Do you know what is the best of couchsurfing? It is not to get free accommodation. It is not even to discover a place with a local, even though that obviously counts. It is that you can make friends that last forever.
It was the friends that I made in couchsurfing the main reason why I came back to Penang after my days in the tropical Perhentian and Kapas islands. That, and that Penang has a lot to offer and in my first visit I saw only Georgetown so I missed many things.
It was unfortunate that I was half sick half of the time (nothing serious, just my stomach being a bit upset). On the other hand it was fortunate to fall sick while I was staying with one of my friends, I do not want to imagine how it would be to be ill in a crowded, impersonal hostel. But it meant that we could not see everything he wanted to show me (and I could not try all the food, I will have to go back!). Still, I believe we managed to do a lot of things.
Hill tour (by motorbike!)
A friend I met in Cambodia told me that what he had liked the most in Malaysia was to tour the Penang Hill with a motorbike. I do not know how to ride a motorbike so I never expected I would be able to do that… but I did, since my friend H had one and took me around.
Riding around the Penang Hill was indeed a great experience. From the road there were stunning views of Georgetown and the sea and mountains and forest… Of course I could not take pictures from the motorbike, but we did a few stops on the way.
Our first stop was a little beach, before actually going up the hill.
Then we went up, and stopped to see a dam.
After that we went to see a waterfall, and it was the most surprising waterfall I have ever seen. There was no water. To be fair, it was the end of the dry season so not the best moment to see waterfalls. In any case the path through the forest to reach the place was nice, and I always enjoy dense, deep green forests.
After that we did a long stop in another beautiful beach.
While we were there, half sleeping under the shade of a tree, three recently married couples came with their photographers to get wedding photos! The three couples were Malay (Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian use different wedding clothes). Malay wedding clothes are colorful and groom and bride wear the same color. We saw a couple wearing blue, another green, and another yellow. So beautiful!
We continued the tour to get to the highest point for the sunset. It was a bit cloudy so the sunset was not spectacular, but the views over Georgetown and the sea were nice.
Temples (lights and snakes!)
Something that impressed me a lot in Penang were the Chinese temples. I had seen a few in Kuala Lumpur but, for some reason, they did not impress me as much. Maybe because of the size. Or the decoration. Or the lights at night. Or the snakes.
Yes, the snakes. In Penang island there is a temple called Snake Temple where there are living snakes. And not any snakes… there are vipers (I recently read that they are de-venomed, but I did not know it when I visited the temple!) and a python on a table. It is not recommended to touch the vipers (obviously!) but you can touch – and even get pictures with – the python.
I am sure I did not get the python around my neck but I cannot remember if I touched it… that was one of the days when I was sick, and seeing live snakes only increased my dizziness. I actually had to lie down on a bench for about half an hour (surrounded by the snakes, ha!).
Another very interesting temple, this time on the mainland (not on the island), was Nine Emperor Gods Temple (Tow Boo Kong), which is a large temple with a beautifully decorated entrance. During the 30 days that follow the Chinese New Year the temple is illuminated at night… so amazing.
The most impressive of all was Kek Lok Si Temple, near the Penang hill. It is said to be the largest buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It was also lit up for the Chinese New Year… so stunning! I was there at the right time!
Food (so good!)
Personally, my food paradise in Asia was Malaysia, and Penang had so many great local restaurants, street food and food courts that food alone would be a good reason to go back (again!).
Couchsurfing (and friends!)
One of the highlights of my days in Penang was to spend time with two local friends I met in couchsurfing. H was hosting me (thanks again!), and I met the other friend (who had been my first host in Malaysia) in the weekly couchsurfing meeting. It was in that meeting that we discovered that we would be flying from Kuala Lumpur on the same day. We could meet once more before I left Malaysia a few days later.
Yes, my days in Malaysia came to an end…
Enjoyed this post? Follow my trips on Facebook or sign up to get notifications of new posts.