Is it really possible to do Penang on a budget?
A Hundred Ringgit and a Map of Georgetown, Penang
The Ministry of Tourism Penang Office and Project Penang invited me and 9 other bloggers to Penang to highlight that Georgetown *is* doable on a budget. To show us how affordable it was, we were given only RM100 (about USD 30) to spend over the two days we would be visiting Georgetown. This would cover our food and also our entrance fees to several heritage sites around this city of contrasts. We were also given a bus pass for a week for the local bus (Rapid Penang) which we took advantage of a total of two times on this trip.
Budget Hotel / Boutique Hospitality
Hutton Lodge, the place we stayed at, was a budget hotel. Located right in the heart of Georgetown, this refurbished Colonial-era bungalow was very comfortable. I shared a dormitory room with four other ladies (which worked out great as we were all bloggers and had much in common). Based on the prices online, I believe the cost to each of us in the room would have been less than RM 40 per person/night which was a really good deal. Hutton Lodge also has single and double rooms available.
Hutton Lodge, Georgetown, Penang
The hotel was clean, and the staff helpful. Just don’t expect too much in terms of amenities. You get a towel, clean sheets and soap in the shared bathrooms. They also provide free wifi though it was spotty at times. In the morning, you get a free breakfast of toast and banana bread, coffee and tea (which was surprising though, if you ask me, unnecessary—Penang is Food Paradise after all).
Read a fellow blogger’s assessment of Hutton Lodge: Explore Life Lah! Penang – Hutton Lodge
If you walk around Penang, you would find many similar budget hotels all over Georgetown. Most of them were refurbished old houses or shoplots, which lends them a character and charm all their own.
If you are one of those who need more luxury, never fear – several refurbished old shoplots and houses were also used as boutique hotels. We were fortunate enough to visit one boutique hotel, The Boutique Residence at Pitt Street, that was in the process of being set up.
Inside The Boutique Residence at Pitt Street, Georgetown, Penang
While maintaining the original shophouse structure, the interior has been revamped and remodeled with a small pool on the inside. There are only ten rooms, and each room is given a special touch in terms of design and details. If you are planning on visiting Penang soon, check them out to take advantage of their special opening prices.
Bustling, Noisy, Exciting
Georgetown is a busy city. As you walk around the city, you will find other pedestrians in their daily chores–shopping, eating and carrying on with their business of the day. And crossing the streets is not for the fearful. Though not as bad as Vietnam, you still need some boldness in stepping out to cross the roads. Just don’t make any sudden moves, and you’ll find yourself crossing like a pro in no time at all.
Bustling Georgetown, Penang Streets
Besides the general busy-ness, everywhere you go, there are lots of people. As we walked Chowrasta market and the surrounding streets, we found ourselves hemmed in by people shopping, bicycles laden with goods pushing through the crowds, shopkeepers speaking into a bullhorn to invite you to step in and try their product, and other people wending their way through to make it to the next street corner.
You can find food, clothes, herbs, spices, plastic wares, toys, shoes, you name it here in Chowrasta, on the streets. Inside the market, there are all types of produce and fresh meats to be bought and upstairs, many treasures in the form of second hand books await your discovery.
Busy scenes in and around Chowrasta Market, Penang
See more great pics of Chowrasta Market and elsewhere by fellow blogger Williamgraphy
When you walk a little further past ChowRasta Market to Little India the scene and sounds change. At every street corner, shops will have Indian Bollywood music blaring out of loudspeakers, inviting you to bounce along as you walk through. The scent of incense and flowers and spicy foods surround you making this part of Georgetown a heady experience.
We found ourselves stopping at a little cart to try out some fried samosas that had been recommended highly by another traveler just here a few weeks ago and they were indeed delicious. And the colours you find in Little India are a photographer’s delight–from bright garlands of flowers, to the colourful saris you find hanging all over, there is much for the eye to take in. I wished Nate were with me then as he is a much better photographer. I tried to do it justice but you’ll just have to take my word that you need to go and explore this place yourself.
Scenes from Little India, Georgetown, Penang
Strolling through Georgetown is a great way to satisfy your taste for exploration. Of course, there also were moments of discontent which marred my visit…
My budget trip to Penang was sponsored by Project Penang, the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Penang Office, and AirAsia. Though the itinerary was set for us, my reflections and opinions are entirely my own. Follow along as I explore Georgetown, Penang and see my “home away from home” with new eyes. Subscribe to our blog and get the latest updates sent free to your email Inbox or RSS reader! In the meantime, read fellow blogger Naked Traveler’s roundup of her Penang experience.