Five Days in Penang

Five Days in Penang

Have you tried an Ice Kachang? It’s weird, but refreshing. Think shaved ice and red beans – with sweet corn, cubes of agar, and coconut milk on top. That’s Penang. It sounds ugly – a Malay island, a British port, worked by Indians, and owned by Chinese. But, like Kachang, it’s refreshing.   

Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – as the first British outpost in Southeast Asia. There’s a history lesson on every corner, and street art down every lane. Modern Asia is closing in, while the golden age of colonialism remains stoic; silent, but subjugated.

Check out the Blue Mansion. It embodies the history of the place – with rooms to tribute each of the founding cultures. Well worth a visit.

But, to sum the place in three words: Penang can cook. A-grade Laksa, Char Koay Teow, and Nasi Lemak – combining flavours your tongue can’t imagine. It’s like the matrix – you have to see it for yourself.

To work off the meals – head to the national park. About an hour on the bus takes you right to the gate. From there, you can walk to beaches, a light house, and a lake. Plus, there’s monkeys, if that’s your thing. Take plenty of water – the jungle is hot, and the monkeys are thirsty.

The downsides? Well, I’ve seen some thumping rats. Real bone crushers. Clearly on the peptides. But they’re part of the town, part of a delicate ecosystem: the Hindus put out offerings, which feed all the rats, who’re eaten by cats, sustaining the dogs, chomped down by Asians. I can only guess the Asians fall prey to Hindus – thus completing the circle of life.

But, all in all, I liked the place. I extended my stay – if proof was needed. Pack lightly, as the weather’s hot. And cool off with an Ice Kachang. It’s like Penang in a cup; weird, but refreshing.