Last Friday, we packed our bags and headed to the airport for a long weekend in Penang, an island in Malaysia. We met my parents and sister there, and spent three days hanging out with them. Penang is my dad’s hometown and most of my uncles and cousins still live in and around Penang. It is one of the popular tourist destinations in Malaysia and is especially popular with local tourists as it’s famous for having great food.
When I was young, we used to visit Penang at least once a year, usually around Chinese New Year. It’s not a secret that I (and my sister) dreaded those trips. When we were young, the highways have yet to be developed so we spent around seven hours driving from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. I remember having to wake up really early in the morning and bumping along in the car, even throwing up at times because of carsickness. Once the highway was up and running, it was much better, with the journey taking around 4-5 hours. Our trip always ended with a drive across the Penang bridge and enjoying the view of the sea.
The problem, though, was that when we got to Penang, our grandparents didn’t like going out. So we ended up staying in the house for 3-4 days, doing nothing much but watching TV and reading. Thus, even though I’d been going to Penang every year for about 20 years of my life, when my husband (then boyfriend) visited Penang, I had no idea where to take him. Since my grandparents passed away 7-8 years ago, I haven’t been back. So we planned this trip to visit my uncles and cousins and also to introduce our two year old to grandpa’s family.
How things have changed….my grandparents’ home has been demolished and rebuilt, there are now two bridges connecting the mainland to the island, my aunts and uncles have aged and all my little cousins (I can only remember them as young kids) are now in college or graduating soon. This trip was very different from my childhood trips. We stayed in nice hotels, tried various restaurants and hawker centres, and even spent a day and a half by the beach. When we drove past my dad’s school, we pointed it out to my daughter but I don’t think she could grasp the concept of grandpa being a young student at some point of his life. All in all, it was a great trip but as with all holidays, it was way too short.
I would highly recommend Penang as a tourist destination. Georgetown, the capital of Penang, is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the colonial buildings have been well preserved. It’s great to wander around Georgetown, checking out the old buildings and street art, followed by feasting on the wide variety of street food including satay, all sort of soup noodles, fried noodles, etc. There are also temples and memorial sites to check out in Penang. Batu Ferringhi is hardly an award winning beach area, but spending time by the pool and the beach was a great way to relax in the heat. As I said, I’m no expert on Penang for tourists, but my sense is that it’s just a great place to chill out and enjoy food.