This time last year, I would have already spent exactly 1 out of 5 months in Penang, Malaysia. It’s crazy how short that amount of time seems compared to how big of a part it’s played in my life. Every time it’s mentioned at work, my manager interrupts to say I went because I was “finding myself.” I went for a exchange semester, but I really did learn so much. I got to travel and live in a different country by myself! Something not a ton of people would be able to say they’ve done at my age… or ever.
I’ve always been so proud of myself for taking that opportunity, and I’ve always regretted not starting this blog sooner so that I can share my experiences and knowledge.. Hence, I decided to do a few blog posts here and there of anything related to my travels where I visited a total of 9 countries.
First destination: Penang, Malaysia!
AKA my home base and it was a good one. The reason I wanted to do an exchange was because for me, it was a reason to travel… and I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t in it for academics. Penang was great because it was close to everything! I had so many means of travel available to me; plane, bus, boat, and even train. It was super cheap to travel, for example it cost me $30 to Singapore by plane and $50 to go to Thailand by doing a combination of flying and taking a boat.
Penang is also known as having one of the best street food in the world (I think they’re ranked #2 after Thailand). It’s not hard to see why once you get there, too. They have what they described as “asian food courts” which is also known as Hawker Centers. This is where you go for cheap but good food. I swear, everything cost under $5 there. Sometimes I would spend $10-$15 and get 5 different meals when I wanted to treat myself lmao! You can really get away with only getting one or two dishes though, depending on the proportions of what you get.
It was also very multicultural (another reason why they’re Hawker Centers were so great), there were so many different languages and religions everywhere and it was nice to be able to learn all about them. Penang is also a mix of tradition and modern and when I got home sick, it wasn’t too difficult to go out and sit in a cafe to feel somewhat home (they were very popular).
Here’s some of my favorites in Penang:
Means of transportation: Uber (extremely cheap but safety is a concern)
Must do: Georgetown Street Art (rent a bike and go on a scavenger hunt)
Must try food: Roti Pisang (Roti w/ bananas, condensed milk, curry sauce)
Must see: Kek Lok Si Temple (so different in the morning vs at night)
Random fun activity: Upside Down Museum
Hawker Center: Super Tanker (cheap(er) food), Red Garden (more exp but better proportions)
Place to drink: Antarabangsa Enterprise (casual drinking and cheap beer)
Breakfast Spot: Sechawan ‘n’ Such (the best bennies… ever!)
Cafe: Black Kettle (good food and good wifi)
Mall: Queensbay Mall
There were so many things to do and places to eat in Penang, so the list of my favorites is really just a peek of all the places I went and enjoyed. There’s also a lot of touristy things on that list, but I do genuinely enjoy a balance of checking out tourist vs local spots! Of course there were so many other things (like people!) that made it such a great trip, but all I can say was that Penang was such a great opportunity to experience and somewhere I miss being everyday.