A Trip to the Northern Islands

Langkawi and Penang are probably two of the most well-known islands in Malaysia. Situated on the western coast near the Thai border, both offer different vibes. Our first stop was Langkawi. After taking a flight into Alor Setar, we grabbed an Uber to the ferry terminal and then boarded the freezing cold ferry to Langkawi. The subtitles for the movie that was playing kept switching between English, Malaysian, and Chinese, so I decided to take a nap for the 1.5 hour journey.

IMG_0486Although there were many options for excursions on Langkawi, such as a Mangrove tour, island hopping, eagle feeding, and parasailing, all were outside of our budget. Plus, the weather was questionable (heavy rains on and off throughout the day) so instead we stuck with the very laid back vibe of the island and hung out by the beach.

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In the evening we found a really nice night market that reminded me of those back in Thailand. Dinner for 2 less than $6! We even discovered a new delicious food called Murtabak, which is like an omelette with a mix of meat and some veggies inside. Although we hit up a few bars that night, all of them were completely empty. There was even one band who ended up playing to a crowd of four people (including us two), but that didn’t damper their energy!

The next day we headed to Penang. Since the Langkawi-Penang ferry was full, we ended up taking it to Kuala Kedah. At the end of the 2-hour ride, we saw some really neat boats on the pier!


We were able to catch a Grab taxi with two other people, which cut the costs down to about $6 per person for the 2 hour drive to Penang. We stayed in Georgetown, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The town definitely has an old school feel. We were most excited about the food, especially after hearing that it was chosen by Lonely Planet as the number one food spot in 2014. Little India was one of our favorite food neighborhoods, especially for the naan, tandoori kitchen, and Nasi Kandar.

During our first day there we rented some bikes to see the city. After passing by Fort Cornwallis and the clock tower, we headed to the Chew Jetty. The Chew Jetty features a boardwalk surrounded by houses on stilts and dates back to early Chinese clan settlements in the 1800s.



Penang is also known for its great street art. Here is a small sample:


One of my favorite structures in Penang was the Kapitan Keling Mosque. One day we passed by and saw many people in line to grab food. We went to the Mosque and found out the buffet was open to everyone. Free lunch buffet? Sign me up!



The next day we visited the Batik Painting Museum. I’ve never heard of this type of painting before, but it uses wax on cloth to create the image. The “cracking” effect of the wax is especially unique.


Next stop – the Camera museum! A very holistic collection of cameras dating back to the 1800s, as well as some of the advertisements used at the time.


In the evening we enjoyed some good food at the market in Batu Ferringhi, where we found some of the best, freshly-pressed, no-sugar added juice for just 80 cents! The next day we enjoyed a comedy show, “Now That’s What I Call Jokes,” which was put on by the Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians. Not only were there lots of laughs, but they touched on topics such as politics in the country and the experience of Chinese people in Malaysia.

Although I missed out on Bon Odori in Seattle this year, it turned out that Penang had one! Lots of good sushi and stayed to watch a few performances as well.


On our last day we biked to the Botanical Gardens to discover there were monkeys everywhere! (and a little bit too friendly for our taste). We wandered for a bit, but were too tired from biking and the heat to do too much exploring. Regardless, I really enjoyed my time in Penang – the culture, food, museums, and architecture definitely make it one of the highlights of my trip!




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