We could not be happier to end our trip in Malaysia by visiting the capital of Malaysian cuisine, Penang. So we alternated between walks in the city in search of the finest shophouses, Chinese temples, mosques, and the most beautiful street arts, and tasting Indian, Chinese, Malay food. We found the best briyani (rice with spices) that we have ever eaten at Restoran Kapitan, and we then returned for eating their rice with tomato and double fried chicken and discover by chance their almond milk full of cardamom and cinnamon flavors. We also went to the restaurant Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol to taste their delicious assam laksa (spicy mackerel soup with fresh herbs), popiah (spring rolls stuffed with cooked vegetables) and cendol (coconut soup, fluorescent green rice noodles and red beans, believe us it is super good!). We also had breakfast at Toh Soon to test their famous kaya toast (kaya is a coconut jam we used to eat in Singapore) and iced teh-c (iced tea with condensed milk). Finally, at a street corner, we tasted delicious little pies stuffed with coconut…
Penang is famous for its street art. There are murals everywhere throughout the city that invite to get lost in the back streets to find them.
But what also marked us a lot was the abundance of Chinese temples, some of which were wonderfully decorated.
Georgetown was also bordered to the east by wooden jetties where lived (and still live) Chinese communities in houses on stilts.
Seeing the contrast between the cities we had visited on the east coast of Malaysia, and Penang, we wondered about the trinity formed by Singapore-Malacca-Penang. The fates of these three cities are linked. They were part of the Strait Settlement, the name given in 1826 to the territories belonging to the British East India Company which then became British colonies in 1847, and then were declared independent from the British in 1946. Purchased to Malay sultans in exchange of the British protection against Siam (Thailand), or traded with the Dutch against another strategic point in Indonesia, these territories have been developed by the strong immigration of Chinese and Indian people who came to make fortune. Each of these ports could control the spice route and trade routes, but it is Singapore that stood out and today is the second port in the world, thanks to its strategic location and its stability.
In Penang, we also made great encounters. When we went to test the kaya toast at Toh Soon, the place was full. While we were queuing, a table of four was released and two Malaysians took a sit there, so we asked them if we could sit with them… and that is how we met Alex and Jeff from Kuala Lumpur! We started chatting when ordering breakfast and we spoke so much (especially about food!) that we then went for a cendol with them in Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol, and they made us test the rojak (salad of pineapple, cucumber, tofu in a sweet brown sauce). Unfortunately Alex and Jeff were leaving for Kuala Lumpur the same day, but we will remember this unexpected but very interesting meeting!
We also took part in our first couchsurfers meet up, on Friday night in a small bar. We were about thirty people, locals and travellers, and we met Jovious who is Malaysian, and took us the next day to spend the whole morning on Penang Hill and in the beautiful and so colorful Kek Lok Si Temple, accompanied by another couchsurfer, Gin who is Vietnamese.
Great encounters, a rich history, amazing food, Penang is definitely our favorite in Malaysia!