Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | August 6, 2010

Penang and Langkawi – and goodbye to Malaysia

Our last two spots in Malaysia…and what places they were. We caught a bus from Kota Bharu on the East coast to Butterworth on the West, the jumping off point for ferries to the island of Penang.

Penang, pearl of the orient! There are some names that conjure up romantic images, and Penang is one of them for me. A major port on the shipping route from China, Penang grew into a melting pot of cultures as traders from all over Asia settled there.

And for me, I was excited about the food as we had tried some Penang Laksa in Kota Bharu and I was well up for getting my chops around the real thing!

It didn’t disappoint on any front.

Meandering around Georgetown is like wandering through history. Decaying Chinese shops fronts, British buildings from the colonial era, relics of Fort Cornwallis, Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and the buzz at Chowrasta market. We loved this place!

Especially the night food market. I think I love night food markets!

Night Market in Penang

Night Market in Penang

And Penang has the friendliest most helpful bus drivers who don’t just help you out, but they have a little chat to you and then give you a wave as they drive off.

After exploring the capital of Penang we went a bit further afield. We caught a bus and went to the south of Georgetown to visit the War Museum.

Whilst on the trip I have awakened a previously untapped interest in history (sorry Mrs Baines who tried so hard at school to make me dig history. If only we had gone on a round-the-world trip together miss!), and specifically the Second World War.

Outside Penang War Museum

Outside Penang War Museum

The war museum is the excavated remnants of the actual original British defences built in the early Twentieth Century. The British fought to retain Penang but were beaten by the Japanese in 1941 and Malaysia fell under the Japanase rule, as did this defence area. It was used as a POW transit camp and torture facility. The 20 hectare sight is full of the real buildings used to house troups, ammunition, as well as the artillery areas, wells, tunnels and underground bunkers. Absolutely fascinating, but also terribly sad.

The war affected Asia in so many ways and much of this stuff is not taught in schools back home, but this war really affected the whole world.

We also visited the Botanical gardens whilst in Penang, did a spot of shopping, a lot of eating (aforementioned laksa, amazing tandoori, biryani, mertabak, mee goreng mmmmmmmmm)

Literally eating some tandoori chicken

Literally eating some tandoori chicken

and we went to the cinema – yes, the cinema. We saw Inception and came out completely buzzing. What a great film – Leonardo DiCaprio is always in great films and that is a fact. If a film has Leo, Johnny Depp or Paul Rudd in it you know it’s worth a look I say.

Indeed! And now onto Langkawi, which is an archipelago of 99 islands. We stayed at the main island – of Langkawi – on the quietest beach, Pantai Tengah.

So so beautiful. We walked along the white sand beach on our first night there and witnessed one of the most lovely sunsets we have ever seen. Where was the camera? Back at the hostel!

Ah, the hostel. We stayed at Zachry’s Guesthouse. The owner, Zach, is a misanthropic sort who pads around the place with cigarette permanently stuck between his lips and a whiskey is his hand. The common area is populated by an eclectic bunch, inluding a rotund gay American who will tell his life story to anyone who’ll listen, including deaf people; a Russian named Jan who is eternally bound to his shiny netbook and a bottle of vodka; a dreadlocked mute Gavin nicknamed Newton Faulkner and a few other bemused couples. We were all surrounded by the three big doberman-cross hounds. Lots of fun!

We had some beach time, with swimming and sunbathing with lots of suncream, this time! But we wanted to explore more without going on some tour so we rented a car and spend a day driving round the island. What a place – where driving at 60km/hour is speeding! It’s a good job though as the hazards are different to at home. We had to avoid monkeys in the road and fully stop to drive around a dragon lizard. We saw some lovely sights – waterfalls, Black Sand beach, the island of the pregnant maiden and much beautiful scenery.

It is monsoon season, though you wouldn’t have known it as it was so sunny. Actually that’s a little lie – we did know it, but only one day. Check this out:

Wet t-shirt wife

Wet wife after the monsoon caught us out on our way back from the shop

Langkawi was such a relaxing place we could understand who so many people at our hostel had just never left. But after a few days sitting around and chilling it we were quite rejuvenated and ready to see more.

So the ferry beckoned – Thailand. We are now here on the gorgeous island of Ko Phi Phi after a cool couple of days in Krabi – the adventure continues!

Speak to you all soon x



  1. Totaly agree..inception is ace!!!
    So is Thailand.
    Keep havin fun you two.

  2. Hi there – We met during our stay at Sansukoville. I love your blog and wow what a great experience to be travelling the world the way you are doing it! It is clear that you are having an amazing time.

    We are relocating to Penang from Dubai by end September. How lucky can we be?!. I was happy to see that you enjoyed it over there.

    Magda (the one with the 2 kids LOL)

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