Georgetown, Malaysia – Penang’s Center for Food & Art!

In just one visit, Georgetown, Malaysia has become one of my favorite destinations for a quick getaway from Bangkok. This UNESCO Historic City of the Straits of Malacca is also a paradise for foodies, art enthusiasts, and fans of architecture due to its influence of various ethnicities and religions.

With this article I hope to share 6 great places to eat, 4 great things to do, and 1 cool place to stay.

Let’s start with the food, shall we?

Here’s 6 places to make a foodie smile…

This once British colonial trading post has been influenced by various ethnicities which have shaped its cuisine. Currently the main ethnicities are Chinese (to include Peranakans), Malays, and Indians. One thing you’ll find here is that you simply cannot go wrong eating here and you’re never just a few steps away from some incredible food. Which is why I’ve got 6 recommendations in this article!

Georgetown is well known for its delicious and inexpensive street food, and every visitor should try Char Kuey Teow noodles!

Amazing Street Food!

Every night from 6pm to 12am there’s a section of Chulia Street (Lebuh Chulia) where food hawkers set up their stands and fill the air with amazing smells. This vendor can be identified by the “Char Kuey Teow” in white lettering on his stall.

This gentleman will whip you up a batch of amazing Char Kuey Teow for 4.50 RM or 6.50 RM depending on if you want chicken or duck eggs. For a real treat, enjoy a fresh fruit shake from the neighboring vendor with it!

Char Kuey Teow Penang
Char Kuey Teow (6.50 RM)

Its location on Google Maps below:

Red Garden Food Paradise!

We found this place just in time before the heavens opened up and poured a deluge of water on Georgetown. The Red Garden Food Paradise is a covered outside dining spot with tons of food and beverage vendors. This is a good place when you have a large group of folks who may each have their own preferences for what they want to eat, or if you just want to try a large range of dishes. Essentially it’s a one stop shop for every Penang hawker food along with several other international cuisines. As a bonus they have live entertainment.

So if you’re looking for a place that can accommodate a large group, and has a large selection of food to satisfy any palate, whilst providing a lively atmosphere to enjoy some adult beverages, then this is a great place for you.

Its location on Google Maps below:

 The famous “roti canai!

Roti Canai Jalan Argyll
Roti with chicken.

Everyone knows about the famous dish of “roti canai”. Everyone is also in the know about a great roti canai place called the Transfer Road Roti Canai Stall. The problem is EVERYONE knows about it. So when you go there you will find large queues of hungry people waiting for an available seat.

These roti canai places are only open in the morning hours (usually closed by noon), and I’m not one who on vacation likes to set an alarm. My preference is to shuffle to breakfast around 9-10am, and I’m not about standing in line for an hour to eat.

Roti Canai Jalan Argyll Penang
Roti Canai Jalan Argyll

One of our friends traveling with us is a morning person. He found this place during one of his 6 am breakfasts and was happy to have a second breakfast with us hours later. It’s that good! Which is why I am happy to recommend Roti Canai Jalan Argyll! This is one of the oldest surviving eateries managed by 3 generations of the founding family. In 1955 it began as a small roti canai stall on Argyll Road but has grown to the current shophouse it now occupies.

Roti Canai Jalan Argyll Penang

Their curried chicken is an excellent accompaniment to their flaky roti canai, and for a real treat you can order the roti canai slathered with their signature aromatic beef curry which is simmered overnight.

A roti and chicken breakfast!

Its location on Google Maps below:

The famous Kapitan Restaurant…

Kapitan Restaurant
Kapitan Restaurant

The Kapitan Restaurant is well known for it’s tandoori cooked meats and flavorful dishes. You can’t go wrong ordering any of their claypot dishes or just a simple dish of tandoori meat and naan bread.

Chicken Biryani Claypot (9 RM)

The staff are very friendly and efficient. As a bonus this is one of the few restaurants open for 24 hours so if you have a little too much fun and are out and about late at night, this could be a good place for you for a midnight snack!

Kapitan Restaurant Penang
Kapitan Restaurant

Its location on Google Maps below:

The BEST meal experience I had!

Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee
Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee

A good friend of mine recommended a place called “Bamboo Noodles”. It took me a bit to figure out he was talking about Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee and how they make their noodles traditionally with a large bamboo pole. This was hands down the BEST meal experience I had in Georgetown…their Deer Meat Hor Fun was one of the most incredible dishes I ate, and if you only had time for 1 of the foodie recommendation places I’ve given you THIS is the one you should choose.

Venison Hor Fun
Deer Meat Hor Fun (20 RM)

The meat they serve here is succulent and flavorful. If deer isn’t your thing you can also get the hor fun without it (but try this deer–maybe you just had a bad deer experience before). Other meats they do really well is their Duck Breast. It’s super tender and the sauce they serve it with is deliciously savory.

Duck Breast with Sauce
Duck Breast with Sauce (25 RM)

Another recommendation I can make if you’re looking for more noodle dishes for the table is their Hokkien Char noodles.

Hokkien Char Noodles
Hokkien Char (15 RM)

Again, I can’t recommend this place highly enough and I really feel like I just scratched the surface here for what they have. It makes me think a repeat visit is in order…

Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee
Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee

Its location on Google Maps below:

Now for something different!

Across the street and just a few meters down from the Hong Kee Wan Thun Mee noodle place is a small restaurant called BRGR. They specialize in thematic burgers inspired from cities from around the world. One thing that caught my eye was their “Soft Shell Crab Burger“.

BRGR Penang Soft Shell Crab Burger
Soft Shell Crab Burger (16.90 RM)

If you’re adventurous and want to try something different (or maybe you’re tired of noodles), BRGR is a neat place to check out and their Soft Shell Crab Burger is definitely worth dining on and Instagramming about!

Its location on Google Maps below:

Here’s 4 things to do in Georgetown…

Certainly there’s plenty of places to add inches to your waistline in Georgetown. Here’s a few activities I enjoyed (some to work off that waistline) with some tips you might appreciate.

Penang Hill–A nice view even on a rainy day…

Penang Hill View
View from Penang Hill

Penang Hill towers 833 meters above Georgetown. The views are pretty impressive even on a rainy, dreary day. There’s two ways to get to the top of the hill, by foot via a steep trail climb or by the trolley. Unless you want to spend your vacation rubbing down your legs with Tiger Balm ointment, take the trolly. It’s a short trip, not so expensive, and it’s kind of fun!

The Penang Hill Trolley

There are 2 prices for visiting foreigner adults for the train. For roundtrip it’s 30 RM for the “standard” fare and 80 RM for the “fast lane” fare. We were a group of 4 fiscally conscious travelers with plenty of time to spare. The standard fare was just fine–but we had to wait about 30 minutes (as opposed to the folks who got the “fast lane”.

Not scary….

The trolly gets you to the top of Penang Hill pretty quickly, but don’t worry, it’s not as scary as this picture looks. This picture was taken as my friend was looking at the scene behind us (not worried at all) and I was mid yawn (not screaming).

At the top of the hill there is a large food court of vendors with places to sit that has views from the hill. This is where I decided I would try the famous laksa asam noodle dish.

Laksa Asam
Laksa Asam

Honestly it probably wasn’t the best place to try it. I liked the combination of flavors, though the sourness was strange. What I didn’t care for in particular was that it was gritty. I’m not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be or if it’s because I ordered it from a food court on top of a tourist destination. I think that I’ll give it another day in court next time I visit but from a place that specializes in the dish.

There’s many attractions on the top of Penang Hill. If you don’t feel like forking out the cash there’s ample photographing opportunities of the flora and sights (pictured are some flowers and a snap of the Love Locks Bridge) on top of the hill as well as the views from the hill itself.

TIP: The trolly station operates from 6:30am to 10:30pm. The best time to go to Penang Hill so that you avoid the crowds and have some impressive views is very early in the morning or around dinner time.

An impressive clanhouse!

Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Open every day from 9am to 5pm, the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is one of the best preserved clanhouses. For a 10 RM entrance fee per adult, you get to visit the large elaborately decorated clanhouse, as well as view their opera stage and courtyard, and 4 rows of residential terrace houses.

This is a place that’s beautiful both inside and out. Outside you’ll find intricate carvings and sculptures. Inside you’ll find rooms celebrating the clan’s history, an old kitchen, rooms for prayer and reflection, and gorgeous lanterns, and mural paintings.

Exploring this cultural heritage gem was one of the highlights of my trip to Georgetown. It was also not crowded and many of the attractions I had to myself. I highly recommend this activity!

Its location on Google Maps below:

Visit a Clan Jetty…

Chew Jetty Penang
Chew Jetty

The Clan Jetties are family Chinese settlements along the wooden piers that date back to the 19th century.  Each jetty gets its name from the surnames of the clans that settled there. There are 8 jetties but the most well known and tourist friendly is the Chew Jetty.

Chew Jetty Walkway Penang
Chew Jetty Walkway

Some of the families have created stores from their homes that sell everything from clothing and tourist trinkets to fruit popsicles. Some of the houses are quite pretty with ornately carved entranceways–often the houses have signs requesting no photos be taken. Respect their wishes.

Chew Jetty Big Bowl Noodles Penang
Chew Jetty Big Bowl Noodles

One place that I found of interest was a restaurant called Chew Jetty Big Bowl Noodles. They had some HUGE bowls and a menu of some fine looking soups that were meant to go in the bowls. I can’t actually recommend the place as I didn’t go there, but I thought it worth mentioning and do intend to go there when I return. If you go before I do, let me know!

Its location on Google Maps below:

Walk about: street art, cool doors, and beautiful architecture!

Brother & Sister On Swing Penang
Brother & Sister and Me On Swing

When I’m visiting a place I really enjoy just walking about and checking out the scene. Georgetown is an AMAZING place for a walkabout because they’ve added so many wonderful artistic touches. There are welded iron wall caricatures which mix history with hilarity to provide interesting historical facts about the area.

There are also tons of hand painted street art scenes, many painted by Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian born artist who fell in love with Georgetown after a short visit and decided to reside there. Many of the iconic painted scenes of day to day life of the people of Georgetown are his work. But throughout the streets there are tons of paintings from other contributing artists as well.

If you want to spend a day hunting down street art “scavenger hunt” style then you should download this great .pdf guide containing a map of the locations and descriptions of all the welded iron caricatures and Ernest Zacharevic street art, go here.

Not only are the buildings decorated with neat street art. Many residences also decorate their entranceways and have really gorgeous doors. I know it sounds strange, but I think these doorways are pretty cool! Don’t judge me.

The incredible architecture of Georgetown is one of the main reasons it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage City. Georgetown reflects the blending of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe which has led to create a unique architectural landscape. It’s not uncommon to see beautiful mosques, churches, and temples located near each other.

A cool place to stay!

The Southern Boutique Hotel

One benefit of being a UNESCO World Heritage City, there are tons of places to stay in Georgetown. As I’ve only been there once, I can happily recommend the place I stayed, The Southern Boutique Hotel. I paid 148 RM per night (around $37) for a superior deluxe room. This was perfect for my gal and I, and a nice surprise to have a comfortable bed at that rate in Asia. The rooms were very clean, the staff friendly, and as a bonus there was a 24 hour convenience store attached that sold inexpensive libations (booze can be a bit pricey at the restaurants and bars).

The convenience store also had tables and chairs outside so you could enjoy yourself–it was our springboard to hitting the bars. It sounds strange to recommend a convenience store as a watering hole but they had great specials on wine, a knowledgable staff that made some great recommendations, provided wine glasses, and ice bins to keep the bottles cold, . It’s not a 7-11.

The hotel is located within walking distance of all of the places I’ve described (except for Penang Hill), and 2 minute walk to the Chocolate and Coffee Museum, The Red Garden Food Paradise, and Cheong Fatt Tze a.ka. Blue Mansion. If making new friends and enjoying some drinks is your thing, it’s less than a 10 minute walk to Love Lane where there are many tourist bars. It’s a great place to nurse you tired feet after walking about all day hunting down street art.

 

Love Lane Penang
Love Lane

Georgetown is an incredible place to visit for its sights, food, and for its people who are warm, friendly, and welcoming. If this article helps you when you visit or if you find some great recommendations of your own you’d like to share please leave your comments!

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