So I now know how to plan a I-have-to-leave-the-country-in 5-days trip. My first thought: I need to go somewhere where I don’t need a visa and Worchihan can get one quickly. That meant Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos were out — Americans need visas for them all — so Malaysia it was. I had heard that George Town in Penang was a cool place so I headed straight to Agoda and then to Google Flights, which is clearly out of order (no one makes me feel more like I have to do something RIGHT NOW than Agoda). It wasn’t until we got to the airport that I looked up how we could get to George Town from the airport — and that’s all the research I did. (Old Susan may not have been friends with new Susan — I mean, come on, I did have 4 full days to plan the trip!)
So, I come to lesson 1: You can have a great time on a trip whether you research the heck out of it or not.
In this case, that’s mostly because George Town is so small. We walked everywhere, which was perfect, because we love exploring new places on foot. Our hotel was on one of the city’s major roads (I always check the “excellent location” box when I’m looking for hotels on Agoda) and ended up being practically right next to the restaurants we liked best.
We stayed at Kooning, a small hotel that opened in June. We liked it because it’s new and because it was kind of fun to stay in a loft (we stayed in their double room). There’s a place to sit and eat just off the lobby and a small courtyard (which are everywhere in George Town!). Kooning is located at 78 Campbell Street; reception is open from 8 AM — 8 PM.
Maybe I should now mention that George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something I didn’t realize until we arrived. George Town received this designation because “The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed [it] with a specific multicultural heritage” and because it “represents the British era from the end of the 18th century.” (You know what this means, right? This means that George Town has beautiful old buildings AKA my new favorite thing!) You can read more about why George Town made the list here.
Can places also make the list for their food? The variety of cultures — which also means the variety of food — makes George Town (and probably the rest of Malaysia) an interesting and delicious place to visit. The population of George Town breaks down like this: 53% Chinese, 31% Malays and 9% Indians (thanks, Wikipedia, though I really hope to never cite you again). Coming from Thailand, where the food is all…Thai…we appreciated the choices we had in GT.
We had our first meal at Restoran Tajuddin Hussain, a very local Indian place in Little India whose curry proved to be very tomato-y, though in all fairness, the sign above the already-cooked food did include the word “tomato.” We told them we wanted chicken curry, fish curry, potatoes and roti; they also brought us plain rice and dal. All of us this plus a Coke was 20 RM (1 RM = $0.24). The potatoes were great and I can never have enough roti.
We ate twice at Kapitan, a bigger, nicer Indian place with terrible service. Worchihan enjoyed the beef biriyani and I liked the garlic naan (2.90 RM) and dal.
When we decided we wanted to move on from Indian food, we stumbled across a Chinese restaurant practically right next to our hotel called Tho Yuen. We had barbecue pork and prawn fried rice (8.50 RM for a “small,” which is enough for one person) and dumpling soup (6.40 RM for 4 dumplings). We ate here 3 times and only once had the tea (2 RM) once, though everyone there — and it was busy — was drinking it. Two of the employees, who are mostly older, told us a little bit about the place (it’s 80 years old!) and made us feel welcome. Tho Yuen is located at 92 Campbell Street and is open every day from 6 AM — 3 PM.
Walking a little bit further down Campbell Street brought us to Hameediyah, a Muslim-run restaurant that Worchihan loved. Open since 1907, It claims to be the oldest nasi kandar (rice and curry) restaurant in Malaysia. Much of the food here is already cooked. You wait in line to order (the line was 15 people long the Saturday night we were there), get your food, pay and then walk a couple buildings over (or go upstairs) to eat (you can order more food from your seat). There are quite a few meat dishes to choose from as well as a couple of vegetable dishes; most people ordered the biriyani rice (4 RM). Worchihan especially loved the beef curry and the lamb shank (30 RM). I had a chicken murtabak (5.50 RM) — what you see them making in the front of the restaurant — which I didn’t love but I did like the fact that the curry dishes weren’t too spicy for me. We found the employees helpful and friendly. Hameediyah is located at 164 Campbell Street.
Since I didn’t do any research, I didn’t know that Lonely Planet recommends both Tho Yuen and Hameediyah, so thank you to Agoda for the ability to search for “excellent location” hotels, though in this case, it happened to be an excellent location for food as well.
So that covers where we stayed and what we ate. Part 2 (coming soon!) will cover what we did, and hopefully well enough that it’ll make you want to walk your way through George Town because you definitely should.
If you have any restaurant recommendations for George Town, let me know in the comments.