28 July 2009
The guesthouse where we stayed for a good 2 nights during our recent trip to Penang was one of the best that I have ever tried. It was clean, comfortable and very homey, reminded me so much of my mom’s ancestral house back home in the Philippines.
Old Penang Guesthouse is a beautifully restored shophouse located in Love Lane, one of the backpacker areas in Georgetown, Penang. The location is very accessible and easily within walking distance to the various sights in town.
Despite being recently renovated (it was done 8 months ago according to one of the staffs), the building still retained its old world charm. This was evident in the original mosaic-tiled flooring, intricate artworks, an airy inner courtyard, the wooden floor in the 2nd storey, and the wooden shuttered windows. Practically, every aspect of the guesthouse reflects some history of the region.
Beside the inner courtyard, there is also this lounge where the guest can just sit down comfortably and read a book or watch TV.
They have lots of books as well; particularly travel guides to help you plan on your itinerary in Penang or your next destination. They also offer tour, visa and transportation assistance to their guest; all this they do at a very competitive price.
The rooms are all air-conditioned and are clean in every aspect of the word. The beds were comfortable although the pillow could have been a bit thicker though. We were lucky enough to get the room with a private bathroom but the common toilet and shower was not so bad as well as it is regularly cleaned by the guesthouse staff.
The staffs, headed by Paul, were very helpful and very hospitable. A plus factor was that they were very knowledgeable about Penang in general. Ask them for directions, they would answer instantly – same goes if you ask them for food recommendation, they would tell you the place to eat as well as the direction going there.
Lastly, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I paid 70 MYR/night, which got me a private air-conditioned room with an attached toilet. This came with free use of their towels (very important for me as I hate bringing my own towel during trips), breakfast (consisting of toasts and jam), free flowing coffee and WiFi access (not too reliable though). This was good for 2 persons already. A very good value for money, I can definitely say.
Old Penang Guesthouse
No.53, Love Lane,
25 July 2009
It was a refreshing sleep – for the first time in recent memory, I was able to sleep before 11 PM and woke up at quarter before 8 AM. We went down to grab a breakfast of bread, jam and coffee – the usual they serve in backpacker’s hostel but it was enough to last us for the morning.
It was leisure breakfast coupled so it was already way past 10 AM when we left our guesthouse. First agenda of the day was the Blue Mansion at 14 Lebuh Leigh. We arrived just in time for the guided tour scheduled at 11. We paid 12 MYR each for an hour long guided tour conducted by a 4th generation Hakka named Eric. It was a very entertaining tour in which Eric talked about the history of the house as well as that of its original owner, Cheong Fatt Tze – supposedly one of the wealthiest Asian of his time and was at one time dubbed as the Rockefeller of the East. The fee for the guided tour was very worth, educational and at the same time funny. Sadly though, no photography was allowed inside the house. This is definitely one of the must-see in Penang.
We proceeded to have lunch afterwards in a restaurant of another backpacker hostel along Lebuh Muntri. After a hearty lunch comprised of peppered chicken and beef curry, we headed towards Fort Cornwallis. We passed by the several sights such as the Cathedral of the Assumption, St George’s Church, Penang State Museum (in which we entered to seek refuge from the scorching heat of the sun), the Town Hall and the City Hall until we found ourselves in the entrance gate of Fort Cornwallis.
Fort Cornwallis reminded me so much of Intramuros back home in the Philippines, a smaller version that is. There was not much to see really but on top of the walls, one can feel and enjoy the relaxing sea breeze. This was built by Francis Light (founder of Penang) immediately after his landing on the island and the present structure was completed in the early 19th century.
We resumed our self-guided walking tour and strolled along Lebuh Pantai where we saw the buildings of several multinational banks – HSBC, Standard Chartered and Royal Bank of Scotland.
A detour along Lebuh Gereja and we found ourselves on the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. We paid 10 MYR for the entrance fee, which comes with a detailed tour guide. The tour was not as fun as that of the Blue Mansion but the house itself was far more decorated and “complete” than the latter. This said house was built by Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, a colorful personality in Penang during the late 19th century. Now, it is a museum, which contains antiques of the Peranakan community. My favorite spot here was the temple they built beside the mansion, which contained very colorful fresco carvings depicting heaven and hell (?).
When we got out of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, we were already tired and decided to head back to our guesthouse. We passed by the temple along Lebuh King where a bunch of photographers were doing a photo session. Along the way, we also passed by the Goddess of Mercy Temple along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. I initially thought this was a sight but sad to say I was disappointed, we didn’t bother to go in, as we just want to rest our aching feet.
We did a short pit stop somewhere along Lebuh Carnarvon to try out what a colleague suggested, Lok-Lok. This is basically a street food wherein a bunch of edible stuffs are placed on a stick and you just pick out what you like and cook it in boiling water (ala Steam Boat, as what they call back in Singapore). The cooked food is then dipped in a sauce of your choice; you repeat the steps until you are full (or you simply ran out of ringgits for payment, whichever the case may be) and simply hand over your sticks to the stall owner where he will bill you accordingly. I would say it was not so bad – food was delicious and something very Penang!
Finally we are in the guesthouse, I will be taking a nap and probably afterwards get something to eat. Tomorrow will be the last day but it will still be fully packed, as our plane to Singapore doesn’t leave until 8:15 PM.
24 July 2009
I was able to sleep earlier than I thought, we arrived at the airport at half past 8 (too lazy to take the MRT and we ended up paying 21 SGD for a cab) and immediately after clearing past immigration, I grabbed a seat in the waiting area and fell asleep. I woke up at around 10:05 and saw that it was already final call for the Penang bound plane. Off we went, running and running until we reached our boarding gate. It resulted into further exhaustion – once again after the plane was in the air, I was in slumber land.
I woke up only during touchdown but still very exhausted I took the opportunity to get more snooze for a few more minutes as the plane was taxiing itself.
Finally, we got out… First thing I noticed about the airport was that it had a distinct characteristic, something familiar yet at the same time strange. Anyway, it took sometime to clear past both health declaration check (to safeguard against H1N1) and immigration – 20 minutes at the very least for both.
After getting our passports stamped, we immediately proceed to buy taxi coupon (38 MYR) to take us to our guesthouse in Georgetown. Again, I slept throughout the ride to town, which took probably another 30 minutes. We were inside our room at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Still too tired, we decided to catch a nap and wake up just in time to have lunch and take the guided tour inside Cheong Fatt Tse Mansion scheduled at 3 PM.
Alas, we woke up at around 10 minutes before 3 and we decided to take the guided tour on another day. We began our hunt for a good place to eat. There were a lot of places to eat but somehow, we held back because we found it either as not to our liking or it wasn’t too hygienic. It wasn’t long though before we got a decent place to eat Hokkien Mee paired with an ice cold Coke on a very hot afternoon. Food was good, really good!! Not to mention it was really cheap (total 9 MYR for 2 noodles and 2 coke).
We immediately resumed walking afterwards; it really helped that Georgetown has lots of marker that would identify and describe the various worthwhile sites around the area. I guess this was as a result of having been granted a UNESCO World Heritage Site status sometime last year.
It was really a very hot and humid day that we decided to stop for a few minutes in The Chocolate Boutique just to look around and enjoy a rest with an air-conditioned facility. It turned out to be a one-hour long pit stop as they conducted a chocolate sampling tour for us. Dubbed as Penang’s latest offering – “The Chocolate Boutique” offered more than 90 different types of high quality chocolate from Beryl’s. The place is divided into various rooms with different theme, which included fruits, tiramisu, health, sweetheart, coffee, panned chocolate and the Malaysian collection. Inside were also noteworthy facts about the history of the evolution of chocolate.
As the products were very good (and not so expensive) – my girlfriend took the opportunity as well to hoard up on some of the products to be given away to family, friends and ex-colleague when she goes for a visit to the Philippines next weekend.
Finally, after being poorer by several hundred MYR, we continued our stroll. The stuffs we bought were a bit heavy, so we decided to go back to our guesthouse and leave the bags. We managed to steal another hour of rest and woke up at around 730 PM which surprisingly still had ample sunlight left.
We worked our way from down from Lebuh Chulia and eventually found our way to Edelweiss Cafe in Armenia Street. The cafe is very cozy and is set in a beautiful Chinese shop house built in the 1800′s. Accordingly, this cafe is a favorite hangout place for local artists and conservationist. Food was a bit expensive but it was I guess worth it considering you are paying for the ambiance and the fact that the food itself was good.
We were already tired after dinner so we decided to retreat back to our guesthouse – we passed by several beautiful attractions along the way including Khoo Kongsi and the Yap Kongsi Temple. It would have been great to wander around for a few more hours but we barely had enough energy, I guess it would be more rational to rest well tonight and save up our energy for a full day tomorrow.
I immediately treated myself to a hot shower and not long afterwards I was in slumber land again…