The good thing about Penang is that it can be visited anytime of the year. Much like Singapore, the weather is mostly muggy and humid and hence there is no particularly good or bad time. So we set off during the Easter weekend, a holiday I normally used to waste in India because it used to be too hot to go anywhere except the hills and then the travel would make a three-day trip tiring.
We took the hour-long flight to Penang and were in our hotel well before noon. The hotel was in Batu Ferringhi, the popular beach area. We had initially contemplated staying in Georgetown, the UNSECO World Heritage area, since the idea was to soak in the architecture and the food. In the end, mindful of the 16-month- old who was tagging along, we decided to stick to the beach zone. Ironically, said 16-month-old turned his nose up at the beach and did not play there much.
The first day, we relaxed by the beach and the pool. Hmmm…I think we did that most of the second day and the entire third day till it was time to leave.
We did manage to step outside and visit Georgetown on the second day in the morning. We hired a taxi for the morning. Our first stop was Fort Cornwallis, which is a beautiful fort right by the sea and reminded me of every British fort I had seen in India. Given our limited time and energy, we decided to focus on the Peranakan pleasures instead.
The next stop was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion on Church Street. The mansion belongs to a private family which has owned it for several hundred years. The place was a lovely example of what a wealthy person lived back then. Plush furniture and artefacts dotted the enormous place. There was a lovely jewellery exhibition. A free guided tour was going on when we went and we happily joined for a while. We initially began by letting Bobo run around. Once we had mentally tabulated how much even a small damage would cost us, we firmly tucked him in our arms.
From here, we went to the New World Hawker centre for lunch. An acquaintance who is a local, had helpfully given a huge list of eating places and this was in the recommendation. The food was cheap and tasted different from the same fare available in Singapore.
Post lunch, we stopped by the Khoo Kongsi clan house belonging to one of the oldest clans in Penang. The décor was intricate and the wide courtyard gave a lovely sense of space. Clans no longer play a big role in the local Chinese society but once upon a time they were quite powerful and the house did send an impressive message. From there, D popped into the nearby Armenian Street while I quickly nipped with Bobo into a souvenir shop.
It was nearing two by then and we decided to head back for Bobo’s nap. Except we got caught in terrible Saturday-afternoon traffic (why aren’t people napping at home on Saturday afternoons! It is the one time of the week I really look forward to). By the time we reached our hotel, all of us were tired and ready to hit the bed, which we did promptly.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which is located right on the beach. The famous Batu Ferringhi night market was right outside, selling fake Louis Vuitton bags and various pointless trinkets. The hotel itself was a bit old but very well maintained and I could not actually put my finger on why I had a vague feeling of dissatisfaction till D remarked ‘ Well, atleast with a Holiday Inn you know what to expect’. That was it. We had turned into the family travellers, seeking familiarity over adventure.
Nevertheless predictability is good when travelling with a child (as I have stated before and as I am going to repeat ad nauseum).
Penang made for a good three day trip. I liked the relaxed feel of the place. There was something laidback about the place. I could have easily spent more time wandering through the streets of Georgetown had we been located closer to that part of town. What little I saw seemed lovely.
Still, I am also slowly getting addicted to the pleasures of relaxing by the pool with a book in my hand. And I did plenty of that