I love walking along historic streets lined with old buildings. When I planned my next trip to Peninsular Malaysia, George Town in Penang Island came up on the top of my list of places to visit.

George Town, along with Melaka, is a  UNESCO world heritage site listed under Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca. While Melaka is known for Dutch-colonial buildings, George Town is filled with British-colonial heritage structures.

I already walked the old streets on Melaka on my first trip to Malaysia. Now it’s time for Georgetown!

I did not plan a detailed itinerary for this part of my 3-week trip to Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. I just bought a map in an old bookstore when I was already in George Town and started wandering around the city.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Bird’s eye view of George Town and Penang Island from Kek Lok Si Temple

Day 1

KL to Georgetown, Penang Island

I arrived at KLIA-LCCT (Kuala Lumpur International Airport – Low-Cost Carrier Terminal) at 4pm and went straight to Puduraya Bus Station in KL City Center to catch the next bus to Georgetown.

I was excited to finally get to see the newly renovated Pudu Station. It looked very modern and sophisticated.

Entrance to the passenger platforms at Puduraya Bus Terminal, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When I got to the upper floors to buy a bus ticket, a tout greeted and asked me where I was headed. I told him I was bound for George Town in Penang. He escorted me to one of the bus company counters. The bus ticket costs RM35.

I reiterated that I wanted to drop off at “George Town” knowing that some of the buses only to until the mainland side of Penang state and not all the way to Penang Island, where George Town was located.

I thought I made myself clear enough, so I paid for the ticket, walked to the designated platform and waited for the bus to arrive.

I was so tired, I dozed off the entire 7-hour bus ride. The bus conductor woke me up from my sleep to tell me that it was already my stop. It was already dark and the place where I was dropped off looked like it was along a major highway in the mainland. Not the charming & sleepy town full of old buildings I imagined.

Officers at a security outpost told me I was indeed at Butterworth Ferry Terminal at the mainland side of Penang. Since there were no ferries crossing to George Town that late at night, they advised me to take a taxi ride (RM30) crossing the Penang Bridge. So, I did and 30 minutes later, checked-in at a random backpacker guesthouse we passed by at George Town city center.

I slept until 11am the next day. I really needed a good rest because I had been on the move ever since I left Baluran National Park in Java, Indonesia:

  • 7 hour night “travel” (shuttle van) from Baluran to Surabaya
  • 7 hours walking around Surabaya while waiting for my flight to Malaysia
  • 3-hour flight from Surabaya to KL
  • 6 to 7-hour night bus to Penang

Day 2

Eng Loh Hotel

The next I day, I woke up late at 11am. I had one hour (before checkout) to look for another hostel in George Town. I needed to transfer because the room I slept in was a crappy windowless room priced at RM25/night.

There was a promising place called “Eng Loh Hotel” on the second floor of a similarly named hawker food court along Lebuh Gereja (Church Street) at the outskirts of Little India.

I stayed at Eng Loh Hotel for the rest of my stay in George Town. The price was still RM25 per night but the room was big (good enough for two; shared TB) and they had free reliable wifi.

Most of all, I thought it was super cool to stay inside one of the old heritage buildings of George Town. I loved the nice view of the street from the window, the friendly Chinese lady receptionist, the helpful old Indian owner, the caged birds that greeted me  every time I went up to my room, the old solid wood furniture and borderline creepy mirrors in my room, and lastly, the Iced coffee at Eng Loh foodcourt.
Eng Loh Hotel - Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

The convenient sink  inside my room and a mirror with a picture of an old man.

Little India

I craved a day of taking it easy since I was still feeling a bit overwhelmed with my recent travels. I didn’t do a lot on my first day in Georgetown. I mostly walked around Little India.

Even my clothes needed replenishing. Indian owner of Eng Loh hotel suggested a laundry shop, a block away. When I got my “clean” clothes back, it came with the smells of Little India. My clothes kept that aroma until 5 washes later.
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Shophouses at Little India district of George Town

Little India in Penang covers the area around Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Pasar (Market Street). The place was filled with colorful shophouses, sounds from DVD stalls, and smells of Indian food.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Chicken Briyani, Samosa, and Iced Tea

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Sunset view from my room at En Loh Hotel

Day 3

Heritage Walking Tour

I was all for seeing as much of George Town. I could spend a whole week (or even more) just walking around the city center. George Town is probably one of the largest, grandest and best preserved former colonial city / heritage core that I’ve visited in South East Asia.

There were always interesting things that caught my eye in every corner. Even seemingly abandoned alleyways spoke to my inner photographer.

View of Peranakan Mansion from En Loh Hotel - Georgetown, Penang

View of the Peranakan Mansion, from my room

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Malaysian Railway Building (Wisma Kastam)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Loved this rust-red door and rich wall texture.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Clean street with a little landscaping and cute lamp posts

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Museum and Art Gallery

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Inner hallways of Cheah Kongsi clan house

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Jalan Buckingham / Campbell

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Well lit shop houses

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Abandoned Shih Chung Branch School building. I’m fascinated with Vampire Chronicles books (or with the Vampire genre in general). This building fits descriptions of old European-style houses used as Vampire dens. So cool!

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Took this photo of the Old English cemetery on my 4th day.  I was on a long walk back to my hostel, at around midnight, and thought it would be (potentially) interesting to take photos of the cemetery.

Multi-cultural George Town

George Town, like the whole of Malaysia, is a melting pot of different cultures. When the British occupied the island, they established George Town as a free port. Settlers from India, China, Europe, and the Middle East along with Ethnic Malays thrived here bringing with them traditions from their native countries.

It’s not uncommon to see places of worship by different religions stand side by side in one area.
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Acheen Street Mosque (Masjid Jamek)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Khoo Kongsi Clan Temple

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Temple of the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin Teng) / Kong Hock Keong

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

St George’s Anglican Church

British colony

The more impressive British-colonial structures like Fort Cornwallis, Queen Victoria Clock Tower, and grand administrative buildings can be found on the northern coast of the George Town.
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Victoria Clock Tower

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Fort Cornwallis

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Municipal Council of Penang Island building

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

George Town Sunset from the seaside promenade

Day 4

Air Itam: Penang Hill

On my fourth day, I took an excursion out of George Town city center. I went to the highland areas of Air Itam to visit the Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia,  and Penang Hill, a resort complex with awesome aerial views of Penang Island.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple (Temple of Supreme Bliss)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Gargantuan statues at the highest level of Kek Lok Si Temple

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Me at Penang Hill

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Awesome aerial view of George Town and the mainland from Penang Hill

Food trip

George Town is known for having the best hawker fare street food in Malaysia. I even met a taxi driver in KL who boasted that it’s the best in the world.

I’m sure many other countries have something to say about that. One thing is for sure, the food in Georgetown was exceptionally delicious.

In between walkathons, I indulged my stomach on popular Georgetown, Penang specialties.

The best food is eaten at side street stalls. Dishes sold cheaply at RM3-9. Worth every sen!

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Chicken Rice (RM4) and Iced Coffee (RM1.5) at Eng Loh Foodcourt. Look at the layers on that iced coffee!

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Penang’s famous Char Kway Teow (RM3.5)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Pork Rib  Bee Hoon Soup (RM3.5)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Wanton Mee (RM3.5) + Iced Coffee (RM1.3)


The ever present Nasi Goreng /Fried Rice Seafood (RM5)

Day 5

Back to Kuala Lumpur

My last day was spent mostly on the road back to KL for my return flight (back to the Philippines) early morning the next day.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Crossing the Penang Bridge (longest in Malaysia) on the bus from George Town to Kuala Lumpur (RM35)


I found many bus stops in Malaysia very interesting. Like this one surrounded by dense forest areas.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In my hostel room in KL, I took photos of how I packed for a 3-week trip in South East Asia.
George Town was beautiful! A must visit for foodies and people who like visiting old cities. If ever you’re doing the “Malaysia to Thailand” trail, definitely stop over at George Town even just for a day. Then, you could continue to Langkawi then the Islands of the Andaman Coast in Southern Thailand.

It’s a worthy destination on its own as well. I would love to come back and spend weeks trying to discover every corner of Penang.