Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Penang and Langkawi

Onward to Malaysia! We needed to do a quick visa run to extend our time in Thailand until we fly back to London, so we did a short round trip to Penang and Langkawi, which are surprisingly close to Koh Lanta. Unfortunately, we’d already booked flights the long way round before we realised that there's a quicker ferry/minivan option to get to Langkawi! Still, it meant we got to see a bit of Penang as well, which we wouldn’t otherwise have done.

Before flying out of Phuket we had time for a few hours on the beach. I enjoyed watching the planes come into to land low over the sea.

Plane coming into land at Phuket Airport
We arrived in Georgetown, Penang to torrential rain – this region of South East Asia really isn’t having the best weather at the moment, but then again it is in the tropics and we are fairly close to the equator. Fortunately, when it does rain – though it is torrential – it doesn’t rain for long so we were soon able to go out and explore.

Georgetown is an old British colonial outpost and still retains many of its original English street names – we stayed in a guest house on Love Lane! Now, much of the city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site with many landmarks dating back to the settlement's establishment in 1786 and including later 19th-century buildings including Chinese shop houses, Hindu temples, Indian Muslim mosques and two of the city's oldest wet markets. (Thanks to Wikipedia, as always, for the historical information!)

Colourful Chinese shop fronts
The architecture, street art and reputation for being the foodie capital of Malaysia all make Georgetown one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. We had a great time wandering around Armenian street and the city centre, taking in the ‘famous’ murals of children on bicycles, old Chinese-style buildings and wrought iron cartoon strip artwork on the sides of buildings. 

Wrought-iron caricatures

Wall murals and bicycles
 By the seafront, the city extends on a boardwalk on stilts out over the water, in a market selling souvenirs and street food: big bowls of Chinese ramen and durian fruit pastries and ice creams.

The seafront market on stilts
With Chinese New Year celebrations coming up next weekend, much of the city is decorated in preparation, with red paper Chinese lanterns adorning the streets.

Chinese lanterns on Armenian Street

We enjoyed trying some of the local delicacies, including a regional ‘laksa’ (noodle soup) made with mackerel, lemongrass, tamarind, chilli, tomato and thick rice noodles. 
There is also some excellent seafood available, cooked in every country’s style at the Red Garden night market. We opted for Japanese teriyaki but could have chosen between Malaysian, Thai, Chinese or Indian flavours. Dishes cost around £2 - £4 so it’s possible to eat very well here for very little.

For a novelty experience and a bit of fun, we visited the Upside-Down Museum – which is exactly what it sounds like – basically, a house arranged upside down and a series of photo opportunities in each room! Very silly but a good way to pass an hour.

Upside-Down Museum
On the way back to our accommodation, we passed this guy – talk about putting all your eggs in one basket! 

Putting all his eggs in one basket!
After two nights in Georgetown, we took the ferry over to neighbouring island, Langkawi. Langkawi is actually an archipelago of 104 islands, of which Langkawi Island is the biggest. It also has duty-free status, so alcohol is very cheap - compared to the mainland, where its mostly Muslim population do not drink.

Kev is pleased about the price of his 'Royal Stout'!
We stayed in the main tourist hub at Cenang beach, with icing sugar fine sand and calm seas to swim in. 

Pantai Cenang
We had planned to do some diving whilst we’re here but apparently, Langkawi is not known for its good diving. For a start, visibility is never more than two to four metres at any time of the year! Once again, I think we’ll hold off until we’re in a slightly better dive spot and with better weather. Whilst the afternoon rain and thunderstorms won’t stop the dive trips, it’s always much better when the sun is shining as the colours are better under the water.

A storm brewing...

We hired a jet ski for a fun way to pass a morning – Kev took to it much like he took to quad biking, so he didn’t much like being the passenger, but enjoyed driving as fast as possible and doing small jumps over the waves!

Jet ski fun
Tomorrow we’re heading back to Thailand (the quick way, this time!) for our last week before we head back to London. Back to Koh Lanta first, then making our way back to Bangkok via Krabi, Railay and Phuket. I'll blog again before we fly home. 


  1. Great post, I'm in Hong Kong at the moment so know exactly what you mean about the Chinese New Year preparations

  2. What an incredible time you are enjoying!