This was our first holiday with other families. There were four families, our kids were about the same age, 2.5 years old at that time so we thought of going somewhere not too far. Penang is only 1.5 hours flight from Singapore and it's a good destination for us with its beach, cultural things, and food - we could get all in one trip.
Since there were four families involved with five toddlers in total, it's best to align the itinerary from the beginning and also the transportation in Penang itself. I even did a step further - identifying / researching all the eating place for lunch and dinner - so we didn't have to think, to align among four families, and search on the spot with five cranky toddlers in tow :-)
We flew from Singapore to Penang and went straight to check-in at Yeng Keng Hotel (at Chulia Street) in George Town. Yeng Keng Hotel is a small boutique hotel. It is quite basic, the room is not spacious either especially with an additional cot be inside. We actually wanted to stay at Seven Terraces (at Stewart Lane) but they don't accept toddler.
After check-in, we walked about 600 metres to Armenian Street. When you're in Penang, visiting Armenian Street to enjoy the wall painting is a must. You can also take some interesting pictures there. Of course, doing it with a 2.5 years old toddler is a different story :-) as the streets are not really stroller friendly. But once your kid is above five years old, I think you will be able to enjoy it more. From Armenian Street we walked passing Yap Temple to Khoo Kongsi (at 18 Cannon Square). Khoo Kongsi is a large Chinese clanhouse with elaborate and highly ornamented architecture, a mark of the dominant presence of the Chinese in Penang, Malaysia. The famous Khoo Kongsi is the grandest clan temple in the country. We then took a becak ride to Chew Jetty Floating Village.
For dinner, we had made booking at Kebaya Dining Room, located at The Seven Terraces Hotel (14A Stewart Lane) to enjoy a 4-course Peranakan cuisine. Amazing food! Both my husband and I were really impressed. One of the best food we've ever eaten. For starter, we had Miang Kham of Salmon Roe (envelopes of betel nut leaf filled with toasted coconut, shrimps, lime cashew & Norwegian salmon roe) and Otak Otak (Red snapper cooked with garlic & turmeric and baked in a crispy pastry). For the main course, we ordered Organic Roast Pork (Tender and succulent sous vide 3 layer pork belly, organically raised, served with a hoisin balsamic reduction dipping sauce) and Lor Ark (Duck confit with caramelised spiced plums & oranges in cinnamon, star anise, cloves & nutmeg). We also had some vegetable dish, Crispy Nyonya Tempura (Deep fried selection of vegetables in a delicate batter dusted with homemade belachan chilli seasoning) and Cher Chai (Sautéed market fresh selection of greens). Finally, for our dessert, we chose Pana Cotta (Passion fruit and coconut panna cotta with candied nuts and poached pineapple) and Double Chocolate with Brownies. When visiting Penang, I think eating at Kebaya Dining Room is one of the must-things-to-do.
On our second day in Penang, we visited Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, a heritage building located at 14 Leith Street in George Town. The mansion's outer walls colour is blue thus sometimes it is called Blue Mansion. We joined the 11 am tour inside the mansion, listening to the explanation of the tour guide about this historical building.
From the Blue Mansion, we took a becak ride to Penang Mansion at 29 Church Street, a museum dedicated to Penang's Peranakan heritage. Many Peranakan artifacts, antiques, and collectibles were displayed. I enjoyed looking at them. I am a big fan Amazing Race the American TV Show and in one of their episode, Penang Mansion was one of the pit stops.
We had lunch at Old Town White Coffee, not far away from Penang Mansion. Then we travelled to Batu Ferringhi, a beach resort about 17 km northwest of George Town. We checked-in at Golden Sands Resort by Shangrila and the other three families joined us (they flew in a day later than our family). We spent the afternoon relaxing at their huge swimming pool and at the beach. The resort is very big and connected directly to the beach. It has kids indoor playground area, too, but it always too crowded. Anyway, what's the point of going to an indoor playground in a resort in Penang? :-) We only used it because it was raining a few times while we were there. We had dinner at Golden Thai Seafood Village, within a walking distance from the resort.
In the morning on our third day, our hired 14-seater Toyota Hiace Van with a driver waited for us in the lobby (for your reference we used Kevin : +60123591098 / +60124800076). We drove 20 km to the south to Air Itam area to ride a funicular train which climbs from Air Itam to Penang Hill. Penang Hill covers a number of hills, with the highest point at Western Hill which is 833 m (2,733 ft) above sea level. Penang Hill is also known by the Malay name Bukit Bendera, which actually refers to Flagstaff Hill, the most developed peak.
From Penang Hill, we had Laksa for lunch at Pasar Air Itam. I've been reading that this is the must-visit eating place in Penang. I suggest you go to this place without kids as the place is not really kids friendly and a bit dirty.
We continued the sightseeing to Kek Lok Si, a Buddhist temple and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The main attraction here is tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin the Goddess of Mercy and seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas).
From Kek Lok Si, we drove around George Town city and stopped for snacking at Kafe Heng Huat to enjoy that famous Penang Char Kway Teow (at 108 Lorong Selamat George Town). It was way after lunch time but the queue was massive. We had to wait for quite some time for them to cook our char kway teow. They cook using charcoal - I think this is way it tastes so good! Don't miss this yummy char kway teow when you visit Penang!
On our fourth day, we visited Butterfly Farm, located in Teluk Bahang (only about 6 km south-west of our hotel) then to Tropical Fruit Farm (another 6 km to the south). In my opinion, these visits were a good exposure for the kids to the nature. Lovely view from the Tropical Fruit Farm, unfortunately it was raining so we could not explore more. We had lunch at Tree Monkey.
We spent the whole afternoon relaxing at the resort - swimming and playing in the beach. Just took it easy. We had dinner at Andrew Kampung, just across our resort. Quite nice!
The last day in Penang, on Sunday, we just relaxed in the hotel before our flight back in the afternoon. It's been a nice few days and it's been very lovely to travel with other families especially since three kids are the only child. They loved to have friends to play with.
- I think we did the right way to spend one night in George Town to explore the city and to enjoy the Peranakan architecture and culture - then spent another three nights in the resort by the beach in Batu Feringghi.
- Always research where you want to stay and make sure access to restaurants is easy especially if you don't plan to eat at the resort all the time.
- It's hard walking around in the city with stroller as there is no foot path. We had to take it slowly as our little one get tired. We could not cover as much as we wanted. But it's ok :-)
- At about 2.5 years old, I was still worried about the food my son ate. I always asked the resort if I could pack some food from the buffet table (just simple one like bread, croissant, fried noodle, or fried rice). They're very helpful and understanding.