Penang Trip: Pick Roads, Not Hotels
When it comes to travel, I typically start from zero. That is why I will gladly put in the humble work to acquire a functional level of navigation before making any trip. All the work is in exchange for convenience, allowing us the comfort of exploring foreign lands without excessive baggage. The hotel’s location, hence, is a critical decision.
Penang is most famous for Georgetown, an entire area north-east of the island classified as a protected heritage site. Of course there are the beachgoers who prefer staying near Batu Ferringhi, but not my family, especially given the heat. With this information, plus a collective desire to not splurge on nobody’s residences, I produced 3 representative options.
- Inn Residence, etc.(heart of Georgetown)
- 1926 Heritage Hotel (>1km west of heart of Georgetown)
- Link Hotel (fringe of heart of Georgetown)
Our opinions sharply diverged from here. One of us was very keen to stay in the heart of Georgetown. Another questioned the need to stay so “inward”, and instead preferred 1926 Heritage Hotel for its quieter surroundings (and balcony view). I was ready to accept the consensus. We eventually gave in to the balcony.
Even before coming to a decision, we realized on Google Maps that 1926 Heritage Hotel was located along Jalan Burma, a major one-way road. Critically, it moved away from Georgetown. The positive is that it seemed easier to head elsewhere, such as the Penang Hill in Air Itam, the shopping malls at Gurney Drive, or Entopia via Batu Ferringhi. We could always walk against traffic into Georgetown!
After a very long walk under the sun – i.e. 31 clicks on Google Maps (kidding, didn’t count) – we reached Georgetown and realized that many roads, in fact most, are one-way. Yet we didn’t give much thought to that. We were picking hotels, maybe locations, but not roads.
It was a mistake. We suffered quite a bit on the first two days. Sure, we could walk to Georgetown. We even walked our way out to the KOMTAR Bus Terminal and the Penang Times Square along Jalan Dato Keramat. But as darkness hit, no bus would take us back. The only option is to return to the bus terminal and board a bus from there.
I thought at least that we would be advantaged going to Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple. No. No such buses along Jalan Burma! We could start from KOMTAR, but settled for the better alternative along Jalan Dato Keramat (again). Our only consolation was the third day, when we could languidly hop on Bus 101 at the nearby bus stop to Entopia.You might ask, what about taxis?
We didn’t refuse taxis just to save money, though it was a welcome latent benefit. We just couldn’t find the taxis! Unlike in Singapore, they don’t roam the streets. They wait at taxi stands waiting to be called. I regard this as a case of cultural myopia, wherein I mistakenly applied my assumptions of public transit accessibility into another culture.
If you want, you should Google the available options. Red/white taxis cost less than blue ones, but only the blue ones charge by metering (about RM2/km). Contrary to labels on the cab doors, the red/white ones can be exploitative, so be sure to decide on the fee before boarding. Some have said the minimum fare costs RM10 even for very short trips.
Get the local SIM card (with or without data) to call cabs on the go. They are available at the airport. You can use Grab and Uber (I think), or simply call one of the locally licensed companies.
Our experience at 1926 Heritage Hotel was decent. While problems arose with the TV and wi-fi, the service staff rectified them quickly and politely. Coincidentally, Jalan Burma is also home to famous local specialty brands Him Heang and Ghee Hiang. Just across the road! I don’t plan trips around food, so this was a lucky turn.
Yet taking all into account, it was quite an inconvenient location; less convenient than maps had us think. The other 2 options are not only closer to the heart of Georgetown, but also much closer to the KOMTAR Bus Terminal, where you can board Bus 204 to Penang Hill and Bus 101 to Batu Ferringhi and places like Entopia.
101 to Convenience
If you are fretting about accommodation near Georgetown, pick somewhere near KOMTAR Bus Terminal. It is the heartbeat of convenience.
Or… you can still pick places like 1926 Heritage Hotel – a very popular pick – just so you are forced to walk more. The more you walk, the more you get to see, right?
May you find accommodation which best accommodates your travel wishes!