2 days in Penang Island
Trip to Malaysia was one of ours most spontaneous trips up to date. No research, no clear plan, no expectations. Only a desire to travel, see and explore. We booked 7 nights in Kuala Lumpur but after seeing the landmarks and some of the important touristic places we felt we wanted to escape to the nature. We didn’t have a list of places to visit, we didn’t consult any travel guides or checked must do’s. One thing I can remember being influenced by was a photo of Langkawi sky bridge I saw on instagram and said, - we need to go and here we went!
Road trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang
It was an early Saturday morning, we woke up in Kuala Lumpur and with no plans whatsoever wondered how we wanted to spend the weekend. We imagined blue seas, hills and sceneries of Malaysia and I looked on google for a place where we could enjoy just that. I found this beautiful archipelago in the Andaman sea which was within reachable distance from KL named Langkawi. Yes, the same where the sky bridge is and looked no further!
We jumped in our proton (Malaysian car make) which we rented in KL for 110 RM a day (~ £20) and set off for a road trip. It meant to take us 4.5 hours but with all the coffee breaks and pit stops it was more like 5.5 - 6 hours journey.
You can also catch a local flight from KL to Penang International airport or take a train but us having made a plan on the day we couldn’t get cheap tickets and petrol worked out to be a cheaper (petrol is cheap here anyways) however, good thing is we had our car which made exploring Penang a lot easier.
Where to stay in Penang?
This is where we got lucky. I booked Doubletree by Hilton Penang resort because I found an amazing deal for £60 per night with breakfast. I booked it on the same day, super lucky and it’s not just a hotel. It’s new, stunning seaside location, modern from “head to toe” with artsy touches.
We got complimentary upgraded to one of their better rooms – King Junior suite. Modern and spacious living room area and a separate king size bedroom just for two of us? Will take it ;)) Gigantic bathroom with two sinks, bathtub, shower and a window to the bedroom from where the views to the sea open up! Taking a bath whilst admiring the sea view, a dream come true!The suite also had a massive balcony with gorgeous sea views. I must have spent at least two hours just watching the sun go down and didn’t feel the need to go anywhere.
Visiting the capital of Penang - George town
We only had few hours in George town on that same day we arrived. Our first impressions sadly weren’t that great. If you have ever looked up Penang, you must have seen it’s street art all over google or in social media posts talking about how unique, artsy and historic capital George town is. Unfortunately our experience wasn’t about taking pictures of that street…
It was around 9pm in the evening when we got to George town, pitch dark and we thought we would just go for a stroll around, get a feel and grab some food. Nah…doesn’t work that way… I can only blame late night and no plan that we missed all that street art stuff. Instead…Not knowing the city, we parked somewhere in Little India (famous Indian area) but as soon as we got off the car, we realised this wasn’t what we’d imagined. In absolute darkness all those old shabby looking buildings looked cold, uninviting and deserted. Streets were empty with some homeless appearing occasionally. During the short time when we actually walked, we saw few ITALIAN(!??) cafes and even those were closing down for the day which meant we couldn’t get the food. At that point we realised our night adventure had gone wrong. We jumped in the car, drove around a little bit, didn’t see anything that would catch the eye and returned back to the hotel.
TIP: obvious one but make an itinerary. From our experience George town is not the best place for exploring at night. If you however decide to go for a late night exploration walk I suggest carefully researching where you are going and make a plan of street art you want to see. We somewhat saw quite a few dodgy areas and after 9 pm there was not much to see or do. Having said that, I still believe that George town should be amazing for it’s street art which I have read about and seen in various travel blogs so if I am ever back to Malaysia again, I would give it a second chance; only I will have to be a lot more organised and less spontaneous!
Day 1 – Trip To Langkawi sky bridge and cable cars
Hotel – Kuala Kedah port – Langkawi
Ferry runs pretty much every hour from 7 am to 7 pm daily and takes around 1h 45 min to get to Langkawi port.
Tip: look up parking options in Kuala Kedah in advance
We haven’t and had to park in some dodgy looking courtyard. Random guys came up to us to say that we had to leave our car there because there were no other car parks in a close proximity and we didn’t have time to look around. More so they asked money for looking after the car. It didn’t seem like the right gang to mess with so we just gave some tips and feeling a little anxious headed to the port.
Ferry trip was okay although ferry was old but had a TV, noisy air conditioning but for £9 return that’s a value for money! 2 hours later, we arrived to Langkawi.
Langkawi is an archipelago made up to 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast. It is mainly known for its sky bridge and one of steepest cable car runs in the world! In fact these were two reasons I wanted to go to Langkawi so that was the plan for the day! We rented a car from the port (it cost us £80 for a day) and drove 30 km to the cable car departure point.
Langkawi cable car - steepest cable car ride in the world!
Incline between base and middle station at 42 degrees gives butterflies as you go up and so it is believed to be one of the steepest in the world. There are variety of different packages to choose from depending on the type of gondola you want - private, VIP or glass bottom. We got express lane tickets which cost more but trying to pack everything in one day we didn’t want to waste time in queues and also choose glass bottom gondola because we thought it would be fun to watch the world beneath our feet going up the mountain! It gave shivers at times but was totally worth it! I think I forgot to take a picture of that...
If you decide to get standard tickets which is fine if you have enough time; in the high season expect to wait 30 min to 1.5 hours to board the gondola. It's popular! Ride to the top takes around 15 min and there are 3 stations on the way. You can get off at each of them and admire the views from observation platforms equipped with telescopes or go straight to the top station which is the peak of mountain Machinchang at 900 m above sea level with the best views of the sea, mountain, villages and the sky bridge itself.
Sky bridge accessible via top station where cable car stops either by funicular (called Skyglide, takes few min) or 15 min walk down through the forest.
Taking time to appreciate sceneries, doing some walks and taking plenty of pictures took us around 4 hours to do the bridge and cable cars excluding travel. Unless you rush through everything and get there really really early in the morning ; you might have some more time to do other touristic stuff.
Day 2 - Tropical spice garden + Kek Lok si
10 min drive from DoubleTree by Hilton Penang resort where we recommend staying and you find yourself in tropical spice gardens. We didn’t take the guided tour but if you really want to get into nitty gritty of where what spices originated from and the history behind trade in medieval ages then this is something to consider! Guide free tour costs 29 RM and you get audio guide which is quite informative anyway. On another note, they also do cooking classes with early morning start so that should be fun too!
We enjoyed walking through the beautiful green jungle of trees, spices, flowers, listening to the birds and getting to know spice trees; so many of them we have never seen or heard before!
Monkey tree restaurant
This Thai restaurant is conveniently located at the end of the spice garden track and once you have finished the walk you can’t miss this treetop heaven. Penang geographically being closer to Thailand border than Malaysia takes some of its culinary influence from Thailand. I think for Kafh highlight of spice gardens was the lunch and for me it was just a perfect finish all round. We ordered sea bass in lemongrass, lime and chilli sauce, just wow! This eating spot with scenic views in the middle of the jungle comes with premium price but we didn’t mind for such an amazing experience!