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CRUISE SHIP SUGGESTIONS
On a bad day, up to 12,000 passengers can disembark from cruise liners. Taxi drivers at the port generally charge around RM150 for a 3 hour tour of the island. Trishaw riders will typically charge RM25 – 50, depending on the passenger’s weight, for a short ride round the Esplanade.
The ship docks at Swettenham Pier right in the middle of George Town. You can do very many things yourself without paying an inflated price for a cruise ship itinerary or hiring a taxi. If you do want a taxi, go with one of the drivers just inside the terminal. They wear orange and white shirts with a round blue and yellow symbol with the Penang Bridge in the middle and the word GABUNGAN above. They have their license certificate hanging round their necks.
Down in George Town have a look at website mypenang.gov.my for things you'd like to see. Select them and they'll be pinned to a map, which you can print off to take with you.
You'll find George Town is perfectly safe if you take the usual precautions of watching out for bag snatchers and pickpockets as you would anywhere else in the world.
DO YOU NEED MONEY?
You exit the ship onto a side road opposite Fort Cornwallis. Turn to your left and you’ll see the Queen Victoria Clock Monument and behind it a roundabout with the Penang Betel nut in the middle. Walk towards the roundabout, cross the road and continue up the road opposite which is Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street). The first bank is HSBC where you can withdraw money at the ATMs. If you need a different bank or a money changer continue up Lebuh Pantai.
A suggested amount if you just want to try Penang’s famous hawker centre/street food, with a soft drink, would be RM50 per person. RM100 would be a more comfortable amount if you want a beer or two and maybe a coffee later.
EARLY ARRIVAL? A TOUR BY BUS
If you like doing things yourself, you could consider doing a tour on one of Penang's HopOnHopOff buses. These are double decker buses, have an open area on the top deck, are air conditioned and have free wifi. Where you dock is stop number 13. Walk up to the roundabout, turn left, cross the road and you’ll see the blue sign.
Take the bus to stop 17 and go and visit the Thai and Burmese temples there. Then get back on the next bus which will take you to stop 04 - the Botanical Gardens. Most people go there to see the troupes of monkeys. Back on the bus and you'll get to stop 05 which is Penang Hill. You could consider getting off and going up Penang Hill on the funicular railway for great views over the island. If you choose not to then do get off at stop 06 and visit Kek Lok Si, an amazing temple perched on the hillside above Air Itam. After that take the bus back down to George Town, get off at stop 10 and wander through the heritage zone. The bus costs RM48 and there are several on the route so you don't normally have to wait too long if you've just missed one. See www.myhoponhopoff.com
If you want to pre-book, there is only one company who you can do this through -
www.metrobike.com.my Their packages start from RM120/150 per person up to RM240 per person. Have a close look at their tours and pricing – probably on cruise ship days the cheaper packages are not available. There is a weight limit of 90kg per person/trishaw.
There are usually loads of trishaws hanging round the port. Expect to negotiate a price that either includes or excludes food. If you walk a short distance away from the port you will find many trishaw drivers offering you a tour. You could ask one for a short tour and do the rest on foot. Many will be happy to take you through the back streets as far as Komtar, where there is a trishaw rank, or to Cititel Hotel on Penang Road where most of them are based. They all know what tourists want to see so will stop to let you take photos.
A WALK ROUND GEORGETOWN WITH SOME EATING + SOUVENIR SHOPPING
This walk will give you a flavour of George Town. It is actually not very long but there is a lot to see.
When you disembark turn left, walk up to the roundabout and then turn left again. Follow the road round (you’re on the Weld) and you’ll pass Church Street Pier, Tanjung City Marina, the ferry terminal and the bus station. After about 5-10 minutes you come to the Clan Jetties, which is where the Chinese community used to live on stilt houses out over the water. The Chew Jetty is the most famous but now rather commercialised, and on cruise ship days absolutely packed, so do try the next one or two along as well. After you’ve done the jetties, cross over the road (if you’re after some local food try the CF Food Court) and walk up Gat Lebuh Armenian. You’ll pass some of the cat wall paintings plus you’ll start to see the iron rod cartoon sculptures. On the corner of Armenian and Lebuh Pantai is a nice café (Cozy in the Rocket) where you can stop for something to eat or drink. Good toilets there!
Now continue along Lebuh Armenian and almost immediately on the right you’ll see the children on the bicycle wall painting. There are more wall paintings as you continue along the street, Chinese temples, the Batik Museum and lots of souvenir shops. On the right you’ll pass Eidelweis Café where they do great freshly squeezed juices and snacks. Their inside area is nice on a hot day + more good toilets. You’ll then come to Cannon Square where you go straight across, possibly going into the Yap temple on your way. Continue until you get to Sun Yat Sen’s House. Even if you’re not interested in China’s revolutionary history, it’s worth going in (small entrance fee) to see what traditional houses in Penang used to be like. Next door is the Teochew Chinese Opera and Museum. For another small entrance fee you can go in, see all the puppets and dress up in Chinese Opera Costume. It’s also a good place to pick up opera gifts/souvenirs. You will have passed Jawi Café on your left, which makes another good drink and snack stop.
Continue to the end of Armenian Street and look back. If you’ve seen the TV series Indian Summers that section was where the street with shops was filmed. Now turn left and walk along Lebuh Acheh towards the mosque. When you get there you can have a look round. Then turn left and walk down Lebuh Cannon. On your right is the entrance to the Khoo Kongsi, perhaps Penang’s most famous Chinese Clan House Temple. There’s an entrance fee to get in. This street will take you back to Cannon Square which you crossed earlier, but before you get there look back to see the boy on the chair wall painting.
Cross Cannon Square and on the left are two shops that are worth looking at. One is a local Penang jeweller who makes lovely items from silver and the other is a photographer who produces cards, framed prints and calendars with pictures of Penang.
Now continue straight ahead down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling towards the big mosque. You can make a detour into it or just carry on to the wonderful incense filled Kuan Yin Chinese temple. Just before you get to the temple you’ll pass two shops on the left. One sells pottery where you can pick up inexpensive teapots and bowls, decorated plates and chopsticks and holders. The bigger shop is a cornucopia of Chinese items, many of which would make nice souvenirs. Check out the carved and painted incense sticks and the black and red lacquer tiffin carriers. You are now opposite Little India.
[If you want to see more of Penang, turn down the road besides the Kuan Yin temple and follow the road as it wriggles to the right. Some amusing iron rod cartoon sculptures as you go. It will take you onto Lorong Stewart and at the junction with Lebuh Klang you’ll see the massive Indian Boatman wall painting. Lorong Stewart leads into Lebuh Muntri and all the way along you’ll find coffee shops including the Perfect Cat Café and the camera museum. At the junction with Lebuh Leith you can turn right (look for the Jimmy Choo cartoon sculpture) towards the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (the Blue Mansion). There are daily tours at 11am, 2pm and 3.30pm which last about 45 minutes. From there continue back along the main road to your right to your cruise ship. You’ll pass the State Museum and Art Gallery and St George’s Church where you could turn back up Kapitan Keling road to re-join this tour.]
Cross the road opposite the Kuan Yin temple and go for a wander through Little India and maybe try some of the street snacks – they’re all freshly cooked so no need to worry. Lots of great sari and jewellery shops all around you. Bangles are good value but make sure you get the right wrist sizes.
When you come to Lebuh Penang you’ll find lots of Indian restaurants, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Be aware that mutton is goat. Turn left down Lebuh Penang and go to the 3D/Trick Art museum where there are some great photo opportunities. This is just one of very many 3D museums in Penang. Continue down to the end of the street. Opposite is an open space and you’ll see lots of Colonial Buildings. Fort Cornwallis and the Lighthouse are over there.
If you turn right in a couple of minutes you’ll get back to the cruise ship terminal past the Queen Victoria Clock Monument. If instead you’re still feeling energetic, or have lots of time left, turn left and walk round to the E&O hotel for afternoon tea or a drink in the bar, all in colonial splendour.