With a fam­i­ly hol­i­day long due, we decid­ed to spend a few weeks in Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia, with a few days stop in Sin­ga­pore on the way home.

Departure: Melbourne to Singapore, then on to Penang

Changi Airport, Singapore

Despite hav­ing been to Sin­ga­pore many, many times in the past with the Navy, I’d always sailed there (usu­al­ly to Sem­bawang) and there­fore had nev­er been to Chan­gi Air­port before! Anneliese and I were very excit­ed to check it out. We had 4.5 hours in the ear­ly morn­ing to have a bit of a tired but fun wan­der around the air­port look­ing at the shops and all the lit­tle gar­dens in each ter­mi­nal. Anneliese had her first ever Star­bucks mocha frappe-chino!

First stop: Penang, Malaysia

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown, Penang

Known as ‘The Blue Man­sion’, the Cheong Fatt Tze Man­sion Hotel is a beau­ti­ful, world-her­itage list­ed man­sion built by Cheong Fatt Tze, a Chi­nese mer­chant (as well as financier, tycoon, diplo­mat, politi­cian, phil­an­thropist and min­is­ter, called the “Rock­e­feller of the East”) in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, with the help of a Feng Shui mas­ter. It was an amaz­ing place to stay and hands-down the best accom­mo­da­tion we stayed in on our entire trip. It as breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful and serene, just walk­ing through the open court­yards full of grandeur, his­to­ry and elegance.

One of my daugh­ter’s favourite come­dies is Crazy Rich Asians, so she was very excit­ed to realise that the man­sion served as a film­ing loca­tion for one of the movie scenes!

Foodie’s paradise

The best aspect of Penang has to be the food — the geo­graph­ic loca­tion, long mar­itime his­to­ry and mixed var­ied cul­tures of Penang have devel­oped a world-renowned cui­sine. For a hand­ful of ring­git, we devoured meal after tasty meal at lots of mar­ket stalls, road­side stands and restaurants.

We par­tic­u­lar­ly loved the Red Gar­den Food Par­adise, which was (dan­ger­ous­ly) right next door to the Cheong Fatt Tze Man­sion! Char kwai teow, bak kut teh, dry chilli frog clay­pot, bar­beque squid, satay chick­en, hokkien mee, roti chanai, kojak, pad thai, chick­en teriya­ki sushi, lok lok, mee goreng, yoong tau­fu, ikan pang­gang, biryana cur­ry clay­pot, kueh tiao soup… the list just went on at this great hawk­er market.

We also had fan­tas­tic meals at Kota Express, a mod­ern Penang eatery in George­town — where we had nyonya chick­en lotus leaf bun, grilled chick­en rem­pah udang, and “trio Asian capelli­ni” — as well as a real­ly nice char kwai teow and prawn mee at the Kim Hai Thong Café, just down­hill from the Kek Lok Si Tem­ple in Air Itam.

World heritage history and culture

George­town is part of a ‘joint’ UNESCO World Her­itage Area with Mela­ka. George­town has a rich her­itage and cul­ture, described by UNESCO as “the most com­plete sur­viv­ing his­toric city centre(s) on the Straits of Malac­ca with a mul­ti-cul­­tur­al liv­ing her­itage orig­i­nat­ing from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Mid­dle East, the Indi­an sub­con­ti­nent and the Malay Arch­i­pel­ago to China”.

We par­tic­u­lar­ly loved see­ing all the archi­tec­ture, and Anneliese took a par­tic­u­lar joy in pos­ing for pho­tos at the front doors of many of the tra­di­tion­al hous­es around Georgetown.

There is some bril­liant street art around George­town, with heaps of murals and wall paint­ings seem­ing­ly in every street. Although there has prob­a­bly been graf­fi­ti for­ev­er, the street art scene is a very recent devel­op­ment, but it adds to the cul­ture and his­to­ry of the place as murals depict nos­tal­gic child­hoods in a less-devel­oped Penang, and both bemoan/celebrate the tourism that George­town now enjoys.

We vis­it­ed Fort Corn­wal­lis, walked the streets around the munic­i­pal cen­tre and took a quick shot of my part­ner Danielle (a crim­i­nal barrister/lawyer) in front of the Mahkamah Ting­gi, the High Court of Penang. This build­ing saw the birth of Malaysi­a’s judi­cial sys­tem, so was a nice lit­tle stop. We also vis­it­ed many clan hous­es and jet­ties, tem­ples, and oth­er his­toric areas of Georgetown.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Air Itam

On Day 4 we spent the major­i­ty of the day vis­it­ing the Kek Lok Si Tem­ple in Air Itam. A huge Bud­dhist tem­ple span­ning mul­ti­ple lev­els and fea­tur­ing a stat­ue of the god­dess of mer­cy ‘Guanyin’ that stands 120 feet tall (>36 metres) at the pin­na­cle, this was a very beau­ti­ful place and we had a great day out.