|According to Bourdain, "It seems that everywhere you point, there are |
bright colors, characters, beautiful things."
Discover an Asian British colony
Wander around George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a trip back in time. According to the UNESCO website, "The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the town with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible." Some of the shophouses have been renovated whereas others still retain a more humble appearance. Unlike Singapore which shares a similar history, George Town still has an authentic feel.
|Rozana's Batik on Lebuh Acheh showcases Rozana's work as both a batik artist|
and designer. In addition to creating clothing, she has earned a place in art exhibitions.
Explore the fusion of three cultures
One of the best things about Penang is that it's a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian heritage with a little bit of British influence thrown in. Stroll down The Street of Harmony and visit the mosque, Chinese temple, Hindu temple, and Anglican church that sit along it. Shop for saris in Little India, then take a seat at Tek Sen on Carnarvon street for phenomenal Malaysian influenced Chinese food with flavors unlike any that you've had in America. (I'm Chinese American, so believe me, I've been to a lot of Chinese restaurants in America, both the kind that offer chop suey or egg foo young and the kind that's filled with other Asians.)
|Hindu woman sells floral offerings for the nearby temple.|
Tempt your tastebuds
And the food! Oh my goodness, the food! The open air hawker stall centers are cheap and delicious. Assam Laksa, a spicy fish broth noodle soup flavored with sour tamarind took 7th place in CNN Go's World's 50 Most Delicious Foods. That's two spots higher than #9 Ice Cream. It outranks Ice Cream! My favorite lunch is a flat rice noodle dish with prawns, eggs, and Chinese sausage called Char Kway Teow. Penang supposedly has the best in Malaysia. You could stop by a kopitiam (coffee shop) to try a cuppa teh tarik (pulled tea) or Malaysian style coffee. If you're sightseeing and get hungry, find a street-side food cart and spend a few cents on curry puffs, peanut pancakes or samosas. You will not go hungry in Penang.
|Nasi Lemak is rice steamed in coconut milk and flavored with pandan leaves. |
Fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, a crispy cucumber slice, half a boiled egg and
spicy sambal chili paste are added before bundling it all up in a banana leaf.
Escape to a jungle beach
If you want to get away from the city, take a drive around the island to Malaysia's smallest national park. Arrange for a longtail boat to meet you at Monkey Beach before setting out on a hour long trek through the rainforest. The boat driver can even prepare a beachside barbecue for you to enjoy while relaxing on the sand. Then, take in the view as you ride back across the water.
Penang is a fascinating place. You need to come and experience it for yourself. To quote Bourdain in his Travel Channel blog, "Penang is the kind of place that ruined me for an ordinary life." I wholeheartedly agree.
This post is part of Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?