I had never spent much time in Malaysia, but after spending time in Chiang Mai with my friend Yu Sian, she suggested we fly to Penang and visit one of her friends who was born and raised there.
Yu Sian met SUAN Ee TOH at boarding school when they were both young and they have kept in touch. Suan Ee is a real food lover and is involved in several restaurants in Hong Kong. It’s that being said I was interested to experience the local food scene through her eyes. I believe Penang is today what Singapore was 50 years ago. Not many American tourists, however the Chinese and English have found this lovely city.
We checked into THE E & O hotel, this older hotel is located on the water and under renovation. They have torn down the old original building and are now redoing the entire property. The rooms were lovely, large and well appointed. The view from my room over the ocean was perfect to watch the pink sunsets.
SUAN Ee took us to a very local place to eat fresh fish and crabs. JIA SIANG CAFE is not a place a tourist would find, located a half hour drive across the mountains to the water front where the fishing boats bring in their catch every morning. Because we ate such a big lunch we went to a very local noodle house close to the hotel. The HON KEI CAMPBELL, is a long well lit room with a simple menu of local noodle dishes all around $3.00 each.
The next morning we did a tour of local residential neighborhoods to see how the city lives. Then headed to visit a well organized spice plantation for tourist to understand what grows in the country, how the spices are used and the vegetation. We had a simple lunch at their restaurant, THE MONKEY TREE, not the best. Since we were in the area we stopped at the Butterfly reserve, beautiful project and worth the stop.
Back in town we headed to another 3 hour spa service at SIAM PARADISE, http://www.siamparadise.com. This spa was not as upscale as what we had experienced in Chiang Mai, but the services we top notch. My 3 hour service was about $45 US dollars and their reflexology foot treatments we first class.
Simple dinner at a traditional Malay house called WINN’S Cafe, no beer or wine, but you could bring your own. The food is clean and nice service all for about $8 a person for fresh local food.
The next morning after an amazing breakfast at the hotel we headed to the local hawker stalls for their traditional breakfast of noodles.After eating a second breakfast we went to tour the Peranakan Mansion. In history the families of this era were Chinese immigrants that married Malaya in both Singapore and Malaysia. Some became very wealthy and their life style is depicted in every room of this grand house. The history is worth the tour!
We had lunch next to the hotel at THE MANSION, sitting outside on the water under lovely trees and sharing fresh fruit and shrimp salads. It was hot and humid and so a retreat to our rooms for a rest before our last meal at MAPLE PALACE, this beautiful Chinese restaurant is a must see if you go to Penang. The food is top and they welcome you to bring your own wine. Everything we ordered was perfect and the service was to match.
Our visit to Penang was fast but interesting and a real step back in time. Not sure I will be back anytime soon, but with the help of Yu Sian and her friend SUAN Ee I loved every minute of the adventure.