A Penang Adventure

Back in February, our Admin Executive, Ree Na, embarked on an impromptu Penang island trip without wheels. This following is her account.

If you’re visiting Penang, it’s very likely that you have come across the term, “Street Art.” Made popular in 2012 by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, old streets in George Town have since been given a new lease of life, but despite being a proud Penangite, I can’t honestly say that I’ve made it a point to view any of it - until recently. A friend of mine from KL, Jason, texted to say that he was heading north during Chinese New Year - do I want to meet up? Long story short, we decided to go around town - on foot - to see the street art. Oh, and to eat, of course.

Credit: Dean Wickham

Fort Cornwallis
Credit: Wikipedia

Penang Town Hall
Credit: Wikipedia

We decided to start early before it gets too hot, and we hopped on the free Rapid Penang Central Area Transit (CAT) bus to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. Yup, our first stop was breakfast, because that’s what you’re supposed to do in Penang: eat. Obviously, I brought Jason to Sri Ananda Bahwan, a pure vegetarian Indian food restaurant in Penang Street. It is the one place my dad and I could agree serves the best ‘thosai’ (fermented crepe). After breakfast, Jason and I walked to Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama) to look at the Penang Town Hall, the ocean, and the Fort Cornwallis, and by ‘look,’ it was really just a quick glance - a lot like, “Okay, we’re done. Let’s go.”

Credit: Lisa @ From My Lemony Kitchen

Steel rod art at Queen Street
Credit: Jason Ng

Kapitan Keling Mosque
Credit: Wikipedia

St. George's Church
Credit: Wikipedia 

Kuan Yin Temple
Credit: Edward C.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Credit: Wikipedia

Soon, we were heading back towards the “Street of Harmony.” Being the history buff I am, I explained that it is called so because of the places of worship of four different faiths are all found along this one road: a mosque, a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple, and a church. Anyway, I was apparently pretty bad at reading maps, because it took us some time before I could find the first steel rod sculpture, the one located at Queen Street. 

Born Novelist - Steel rod art at Lumut Lane
Credit: Jason Ng

Learning Penang Hokkien at Armenian Street
Credit: Jason Ng

Magic at Armenian Street
Credit: Jason Ng

Procession at Armenian Street
Credit: Jason Ng

The Main Street
Credit: Jason Ng

Then & Now at Armenian Street
Credit: Jason Ng

Long queue along the Children on Bicycle mural art
Credit: Jason Ng

Children on bicycle mural art
Credit: Say Khoon G.
After snapping a picture or two, we left for Armenian Street, where I knew most of the famous art was at. Sadly, we weren’t the only people there. The place was swarming with tourists (and perhaps even locals like me). There were even peddlers selling souvenirs. Imagine that! We took a few pictures - I was especially amused by the artwork that teaches tourists how to speak Hokkien, the local dialect - but unfortunately, Jason didn’t manage to take picture with the artwork he most wanted to see. He managed to snap a picture of the spectacular queue, though.

Steel rod art at Fish Lane
Credit: Jason Ng

Walking towards Toh Aka Lane via Lumut Lane, I found a steel rod sculpture right outside the back door of the house I used to live in when I was a child. Who would have known a celebrated author was born in this street? Perhaps he wouldn’t be the only one! We moved towards the junction of Fish Lane and Malay Street, and surprise, surprise - we found another steel iron sculpture! It was 11 AM, time for second breakfast.

Located at the junction of Carnarvon Street and Malay Street was Ping Hooi Cafe, the place with arguably the best “loh bak” (pork strips wrapped in soybean sheets) anywhere in Penang. Then, it was time for dessert. Jason loves “cendol,” a dessert made from coconut milk and jelly noodles, and the best place for that was at Keng Kwee Road. Walking along Kimberley street, we came across another steel iron sculpture! At this point, I’d pretty much given up trying to decipher that darn map. However, when we arrived at the “cendol” store, it was buzzing with more people than usual. There was a massive traffic build-up, and the queue of customers waiting to be served snaked around the corner and into the adjourning street. It was going to be quite a wait, so I suggested going across the road to their Komtar Walk shop, but sadly, that place was closed.

Penang Ferry
Credit: Wikipedia

Jason and I enjoying the ferry ride
Credit: Jason Ng

No problem. We simply took another CAT bus to the jetty, where we hopped onto a ferry to bring us to the mainland. It has been a long time since I was last on a ferry, and Jason had never been on one before. Besides, around this time, it was much too hot and humid to be scouring the town for street art. It was a cloudless day, and the sea breeze was pleasant, if a little salty. Once we reached the mainland terminal, we took the next ferry back to the island, and then we embarked on another CAT bus to the Komtar bus terminal. Spotted another street art along the way.

From there, we walked to New World Park for lunch, but it was mid-afternoon, and the place we wanted to eat at was closed in preparation for dinner. We have been walking around town since 9 AM in the blistering heat, so I brought Jason across the street to Rangoon road for some chrysanthemum tea to cool us down with. Then, we boarded a bus to Batu Ferringhi. The trip took a little more than half an hour, and it was about 4 PM when we arrived. There was practically nothing to eat around this time (what a shocker!), so we both caved and went to McDonald’s. 

When we were both fed and watered, we crossed the road and went to the beach. Immediately, jetski and banana boat operators approached us and started introducing their services. Yikes. Clearly I didn’t look local enough. Since we were both wearing sneakers, we didn’t want to hit the sand, so we stood around for a while, and then it was back to the bus stop. I really wanted to beat the after-work traffic, since it was past 5 PM. We took the bus back to Komtar, the heart of George Town, chatting all the way.

Gurney Paragon Mall
Credit: Chin C.

Penang famous cendol
Credit: William Lye Wei Wern

Mizi Bistro
Credit: Ferrien L.

By then, Mizi Bistro in New World Park had already opened, so that was where we headed, since its mushroom soup is unparallelled. Mizi has a delicious and reasonably-priced menu, too. When we were done, we took yet another bus to Gurney Paragon, and it was at “Just Food,” the food court located on the 5th floor of this mall that Jason finally got to eat his beloved “cendol,” though he did say it wasn’t quite as good.

Food stall at Gurney Drive
Credit: Wikipedia

Finally, we walked the short, waterfront stretch from Gurney Paragon Mall to Gurney Plaza for a drink, and we remained there until the stores closed at 10 PM, the norm for shopping malls in Penang. It was a long day, but an interesting one, nonetheless! We’ll hunt for the artwork we missed next year!

To Jason: Next time, we drive.