My stomach dictates a good deal of my life choices and this time around, I’m glad that was the case. Penang, Malaysia is a culinary capital — a crossroad where Malay, Indian, Indonesian, British, and Chinese traders passed through and live(d). This intersection of cultures and cuisines is at the heart of the island of Penang. The name Penang comes from the word pinang in Malay, which means areca nut palm. And when something is named after food, it’s a good sign.
George Town: The Old World
Penang is about a two-hour flight from Jakarta. It is located off of the mainland of Malaysia and there is a 13.5 kilometer bridge linking Penang to the mainland, here it is on a map. We had a nice view of the bridge from the Princeton in Asia fellow’s apartment where we stayed. When you land there is a handy information desk with city maps and a public bus that for less than a dollar will take you almost anywhere on the island. Oh, Indonesia, if only you had information desks and easily accessible clean buses. My one transportation complaint with Penang is you are never sure how long you’ll have to wait for a bus and taxis are few and far between. Cabs don’t have meters so you have bargain for a price and the cabbies aren’t willing to budge too much. Malay is pretty similar to Indonesian, so we were able to barter in Indonesian.
Our first stop of the day was George Town, the old colonial hub of Penang, where there are many historic buildings and plenty of streets to wander.