Picturesque Penang

Penang Island has a bit of everything: diverse culture, heritage buildings, wildlife and beaches. We only had 3 days here but we packed them full. Here’s a few of our highlights.

There’s a clear favorite pastime on Penang: eating. Pack the elasticated waist trousers and feast from dawn till dusk. We have now had to make a healthy eating vow to undo the foodie paradise indulgence of the last 3 days.

Dim Sum for breakfast; Nasi Goreng Ayam (fried rice with deep fried chicken); Nasi Kandar (rice with a selection of mouthwatering curries); Roti Canai (a butter-filled puffy pancake served with a curry dip); all topped off with Cendol (shaved ice covered in sweet treats…and kidney beans, yes, really) and a sugary iced drink…it’s not exactly the picture of health. And it shows; there are almost as many overweight people here as in the UK.

The architecture is stunning, even the kids appreciated the Penang Museum, the Khoo Kongsi and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. (It helps if you turn it into a game where we are the first British settlers on the island, and the mansion belongs to us…). Georgetown has a fascinating history, although it’s tough to read about some the shameful behavior of our ancestors. There are stunning buildings on every street, some British colonial, and a lot of early wealthy Chinese and Indian merchant family mansions.

We spent a day visiting Penang Hill, where I really wanted to look around some of the British colonial houses that were built by the wealthiest settlers to escape the heat and bustle of the city. However, we instead spent 4 hours in the Owl Museum painting plaster cast owls. We had a lot of fun though! And the funicular ride up and down was truly memorable.

I think the top highlight has to be the ‘blow the budget’ 350 Ringgit (£60) splash out that we indulged in today. We had afternoon tea at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Founded in 1885, it’s everything you expect from a colonial high society hang out. From the perfect whitewash exterior to the valet’s starched shirts; the tiered cake stands to the delicate silver tea strainers; it was heavenly. The children were awed by the ‘poshness’ of everything (after some of the backpacker haunts they’ve endured, it’s no wonder).

The kids behaved perfectly. After many warnings and a herculean effort to arrive in clean clothing, we were delighted with how they sat up and took part like little ladies. Well, almost. At one point, Jemima dropped her knife on the floor. “It’s OK Mum,” she said, “I licked it first!”

You can take the girls out of Leeds…

NB – we are having trouble with our memory card reader…here’s a few pictures but more to follow

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