Old Penang Guesthouse

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 Entrance

Old Penang Guesthouse Entrance

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.

Location of Old Penang Guesthouse

Location of Old Penang Guesthouse

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.

the huge and well ventilated courtyard

the huge and well ventilated inner courtyard

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.

Twin Room

Twin Room

12 Bed Mixed Dorm

12 Bed Mixed Dorm

Double Room

Double Room

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,
10200 Georgetown,
Penang, Malaysia.

Tel: 04-2638805

Email:reservation@oldpenang.com

Advertisements

As I am writing this now, we are currently resting ourselves here on our cozy guesthouse in Love Lane. It isn’t too bad after all if you have the luxury of time to just lounge around in the guest area here as it is very comfortable and breezy, the exact opposite of how it feels outside right now – scorching hot!

my refuge from the hot afternoon in Penang

my refuge from the hot afternoon in Penang

We started late as we woke up at around 9 AM and was taking a leisure breakfast as if there was nothing else to do in the world. We left at almost 12 noon already as we were also packing up our stuffs so that we can check out already and just leave our bags at the storage area.

As we were already running low on cash, we decided to try taking a bus going to Kek Lok Si. I was already too lazy to research the net so we just resorted to asking the guesthouse staff for direction – basically it was just as simple as taking any bus going to Komtar and take bus 201 to Air Itam. In all farness, the bus that took us to Komtar mall was very clean; it was not as immaculate as the buses plying around Singapore but it was definitely better than what I have taken elsewhere.

inside Rapid Penang enroute to Komtar

inside Rapid Penang enroute to Komtar

We were dropped off in Komtar and I decided to stop by Prangin Mall to check out the mugs from Starbucks. I just had a chat yesterday with my little sister and told her my whereabouts (irresponsible me did not text anyone where I will be for the weekend); in turn she reminded me about getting a Starbucks Country Mug if there are any available to add into our growing collection. There were indeed some mugs so I immediately bought it; one was a mini mug set and the other was a 10-oz sized Penang Mug. Total damage was MYR 84;  totally well worth it as it will be added into our priceless collection.

small one for the kids

small one for the kids

a regular sized mug for Mom

a regular sized mug for Mom

We took a smaller bus going to Air Itam – it was still a good ride and comfy enough for me to catch up on my sleep. I was awaken half an hour later upon reaching our destination. I found out that the destination was not too far from the city but the way going there was very traffic congested.

traffic jam!!

traffic jam!!

As it was already past lunchtime – we decided to eat first before going up the temple. There was a small hawker area along the road; after checking that it was not so dirty, we decided to rest a bit there and have our lunch. I ordered my usual Hokkien Mee (which I also ate last night) and an ice cold Coke.

A good 20 minutes, we were ready to start our last day of sight seeing. The road going up to the Kek Lok Si complex was something totally different; we passed by a market place wherein all kinds of tourist items, souvenirs and trinkets were peddled.

the souvenir route to Kek Lok Si

the souvenir route to Kek Lok Si

The souvenir passage way leads to what they call the Liberation Pond; a murky body of water filled with more than a hundred tortoises – really amazing as I haven’t seen that plenty of tortoises in my entire life.

the murky tortoise filled Liberation Pond

the murky tortoise filled Liberation Pond

We spent more than an hour inside the temple complex exploring the various praying halls. This famous landmark was established in the 19th century as a simple monastery, which eventually has grown in size and grandeur. Today it is considered as one of the most important temple in South East Asia.

the symbol in the chest caught my eye...

the symbol in the chest caught my eye...

One hall that is worth noting is the Hall of Devas where one can see huge statues of heavenly kings who controls the universe. In the center lies a huge laughing Buddha; they say this represents prosperity and happiness.

an evil one vanquished by one of the heavenly king

an evil one vanquished by one of the heavenly king

Another area in the temple complex that we found interesting is the 30 meter bronze statue of the Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy. We used an inclined lift (MYR 4, return ticket) in order to reach a spacious deck with a great view of Georgetown. In the center there is another beautiful prayer hall, in the right is a tranquil fishpond filled with huge Kois, and finally on the left is statue of the Kuan Yin holding a bottle of holy water. When we visited the goddess of mercy though, construction was still ongoing for a giant shelter to protect her from the elements.

the 30 meter bronze statue of the goddess of mercy

the 30 meter bronze statue of the goddess of mercy

Our last stop in the temple complex was the Pagoda of Rama VI. The design of the pagoda is quite interesting as the octagonal base is of Chinese design, the middle part is of Thai architectural design and the crown is Burmese inspired. We went all the way up (total of 7 storey) the spiral staircase in order to get a good view of the entire complex as well as that of the surrounding hill and Ayer Itam.

the Pagoda of Rama VI

the Pagoda of Rama VI

view from the top of the pagoda

view from the top of the pagoda

Buddha icons in the walls inside the pagoda

Buddha icons in the walls inside the pagoda

After finishing our tour of the temple, we went back to the same route as where we entered. We got ourselves a taxi to take us back into Georgetown, Khoo Kongsi, which will be our final tourist stop for this trip. Located in 18 Cannon Square, this is supposedly one of the most magnificent of the various clan houses in Georgetown. They charge MYR 10 as an entrance fee to the compound owned by one of the richest Chinese clan in the region – the Khoos. This was built in 1851 however in was burnt down in 1894, allegedly struck by lightning. The superstitious Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor’s palace, which provoked the gods. A more modest but still well ornamented replacement was built in 1902 and was finished 4 years later. Truly amazing, the carvings were very intricate and one could just imagine they were really made by the finest craftsmen in its time.

the main temple in the Khoo Kongsi complex

the main temple in the Khoo Kongsi complex

It was almost 4 PM when we finished exploring Khoo Kongsi. We hailed a trishaw outside the complex and asked the driver to take us to Love Lane. There we shall wait for a bit before a taxi will pick us up at 5:30 PM to take us into the airport for our flight back to Singapore. This trip has been very memorable, one of my best cultural experience so far. Someday, in one of my travels,  I shall find myself back in Penang once more. It has been a great experience and it is definitely worth repeating.

Pulau Pinang: Day 2

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.

The front porch of the Blue Mansion

The front porch of the Blue Mansion

A snap of the Blue Mansion taken from the front

A snap of the Blue Mansion taken from the front

One of the front door in the Blue Mansion

One of the front doors in the Blue Mansion

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.

Penang Town Hall

St George’s Church

Penang Town Hall

Penang Town Hall

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.

Entrance of Fort Connwallis

Entrance of Fort Cornwallis

Taken on top of the walls of Fort Cornwallis

Taken on top of the walls of Fort Cornwallis

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 very old and impressive building of HSBC

A very old and impressive building of HSBC

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 (?).

One of the marvelous stained glass panel inside the Peranakan Museum

One of the marvelous stained glass panels inside the Peranakan Museum

A fresco carving inside the Peranakan Museum

A fresco carving inside the Peranakan Museum

Entrance of the Peranakan Museum

Entrance of the Peranakan Museum

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.

A beautiful sight in King Street

A beautiful sight in Lebuh King

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!

Lok-Lok - Street food, Penang version

Lok-Lok - street food, Penang version

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.

Pulau Pinang: Day 1

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.

Protection against H1N1

Protection against H1N1

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).

Love Lane - Backpacker Haven in Penang

Love Lane - Backpacker Haven in Penang

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.

A street hawker cooking up his specialty

A street hawker cooking up his specialty

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.

A lovely evening stroll along Lebuh Chulia

A lovely evening stroll along Lebuh Chulia

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.

If you are Filipino, you would be scared by this...

If you are Filipino, you would be scared by this...

I immediately treated myself to a hot shower and not long afterwards I was in slumber land again…

Waiting for TR 422

24 July 2009

It is already almost 6 in the morning here in Singapore, I still have not yet slept (and I probably will not get some sleep until I am 30,000 ft above the ground). I got home from work at around 3 in the morning (I work London Hours, so 3 in the morning is normal for me). In a few hours, I will be boarding TR 422 bound for Penang in Malaysia.

I honestly don’t know what to expect in this trip (I will try to make a daily summary of my activities), all I know is that I always wanted to visit Penang and Langkawi. Amongst the places in Malaysia, these 2 are the places I want to go which still remained unvisited by me. So when Tiger Airways made a reasonable offer to me online a few weeks ago, I immediately grabbed the opportunity and bought the return tickets (costing just SGD 95). 

I have to admit, working here in Singapore has really been a great for someone who wants to travel as it very cheap (not to mention the fact that you are earning relatively higher than elsewhere) – so while I am here in the island, I will make the most out of what these budget airlines can offer me. Next month will be an adventure as well (WATCH OUT FOR IT!!)

Now it is a quarter past 6, dawn is just breaking and birds are already singing. Meanwhile I should start packing and as soon as the MRT opens, I should board it for a 45 minute ride to Changi Airport.

Welcome to Whattaworld Version 2.0 – this should be a lot better than the first version!!