restaurant)
  14. Hu Yew Seah
  15. India House
  16. Jewish Cemetery
  17. King Edward VII Memorial Hospital Building
  18. Limburg (KFC Larut Road)
  19. Logan Memorial
  20. Loke Mansion
  21. Malayan Railway Building
  22. Penang Supreme Court
  23. Queen Victoria Clocktower
  24. Standard Chartered Bank Building
  25. State Assembly Building
  26. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Centre
  27. Penang Town Hall
  28. Woodville Mansion
  29. Penang HSBC Building
  30. Homestead
  31. Clan Jetties & Chew Jetty Weld Quay
  32. Pinang Peranakan Mansion
  33. KOMTAR Tower

Places of Worships

  • Clockwise from top left: Khoo Kongsi Clan House, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, Church of Assumption.

    Clockwise from top left: Kek Lok Si Temple, St. George's Anglican Church, Hindu Temple, Floating Mosque.

    Clan House/Clan Temples

    Chinese Temples

    Hindu Temples



    Thai Buddhist Temple

    Inner city tour - Try the three-wheeled trishaw for a pleasant experience of an inner city tour. Some of the trishaw peddlers are pretty knowledgeable when you ask them about Georgetown and its history. Take the Penang ferry as well from the island to the mainland and back for the unique experience. It is the oldest ferry service in Malaysia.

    Colonial era schools

    Penang Free School, est. 1816 - The first English-medium secondary school in South East Asia.

    Gurney Drive promenade at night.

    Gurney Drive

    Penang's centre for entertainment, food and shopping where locals and tourists alike throng the promenade after the sunset to eat their favourite Penang hawker food, stock up on pirated DVDs, young couples dating along the promenade, kids running around, shoppers walk in and out of Penang's premier shopping mall, Gurney Plaza, youngsters sipping Cappuccino in trendy cafés or teh tarik in nearby mamak stalls, some getting ready to party in nearby clubs and lounge, ambitious young men gazing at the expensive condominiums along Gurney Drive, luxury cars and sports cars zooming into hotel lobbies....this is the centre of Penang!


    There are also many hotels and resorts such as the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Golden Sands Resort and the upcoming Hard Rock Hotel are located.

    If you fancy water sports activities make sure you make a trip up to Batu Ferringhi!

    There are plenty of restaurants in this area and a night market selling souvenirs and all sorts of paraphernalia.

    Nature Sites

    Only if you have time to spare:
    Chinatown - Roughly bordered by King Street, Stewart Street, Muntri Street, and Campbell Street.

    Little India - Market Street, King Street, Queen Street and Penang Street - all now form the heart of Little India.


    We Penangites have a passion for eating and Penang's food is known all over the world.

    It has been featured in many international magazines and TV channels such as the Discovery Travel & Living. Don't travel all the way to Penang for a BigMac or KFC for goodness' sake. Venture out and explore Penang's exotic and spectacular food, just follow the local crowd!

    Penang's Famous Hawker Food

    [Click on the link to discover some of them]

    Penang Peranakan Cuisine

    BBQ Steamboat
    Golden BBQ Steamboat, Nagore Place
    Jolly BBQ Steamboat, 8-Row

    Check out the following blogs with extensive reviews of Penang food.
    Shiok or Not

    My very own Penang food directory
    -not the most updated one because i've been away for quite a while

    Night Life
    - definitely not as good as KL's but it's definitely picking up!

    Upper Penang Road & Leith Street
    Gurney Drive belt (includes G-Hotel, Gurney Plaza & Gurney Hotel)
    Batu Ferringhi
    Belissa Row
    New World Park

    QE II


    Queensbay Mall
    Gurney Plaza I & II
    AEON Seberang Perai
    Prangin Mall
    Island Plaza
    Sunway Carnival Mall
    One Stop Midlands Mall
    Bukit Jambul Complex
    Penang Times Square - opening soon

    ....[for more check out this website]

    I hope all the above information will be helpful.

    Please utilise the links given

    CREDITS: Links mainly from

    Photos: Kazuo Lim @ PBase Galleries, Jiann Fa, TYW & Victor of

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Gong Xi Fa Chai

    Happy Chinese New Year to all my Chinese readers!

    Gong Xi Fa Chai!

    For those of you travelling back to your hometown, have a safe journey back and i wish you will have a wonderful time with your family and loved ones.

    I will be right back next weekend!

    Monday, January 19, 2009


    Destination #8: Monaco

    Year of Visit: 2008

    Monaco or some call it the tax haven and playground for the rich is a sovereign city-state located south of France on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco is also the world's most densely populated country and it is a constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II from the Grimaldi family ruling since 1297.

    It was a summer trip cum high school reunion for the three of us.

    Monaco is only 20 minutes by train from Nice, France which was our first destination.

    Buying train tickets from the ticket dispensing machines was quite challenging because all the instructions were in French! No attendants from the train station were in sight to help us like in Italy. However, some common sense should do i guess. Somehow we managed to get the correct tickets to Monte Carlo, Monaco :D

    My first impression of Monaco - luxury, up-market, high-end

    They have those automatic walking belts in air-conditioned tunnels to connect you to certain parts of Monaco instead of walking on the sidewalks. The moment I stepped out into street level, I was greeted by the exotic cars that grace the streets of Monaco.

    Some narrow street in Monaco.

    Pretty eh? Some of the buildings are similar to France's.

    A miniature tourist train called the 'Azur Express' brings tourists around Monaco.

    I still prefer exploring Monaco by foot.

    The author, with a nice panoramic view of Monaco's skyline and Port of Hercules, La Condamine. All the residential buildings looked like they cost millions and normally you can see a swimming pool or a helipad on top.

    Port Hercules, where most of the privately-owned expensive boats are docked.

    We're talking about millionaires and billionaires here!

    Insanely luxurious boats!

    A house near a small park in Avenue Saint-Martin after you walk pass the Monaco Cathedral.


    An ideal location for love birds :D

    Avenue Saint-Martin coast.

    If you walk along the trail of Avenue Saint-Martin, you will arrive here.

    From here you can see albatross gliding in the air and helicopters flying in and out of Monaco.

    The Prince's Palace of Monaco.

    This is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco.

    There are guided tours of the palace each day.

    Along your walk (If you walk) you should come across this giant photo frame with Port Hercules as the backdrop. Monaco's Mediterranean climate was so lovely it felt like i was in a tropical country.

    Or you can do some crazy stunt from the edge of the hill, at your own risk!

    We went down to Port Hercules to check out some of the luxury boats owned by the super rich!

    Ahhhh, wish she was mine. I just need to change her name and retain Georgetown. Haha!

    You should really check out these mega luxury boats, some as huge as a cruise ship!

    You will also get to see the Formula One race track from various angles!

    Remember that tunnel from Monaco Grand Prix? There it is!

    One of Monaco's exclusive hotels' entrance.

    Name me the expensive cars you see. Quick!

    The famed Monte-Carlo Grand Casino!

    With a passport in hand, entry fees from €30 onwards and dressed in coats and tie you will get to gamble alongside the rich and famous. We gave it a miss because of the exorbitant fees and the inconvenience of having to pack an extra set of formal wear but we managed to walk into the foyer which has spectacular designs, paintings, stained glass and sculptures :D

    Monaco is a heaven for car enthusiasts like me.

    There are plenty of Ferrari F50s in Monaco that you can sometimes see two F50s one after another.

    Among other exotic cars spotted during the day trip were:

    • Ferrari 550
    • Ferrari 612
    • Ferrari 360
    • Lamborghini Murcielago
    • Lamborghini Gallardo
    • Aston Martin DB9
    • Bentley Flying Spur
    • Bentley Continental
    • Maserati Quattroporte
    • Rolls-Royce Phantom
    • Porsche Cayenne
    • Porsche 997
    • Mercedes SLR

    Hotel de Paris, an exclusive hotel next to the Monte Carlo Grand Casino.

    You might want to gawk at all the expensive and exotic cars parked outside. If you are lucky, you might be able to see some millionaire, billionaire or famous guests walking in and out of the hotel. When we were there some French celebrities stayed there and we actually saw them walking out with photographers clicking away in their cameras.

    Guest arriving in a Rolls Royce Phantom.

    Monaco is a small city-state and it didn't more than a day to explore this city.

    However, if you want to indulge in the lifestyle of the rich and famous one day is too short!

    p/s: Make sure you know when is the last train back to Nice if you're doing a day trip. Also check whether there are any rail strikes! Rail strikes are common in France!

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Premiere

    Destination: Prague, Czech Republic

    Year of Visit: 2008

    Special Edition.

    I travelled to Central Europe in the summer of 2008, not knowing what to expect from this former Soviet state with history dating back to her glorious days in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

    Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel, washed up and out we went to explore Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic. Our hotel was strategically located in the heart of Prague, just a stone's throw away from Wenceslas Square which is also within the New Town (Nové město).

    As we were walking down along the shopping district of Prague, we saw a swelling crowd next to a building which looked like a cinema. So many cameramen had gathered behind the barricades.

    We had no idea what and who were they anticipating as everyone spoke Czech.

    Not until one of us noticed movie posters which looked like the one above (but in Czech), displayed everywhere near the tent.

    'OMG, this must be the Czech Republic leg of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Premiere!'


    We had expected to see the cast of Narnia arriving in a similar fashion, like in the picture above.

    And so we waited patiently in the front row, right behind the barricades.

    After 15 minutes or so, the cast of Narnia arrived one after the other drawing high pitch screams from Czech teenage girls and other female fans who were present. All of them went hysterical especially when it comes to this guy - Prince Caspian himself! (Ben Barnes)

    We were this close to him! Haha!

    He only signed some autographs and entertained those who were standing near the car that dropped him off and he was quickly ushered in because the female crowd had threatened to push over the barricades to propose to him, kiss him, touch him? He was that popular!

    Then comes the Pevensie sister. Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell).

    She was very friendly with the crowd and even had a few words with us briefly.

    She asked us where we came from and stuff.

    We managed to take some photos with her, though they weren't the best shots.

    Then there's Peter Pevensie (William Moseley).

    He was very down-to-earth and friendly as well.

    We've got some photos with him also.

    And Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley).

    I'm sure you remember this young adorable Pevensie.

    At one point, she even spoke to the crowd about the dress and shoe she was wearing.

    And she posed for our camera!

    We love you Lucy or Georgie, whichever you prefer! Haha!

    Our close encounter with the cast of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

    Star-struck of course, all of us!

    We don't always run into things like that when on a holiday do we?

    That was just the beginning of our fascinating 10 days trip to Prague, Czech Republic.

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