Here you have my other 5 more reasons why to come to Penang, and enjoy. It is a special place, and like every special place, it takes some time to understand its uniqueness. You can indulge in the food trail, lose yourself in the forest, take some hikes along the Northern shores or shop till you drop in the modern Georgetown city center. What you cannot do, on the contrary, is lamenting because beer is expensive and there is no fun to be found nowhere, when you didn’t go further up than the 15 meters connecting Banana guest house’s front beer patio to the internet cafe’ on the corner. In this case, you deserve to be sent back to Thailand with a fresh 2 months visa and please, tell all the people like you that Penang is boring and expensive, because we don’t really need losers like you on these shores.
5 Little India’s delicious food traps
I’ve been to South India where these people from Penang are from, and I tasted the original dishes. The conclusion is that Penang’s Indian food is not any worse than any Tamil Nadu’s dish, and most times it is even more delicious. I’m not the only one to say it. In a food paradise like Penang Island, Indian food has a special place: Little India is the area where it obviously most abounds, and where you can spend some interesting moments sampling different kinds of mouthwatering delicacies. One of my favorites are the vegetable samosas you can find at the corner of Jalan Market.0.50 rm gets you a piece of paradise, try and tell me. Hands down, the best and cheapest (plus cleanest) restaurant is definitely Woodlands: eat good and healthy vegetarian Indian food, sample the thick gravys, and be hooked for life. Indian food in Penang is able to let you stay and extra week, sometimes, so be careful!
4 Hungry Ghost Festival
Held for a month between August and September, the Hungry Ghost Festival is the Chinese version of Halloween: during this time the dead are supposed to come back from the Gates of Hell to demand something to the living. This is why for the whole month the incautious traveler keeps asking himself why all of those people are burning things on the streets, and the fire brigade is always around, ready to intervene if the flames get too high?? The best part of it comes during the last week, when the ceremonies reach their most dramatic moments: temple possessions with monks whipping each other, people walking on broken glass, spirits talking in high pitched voices from the ridiculously corrugated faces of old, fat Chinese men, and the final big burning, when every clan has to burn a 3 to 5 meters high paper statue of the God of Hell…. Believe me, the Wicker Man is still kicking his ball in the playground.
3 Upper Penang Road Clubs
Malaysian Night Life is posh, curvaceous and expensive. It really is. Kuala Lumpur boosts some of the poshest clubs and discos in the nation, and Penang comes second with its Upper Penang Road which seems to get relatively overlooked by the people coming by. If you have some cash to shell out and don’t mind waitresses who’ll do anything to pour another drop of beer in your glass so you’ll have to buy more, this is the place to go. Rarely human eyes have seen Asian beauties so awesomely geared up with stilettos, miniskirts and make up to kill the night away like in this place… Wednesday it is Ladies’ Night, and the atmosphere becomes even hotter.
2 Silambam Nilaikalakki
Penang gets interesting when you get to know its underbelly: the good things don’t hang out in Chulia Street. If you are interested in martial arts, Penang is one of the few places in the world where, if you have dedication and time to spend, you can learn the ancient Indian art of stick fighting, Silambam. Originally from the hills of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Silambam is taught in Penang by Master Anbananthan: you need to carefully follow his teachings to get to master the syllabus, before venturing into your own path of self development. Silambam is foremost a healthy practice, like Yoga, with intricate flowing techniques, and then becomes an efficient combat system. You cannot learn it in one day, for it takes roughly seven years to become a master; but if you have time on the island, you can definitely give it a go and learn some of the basics to enhance your health, since Silambam mostly improves the blood circulation. If you want to know more or participate, feel free to contact me and I’ll give you more detailed information.
1 Balik Pulau
Before turning into one of the biggest industrial centers of Malaysia and Southeast Asia, Penang was a beautiful island, a place densely covered by nature, with coconut trees lining up its shores and sleepy villagers pushing their ox carts trough the rice paddies. While Penang is certainly not like that anymore, some of its areas still retain some of the old charm: Balik Pulau is the best example. A sleepy and rural suburb in the lower West corner of the island, this is the place to go if you want to escape from the increasingly crazy traffic jams, the crowds and the steamy afternoons in Georgetown. Ride a pushbike, sat under the coconut trees and immerse yourself in the natural scenery, and if you dare, try to taste some of the Durian fruit readily available, but if you do, consider staying away from your girlfriend that same night… it can produce some uncontrollable foul smells from every hole in your body, mouth included…don’t tell me later I didn’t warn you!