Food · Travel

Buddies Trip to Penang and Langkawi Part 1

In December, my high school buddies and I decided to go for a trip together to Penang and Langkawi. It was six of us and we were very excited as this is our first time travelling together after knowing each other for more than 10 years! At first, we wanted to go to West coast islands, such as Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian but to avoid the Monsoon season, we chose to go to the East coast. We were in Penang for 3 nights and Langkawi for 3 nights too. I am going to share our itinerary and things to do there in Penang for Part 1 and Langkawi for Part 2. I am trying to make it as informative as possible so brace yourself, it is a long blog! Feel free to refer if you’re going to these places in the future 🙂

Penang Day 1

We arrived Penang Airport at 1430 and by the time we arrived at our Airbnb @ Sandilands Condo, it was around 1500. We are very pleased with our Airbnb as it was cosy and clean. It is a three-bedroom apartment and it has a view of the Penang Bridge and the blue sea from the balcony. Check it out here.

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My happy friend, Shu Fei, at the Airbnb 😀

After some rest, we took a grabcar to have our first meal in Penang which was the must-eat-dish, Penang Char Koay Teow! Char Koay Teow (CKT) is well know in Penang and you can in fact find it in my stores or shops. We decided to go to Kafe Heng Huat as it was one of the top recommended place by many bloggers and friends from Penang. At this shop, when you see an auntie wearing a red apron and hat, you know you are at the right place. My friends and I do find the portion is a bit small for its price which is around RM7.00 but it might be because of the three big prawns. It also contains lap cheong (chinese sausage) which is my first time seeing this ingredient in CKT. Nevertheless, we were all satisfied and got even more excited for our three nights stay in Penang.

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Penang Char Koay Teow @ Kafe Heng Huat, Lorong Selamat
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Char Koay Teow and Ice Kacang
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Excited to eat CKT

After filling our stomachs, we walked to a mall called First Avenue which is just next to Komtar in the city of Georgetown to cool ourselves due to the hot weather. We did some shopping and then we decided to watch a movie as it was an awkward hour (around 1730). We chose to watch Jumanji and what a great movie it was! We were, at first, hesitating as some of us wanted to watch Star Wars but we were very happy with our choice after the movie.

We, then, went to have dinner at a shop called 888 Hokkien Mee @ Lebuh Presgrave, Georgetown. There was already a queue when we arrived and the shop was packed with customers. We waited around 15 minutes for a table while the boys queued up to order the food. While waiting for the table, a local uncle suggested us to order a bowl of lor th’ng (the thick black soup in the picture) to eat with the hokkien mee. They are famous for lor mee too but we went for hokkien mee as we cannot find this dish in Sibu. I personally like hokkien mee for its flavourful soup made from prawn, chicken and pork with a hint of spiciness from the sambal chilli. You can add extra ingredients, like pork intestine, pork belly, pork ribs, egg, fishballs etc. with extra charges. We were very hungry so we also ordered a plate of O-a-jien (oyster omelette) to share which we all agreed it was not very nice.

 

 

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Ying Ying’s friend, Arron who is a local, joined us for dinner

After dinner, we were very full so we decided to take a grabcar to Karpal Singh Drive for a night stroll. It is a seafront promenade within the suburb of Jelutong. There are McDonalds, Starbucks, 7 eleven, few restaurants and cafes for youngsters to chill and hang out with friends as most of the shops opened till quite late a night. We walked along the seaside pavement and saw the Blue Sky Sculpture which, sadly, the lights were not on that night. It looks like this.

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Source: Celebration of Our Blue Sky

After buying some bottles of mineral water and snacks at a convenience shop, we headed back to our Airbnb by Grabcar and called it a day.

Day 1 route:

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Penang Day 2

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Ahhh.. what a good morning view from the balcony of our Airbnb 😀

On day 2, we had planned to walk around Penang’s Old Town where all the street arts can be found. There will be a lot of walking so we started our day with our breakfast right at Toh Soon Cafe @ Lebuh Campbell recommended by a friend of ours. “You must try because it’s Lim Guan Eng’s (Chief minister of Penang) favourite cafe,” he said. When we arrived, there was already a short queue so we waited for around 10 to 15 minutes. It was indeed a busy cafe as we had to wait not just only for the waiter to come and take the order, we also waited for our food for around 30 minutes! We suspect if they missed our order as we realised food was served to those who came later than us. You sort of have to know what to order as menu was not given but we later found one on the wall behind our table. You will also have to be quite patient with the waiters as they can be quite ignorant with your calls and waves.

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Toh Soon Cafe, Penang

Nevertheless, it was not that bad as we chat along. They sell nasi lemak and different types of toasts. You can go with sets too which includes toasts and soft-boiled eggs. We all ordered their Hainan coffee and kaya toasts as simplicity is at its best. The toasts were toasted over charcoal fire.  This costs around RM 4 to 5 per person. img_9562.jpg

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We found the coffee is a bit too sweet for our liking but we like that it is quite strong and has a great aroma. For the toasts, we think it was nothing special but it is good and simple enough for our breakfast. We were later told by our friend they do different types of bread too, such as wholemeal, coffee marble, chocolate etc. Would I go back again? Yes 🙂

After breakfast, we walked along Penang Road, Leith Street and Jalan Muntri to start our Penang street art hunting. These murals or arts are the works of a Lithuanian-born artist, Ernest Zacharevic. We found two arts along these streets.

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The old man on a trishaw

This can be found around the junction of Jalan Penang and Jalan Muntri. In front of this huge art is an open carpark.

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The Blue Kung Fu Girl

We almost missed this one as it was facing our back even though it is another huge one. It is located beside Ta Kam Hong. All of us were quite startled by it because we find it a bit scary.

Next, there is a Nyonya koay shop nearby called Moh Teng Pheow that we wanted to go and we found a shortcut which is not shown in Google. At Star Lodge, turn right into a very small alley, walk straight and turn right again and you will see the Camera Museum and the koay shop on your right. One thing special about this shop is that you enter from the kitchen so you would actually see all the traditional ovens and big aluminium tins or woks to make big batch of kuih or koay. The shop owner and workers greeted us with a warm welcome.

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Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Koay @ Chulia Street

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The shop has outdoor and indoor seatings as you can see from the picture above. We chose to sit outside as we liked the retro-ish rugged canteen setting with bamboos, baskets and congkak, a traditional Malaysian game as decorations. Let’s talk about food!

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A variety of Nyonya kuih-muih (desserts)
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Asam Laksa

We were given a menu where you select what you want and you hand it to the waiter once done. If you are unsure which koay is it, you can have a look first at the counter. We ordered angku kuih, kuih koci (gula melaka with shredded coconut koay wrapped in banana leaf), sri muka, kuih lapis, kuih talam, kuih bengka ubi (tapioca), pulut tai tai with kaya and chai tau kueh (carrot cake sprinkled with ground nuts) to share. The price for the kuih was still okay, ranging between RM 0.60-RM 3.00. I can say we loved everything! Some koay tastes different with what we can get in Sibu. It’s either slightly saltier or sweeter but they still tastes very nice. The yellow tapioca koay was the only one that was very sweet to us. Our favourite would be the seri muka and pulut tai tai so we ordered them twice! Other than koay, they do have main dishes like curry rice and noodles. We tried the Asam Laksa and it was good too. The fishy or shrimpy smell was not too strong so some would prefer this.

For the rest of the afternoon, it was all walking and more art hunting…

From Chulia street, we turned to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Padang Kota Lama and to Lebuh Light. We did not take any pictures but we passed by St. George’s Anglican Church, Penang Town Hall and Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower. Then, we walked straight along the sea coasts at Pengkalan Weld.

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The girls braving the hot sun to take pictures at mid afternoon 😉

And we finally reached Chew Jetty to get our first art after tea break.

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Ah mah and Ah soon (Grandma and Grand son) art next to the entrance of Chew Jetty

We entered Chew Jetty for a look, and little did we know, it is a very small and long alley to reach the jetty. We did not take any pictures as it was scorching hot and there were many people whom I am assuming are tourists like us. As you stroll down the alley, you will see traditional wooden houses on stilts and vendors selling food, drinks and souvenirs. In fact, these vendors might be living there as well. It was really a mesmerising sight of a living Penang Heritage community which I believe exists more than a century. Within the alley, there are even smaller lanes that you can turn into to reach more houses.

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It took us around 10 minutes to reach the jetty from the entrance. We were sweating and tired so we had a small rest before returning to the main road.

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A picture at the jetty before leaving. Thanks to a very kind foreign tourist.

Out of Chew Jetty, we headed to Gat Chulia Street to hunt for few murals before another tea break.

The two murals of “children playing basketball” and “children on the swing” were just opposite to each other. Then we headed to next lane, Gat Armenian Street for this mural, “Children behind the window bars”.

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Children want some “Bao” from the actual basket on a bicycle but Albert, my friend, said no 😀

We also went to Ah Quee Street to catch two of Penang most popular murals that are just next to each other.

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Boy on motorbike @ Ah Quee Street
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My friend, Lee Tong , helping the little boy with his pet dinosaur

Next, we went to Penang’s first boutique cafe, China House @ Lebuh Pantai, to meet Lawrence, our buddy who recommended us Toh Soon cafe. The cafe is also the longest cafe in Penang, measuring around 400ft end to end between Lebuh Pantai and Lebuh Victoria. Upon research, apparently there are three restaurant menus and the one we were at was Kopi C espresso. Make sure you write your name on the waiting list at the counter while waiting for seats. They do lunch menu and lots of desserts. I heard that their cakes are only available in-house and could not be found anywhere else in Penang.  We ordered few cakes to share and one is the most famous “Tiramisu with Kahlua”. The food here can be quite pricy, eg. RM 15.00 for a slice of cake and RM 20 to 30 for a main course.

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Tiramisu with Kahlua

They cover their tables with large sheets of white paper and provide crayons for you to draw on it… or should I say… for kids. They have free books for you to read and chill. At level 2, there is a actually a gallery which I was too tired to explore. We spent most of our time chilling, chatting and drawing on the table for almost two hours.

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Sibu-ians @ Library China House, Penang
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This art is located at the courtyard of the cafe

To find out more about China House, visit this blog or their own official website.

On the next few stops, I did not join my friends until dinner as I went to meet my boyfriend’s mom for tea. However, they told me where they went and sent me pictures.

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Another famous mural by Ernest Zacharevic in Penang, “Kids on bicycle” @ Armenian Street.   My friend, Ming Han, looks pleased to join the ride 😉

 

Next is the “Boy on the chair”at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, the last mural they visited.

Then, Lawrence drove everyone to Penang Famous Teochew Chendol at Lebuh Keng Kwee. They say do expect a long queue and think that there was no Wow factor to the chendol but it is definitely refreshing for a hot sunny day.

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Chendol for a hot sunny day
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Trying to finish ’em all by themselves, tsk tsk…

On the other side, aunty brought me to a dessert cafe called Moody Cow at Transfer Road. They have lots of special and exotic flavours of cakes, from Durian to Salted egg. We ordered a slice of their signature Cempedak Madness and lemongrass teas. The cake is very pricy, RM 38.00 for a huge slice and Oh my! it is so rich and creamy. The richest cake I have ever tried in my life. I like the generous amount of cempedak in one slice though. We could not finish it so we had to take it away. The shop itself has a very dim ambience, good place to relax and hang out with family and friends once in a blue moon.

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Cempedak Madness @ Moody Cow

Read Cheryl’s blog for more nice pictures of the shop and cakes.

For dinner, I met my friends at Chulia Street night hawker stalls. We sat literally next to the road where pedestrians, cars and motorbikes would pass by. So, if you’re coming here, be extra careful with your belongings. They are famous with their Curry mee and wanton noodles. We were quite hungry so we ordered quite a lot of food.

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Not sure how many bowls of this Curry mee we ordered but it is very nice!
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Lor bak: A variety of deep fried sausages, fishcakes, bean curd skin, tofu etc. with starchy braised sauce (lor) to dip in
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Wanton mee XL 😀

We also ordered a plate CKT fried with duck egg to share. I could not taste the difference of the duck egg but some of them could. Oh well… Food was great and we were stuffed. We then took a grabcar back to our Airbnb and that was our second day in Penang. It definitely felt like we have almost walked the entire Georgetown. Clap, clap…

Day 2 route:

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For more murals and street arts by Ernest and other artists, this blog is very useful.

Penang Day 3

Day 3 was more of a chill day for us. Lee Tong wanted Dim Sum for breakfast so we went to Tai Tong Restaurant at Lebuh Cintra in Georgetown. The aunties will push the dim sum carts to your table and you choose whatever food you want. Most of them speak only Hokkien, a Penang dialect, so we had a bit of difficulty in ordering. Nevertheless, we just pointed here and there and the food eventually piled up on our table.

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Dim sum: Siew mai, Har gao, Radish cake, deep fried prawn dumplings, glutinous lotus rice balls, deep fried char siu cakes, pork and century egg congee, cheong fun, lao sha bao and Tai tong signature steamed bun with lor mai gai in it.

We thought that the food can be a bit warmer but overall we had a good breakfast. After eating, the aunty will come and calculate using the checklist to know how much you need to pay. It was quite cheap for a dim sum I would say, around RM 15 per person.

Next, we went off with our plan which was to visit Kek Lok Si, one of Penang’s best known Buddhist temple at the hill top of Ayer Itam. We initally wanted to visit Penang Hill but it was closed due to the floods and landslides in November. Kek Lok Si is a tourist attraction and a place where Buddhists pray and worship their Gods.

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Front view of Kek Lok Si
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The highest point of Kek Lok Si where the 36.5 m tall bronze statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, can be found. To reach there, you can use an inclined lift for RM 2 each way or return by walking down the road.

We also climbed the seven-storey pagoda tiers with an entrance fee of RM 2. My stamina was challenged as it felt like there were more than just seven storeys. At the top of the pagoda, you can enjoy a view of the city of Penang Island from the front and a greenery view of mountains from the back. We heard from the grabcar driver that it will be nicer during Chinese New Year season as they will on the lights at night.

After visiting the temple, we walked down the hills to the market area to have the famous Asam Laksa for lunch.

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The main cook of the Famous Asam Laksa with a few young workers helping him

I have heard that the place is quite unhygienic and I have to agree on this point. However, as tourists, we just closed our eyes, eat and pray that we will not get food poisoning. Believe it or not, I love the laksa there. The taste is more on the fishy side but my friend who does not like fishy smell could bare with it because of the big amount of mint leaves they put in it. I feel everything is well balanced, the sweetness, sour and spiciness of the soup, the chewy noodles and also the freshness from the lettuce, cucumber and mint. A bowl only costs you RM 4 which is very worth it. I will definitely have it again in the future unless there are similar or nicer ones in Penang.

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Asam Laksa @ Ayer Itam

After lunch, we went to Tean Ean at Gurney Drive to buy some Penang local Chinese “Pheah” (biscuits). There are other popular local shops such as Ghee Hiang and Him Heang. I do not know what is the difference between these three shops but Lee Tong’s local friend recommended us Tean Ean so we just went with it. Tean Ean is famous of Tambun Biscuits (淡汶饼) so we all got some of that. It was freshly baked and since it is preservative free, it only lasts for three weeks. Some of us also bought Tau Sar Pheah (豆沙饼), Beh Teh Sor (马蹄酥), Hiong Pheah (香饼) and Penang White Coffee. They gave us free samples to try so that we could decide what we liked to buy. Do take note that the Tau Sar Pheah is mung bean filling instead of the normal red bean paste. Besides biscuits, they sell other stuff like Bak kuh teh, bird nests, candies, snacks etc.  We all did not take any pictures here so do visit their official website or Ken’s blog for more details.

After purchasing the goods, we walked to Gurney Plaza to have some food again and to sing karaoke. It is around 10 to 15 mins walk from the shop. Asians being asians as we were all craving for white rice, after all the laksa, curry mee, kuih-muih amd dim sum. So, we went to many people’s favourite, Kim Gary Restaurant for its Cheese-baked rice.

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Source: Gurney Plaza website

After that, we headed on to Red Box for our karaoke session. They do student discount so remember your student card if you have one. Although we were quite tired, we sang our lungs out for four hours! It seems long but it’s actually not for six people.

It was around 7pm after karaoke. We were not hungry so we went straight to this place called Penang Avatar Secret Garden at Jalan Tokong Thai Pak Koong, which we heard is stunning at night. As the name may suggest, you are expecting to enter into Pandora World of the blockbuster movie, Avatar. To get there, you will have to go through small neighbourhood lanes so do expect traffic jam. There were also some staff directing the traffic near the location. Entrance fee was RM 2 per person where there will be an uncle standing in front of the entrance giving out tickets.

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It is a very beautiful place, definitely worth the visit. The night was very windy so I think it made everything so magical where the strings on the trees would flow freely with the wind. The location is just beside the sea so maybe that’s why it was windy.

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They have fields of lighted flowers as well.

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Just before the exit, they have this area where they put UV lights. So, anything white would shine bright like a diamond 😀

We were there to chill for around two hours and then we went back to our Airbnb using grabcar. Some of us even dozed off during the journey back. I guess 3 nights in Penang was enough for everyone.

Day 3 route:

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Penang Day 4

Next morning, we checked out from Airbnb around 10 am and headed out for our brunch with Arron before catching our flight to Langkawi. We all did not take any pictures in this restaurant because I think we were very hungry and the food was so good. It was a Thai restaurant called Eastern Wishes Cafe at Jalan Tun Dr. Awang. We tried their green curry chicken, deep fried squid, kai lan, ice chendol and water chestnut and cempedak in coconut milk for desserts and something else which I cannot remember but all in all, we loved it.

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Water chestnut and jackfruit in coconut milk

After brunch, we headed to the airport and said Goodbye to Arron and Penang. Overall, it was a wonderful stay here in Penang. Not only our palates for food grew, our friendship grew as well and this is just only the beginning. We have more in our Three-night stay in Langkawi. Thanks for reading Part 1. If you have any other places you think I should visit next time in Penang, feel free to share in the comment section below. Check out Buddies trip Part 2 here!  🙂

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Here’s a list of the opening and closing times for the places we have been to 🙂

888 Hokkien Mee @ Lebuh Presgrave 1730-2330
Avatar Secret Garden 0800-0000
Ayer Itam Laksa Assam 1030-1900
ChinaHouse @ Lebuh Pantai 0900-0100
Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls 1800-0000
Gurney Plaza 1000-2200
Kafe Heng Huat @ Lorong Selamat 1100-1800, closed on Tuesday
Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya @Jalan Mesjid Off Lebuh Chulia 1030-1700

 

Moody Cow @ Transfer Road 1100-0000
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul 1030-1900
Tai Tong Restaurant @ Lebuh Cintra 0600-1430, 1815-2330
Tean Ean 0900-1800
Toh Soon Cafe @Lebuh Campbell 0800-1300
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