Penang Island, Malaysia

The one good thing about Hat Yai, is that it is close to the Malaysian border.  When my original tourist VISA ran out and I needed to update it for another 2 months, I decided to travel to the small island of Penang on the west coast of northern Malaysia.  Here I could easily take advantage of the many visa services that deliver your passport to the Thai embassy and return it with a renewed VISA.

Getting to Penang from Hat Yai is very easy.  From the many little tour shops (or even the bus station in the city), you can easily catch a minivan.  It takes roughly 4-5 hours depending on how many people are being collected in Hat Yai and dropped off in Malaysia.  Cost is +- 300ThB ($10 / £6 / 7.50€) for one way.

An minivan similar to the one going to Penang.

An minivan similar to the one going to Penang.

It takes roughly an hour to get out of Hat Yai because the minivan collects people around town from various hotels.  Once you’re on the road, it takes approximately 1 hour to reach the Malaysian border where you disembark and go through Thai immigration and officially ‘leave’ Thailand.

Leaving Thailand and entering Malaysia

Climb back in the minivan which drives down the road and parks up outside the Malaysian immigration offices, you disembark and officially ‘enter’ Malaysia. Once your luggage is scanned, you climb back into the minivan and drive for another 3-4 hours.

Chitti and I in the minivan

My friend, Chitti and I in the minivan

Map showing Hat Yai in Thailand and Penang in Malaysia.

Map showing Hat Yai in Thailand and Penang in Malaysia. (Kuala Lumpar is at the bottom of the map and Phuket at the top)

You know you’re close when you cross Penang Bridge – a 13.5 km (8.4 mi) long bridge.  It’s the longest bridge in Malaysia as and the fourth-longest in Southeast Asia.

We spent another hour dropping people off at various hotels and apartments and eventually arrived at Banana Guest House.  A very basic and relatively inexpensive hostel which has its own attached visa service.

It was after 22:00 when we arrived and after checking in, I asked where I could get passport photos taken tomorrow as I realised I didn’t have any for my visa.

‘No problem,’ the receptionist (who was trying to look like John Lennon) replied, ‘follow me.’

We headed out the door and across the road to another office which was still open and manned by a small, grumpy man.  I was asked to sit in front of a blue screen, SNAP, and within 1 minute, my photos were ready.  Grumpy man asked me to sign 2 places on a form and then asked for my passport.  Warily, I handed it over.  After I’d paid 1900Thb ($64 / £40 / 48€) (or 190 Malaysian ringgit), I was told my passport and renewed visa would be ready the next day at 14:00.  Just like that.

The next day, Chitti and I walked around and explored George Town which is the name of the main town on the island. It has an area called Little India which has pounding Bollywood music and beautiful saris, materials and delicious foods for sale.

Malaysian simple pizza

Malaysian simple pizza

One of the quieter streets of Little India

One of the quieter streets of Little India

Delicious curry and naan bread in Little India

Delicious curry and naan bread in Little India

Walking around the rest of the town, the colonial influence was obvious. The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower built for Queen Victoria, who sadly died before its completion, the city hall and other buildings are good examples.

The city hall

The city hall

Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower

Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower

George Town has a free bus service which is great for site seeing.  It uses a circular route around the city and it’s great for seeing a larger area of town.  The whole route takes roughly one hour. The town isn’t very big.

At 14:00, it was back to the hostel and across the road to the visa service.  I handed over my slip and was handed my passport with my renewed visa.  Hmm, that was easy!!

Then it was back to the seafront to appreciate the gorgeous afternoon light.

Seafront in Penang

Seafront in Penang

There is a shopping centre with about 7 or 8 floors in George Town too which we explored briefly. All the big names like Gap, Boots, Monsoon and others can be found.  I started to appreciate how cheap things were back in Hat Yai after checking out a few price tags.

The next day, we caught a local bus to out of town to visit Kek Lok Si, a huge Chinese temple on a hill.

Chinese Temple on the hill

Kek Lok Si Chinese Temple on the hill

Chinese Temple

Kek Lok Si Chinese Temple

Kek Lok Si Chinese Temple

Kek Lok Si Chinese Temple

There were a LOT of stairs and a small railway too but it was worth it – the views were amazing.

Looking out over Penang

Looking out over Penang

Enjoying the views from Kek Lok Si Temple

Enjoying the views from Kek Lok Si Temple

Beautiful statues of all the chinese zodiac signs stood all over the gardens.

Standing with Water Buffalo - my Chinese zodiac sign

Standing with Water Buffalo – my Chinese zodiac sign (known for its stubbornness)

Back on the bus and a long walk through town and past the beautifully decorative Kapitan Keling mosque.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Kapitan Keling Mosque

We spent the last few hours of our time walking around the town.

Peace and Joy Coffee Shop

Peace and Joy Coffee Shop

Colourful market street

Colourful market street

Locals enjoying the park

Locals enjoying the park

Before we knew it, it was time to catch our minivan back to Hat Yai.  So armed with my new visa and lots of photos, we boarded the minivan.  After the amount of walking we’d done, my body was really tired so I slept most of the journey back.

And that was that – Penang and a new Thai visa – DONE!

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Penang Island, Malaysia

  1. Venessa says:

    What an interesting article. Never heard of Penang before – looks like a very interesting tourist spot!

    • admin says:

      Yes and that was just one town in the island. I understand there’s a lot more to see if you travel around a bit more. Future trip perhaps? 😉

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