Kuala Lumpur to Penang, Malaysia
July 9-July 14, 2023
Day 6-7: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
July 9-10, 2023
Our next destination for our short stay in Malaysia was northbound to Georgetown in the state of Penang. The beachy town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to a cruise port, and plenty of British influenced architecture. We were only a couple hours away from Kuala Lumpur. Just a bus ride and ferry trip over the short bay stood between us and the breezy seaside.
Our plan for the next 4 days was to get some much-needed R&R. We had been going non-stop between planning, writing, and exploring. Lawrence started “clocking our hours” and keeping track of how often we were working or exploring while traveling. He calculated we had hit 45 hours in 4 days. It was tons of fun and didn’t feel like work most of the time, but still. Thinking of what life used to be like when we had 2 days off per week and were free to do whatever needed to be done, including relaxing, had us aching for a rest. We’d definitely still be exploring the picturesque town, but the majority of our time would be spent in the comforts of our hotel room.
After an American barbeque dinner (which was a rather surprising find for Southeast Asia) the first night of our stay, we got down to business. That is, the business of complete relaxation. We did little other than journeying out for food and having the occasional video chat with friends or family. Our time was instead spent with our good friends Netflix and YouTube.
Day 8: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
July 11, 2023
Relaxed and rested, we decided to get out into the town and do some exploring. We started with a walk to the harbor and to Fort Cornwallis. We decided against the hefty entry price as we could see a lot of it from the outside. The fort was built in the 18th century during British occupation in Malaysia as a defense against pirates. It’s right near the cruise ship port so is worth a walk around if your cruise ever stops in the area.
There was a Royal Caribbean ship at dock that looked wickedly fun. Having been on 3 cruises last year I was experiencing some cruising withdraw for sure. We had to remind ourselves of our how fortunate our lives were after momentarily becoming jealous of the cruisers in Georgetown for the day.
After walking back from the port, we headed to the main streets. Georgetown is known for its creative street art painted on the walls with scenes of everyday Malaysian life. We strolled the colorful roads, past the UNESCO sign, firehouse, and umbrella ally. We took in the area while doing some shopping before stopping for a unique coffee break.
Typically, an Indonesian delicacy, Kopi Luwak is a famous style of coffee made from the coffee fruits that have been consumed and passed through an Asian palm civet. In other words: it is poop coffee! We had attempted to find a coffee house in Bali, but only found the grounds packaged for sale. We decided we had to give it a try! Because the coffee fruits must first be consumed by a very specific animal, and that animal must be well cared for, this coffee ends up being the most expensive per cup. It comes close to $20 USD per cup of plain black coffee! Once the grounds are perfected they are meticulously brewed by being placed in a glass apparatus and heated by hand, before finally filtering. We ordered a hot and iced Kopi Luwak to give them both a try. They weren’t bad! And no poop flavor whatsoever. It was very strong, rich, and acidic. I think it would’ve been perfect with some cream to smooth it out but was too afraid to ask and thus taint its delectability.
Next, we headed to the floating villages. These are incredible shops, homes, and restaurants held up on stilts on the banks of the bay. You can walk through the maze of businesses while taking in the scenes of one of the most iconic parts of Georgetown. Georgetown is known for having a large population of Indian and Chinese immigrants and the jetties are a direct influence from the Chinese. This also means the Indian and Chinese food is absolutely top notch.
The last stop on our exploration day was to a nearby street food station. We had some great picks for dinner, but my dessert took the cake, or in this case, the waffle: a chocolate and cheese bubble waffle! The combination was crazy good. It was everything I ever wanted in a dessert, and a fantastic way to nightcap our evening.
Day 9: Georgetown to Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang, Malaysia
July 12, 2023
We’re going to the beach! We’d yet to do an official beach day so made sure to put aside time to relax by the waves. Typically, I tend to be less interested in beach days because it’s hard to find any that compare to those in Florida. Having lived only a few hours away from some of the best beaches in the world, the idea of a beach day doesn’t excite me as much as when I lived in Iowa. But where you find islands, you find beaches! We were plenty due for some sun and sand.
First, we started with a late lunch from a nearby McDonald’s. It’s always fun to see how the menu differs from country to country. In Malaysia they had some McDonald’s-quality Nasi Lamak, amongst other Malaysian and Indonesian offerings. We ordered some…and it was weird. I see why McDonald’s sticks to mostly burgers and fries. You could tell it would have been good if it wasn’t made with McDonald’s versions of the ingredients. What was good was the chocolate and matcha flavored McFlurry! It was unique and tasty.
From McDonald’s we walked to Batu Ferringhi Beach and found a spot to settle in. While not as beautiful as a Florida beach, the waves were calm and the water incredibly warm. Like bathwater, you didn’t need any time to get used to it, you could just slip right in. We claimed a spot near the beachfront Starbucks (what more could you need in life??) and beached our day away.
Our weather was perfect, nearly cloudless, providing optimal tanning and swimming conditions. We spent the hours swimming, laying out, and enjoying our beautiful Malaysian scenery. It never rained, so when a cloud finally moved in blocking the sun, we decided to wrap it up for the day.
When we arrived back, we opted for a Taiwanese restaurant for dinner. The food was pretty good, and the dessert really took us by surprise. A huge mound of shaved ice mixed with ice cream, matcha, and red beans. We were surprised at their size and glad we opted to only order one instead of two. Red beans are a popular dessert choice across all of Asia. While it wouldn’t have been my first instinct for a final course, they weirdly worked paired with the matcha.
And with that it was the last night in Georgetown, Penang! A light rain had started, just as the sun began to set, creating a beautiful yellow sky. We enjoyed the views and made way back to the hotel to pack up and prepare for our departure in the morning.
Day 10: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
July 13, 2023
The rain from last night had persisted and turned into a full downpour. We opted for a taxi ride instead of walking to the ferry in an attempt to stay dry. The heavy rain had caused major congestion enroute to the bus station. After crawling for 40 minutes, it was a close call when we finally arrived. Our efforts were all for not, however. We arrived with only moments to spare, and then the bus ended up being 30 minutes late anyway.
We were staying closer to the airport in Kuala Lumpur this time. So, no tiny room! The bus and train station was attached to a giant shopping mall, which was convenient. We had some dinner and looked around, planning to return before our flight tomorrow.
Malaysia ended up being a last-minute pit stop, easily accessible from Singapore and with good prices on flights to our next stop. Overall, it was very similar to Thailand, just not as touristy. It felt like a little hidden gem tucked into the bottom of Southeast Asia. There’s not too much in terms of monuments or tourist attractions, other than the Petronas Twin Towers, but the beaches and surprising mountainous terrain made for some relaxing scenery. It was also just as clean as Thailand and easily as industrialized. Kuala Lumpur wasn’t nearly on the same scale as Bangkok, but the technology and facilities were just as lovely. Thanks for the rest and relaxation Malaysia, off to the next!