Malaysia was our second holiday destination in Far East. As we wanted to explore several places of this beautiful country within 3 weeks, we decided to make the first stop in the place which combines beaches, leisure, tradition and the modernity – in other words “Malaysia light”. Island Penang – 45 minutes flight from Kuala Lumpur.
We were quite lucky to find a hotel with the direct access to the beach at reasonable price. Actually, it was our first experience with IHG Hotels (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental) and probably therefore we were staying loyal to the network for the last 4 years.
The Holiday Inn in Batu Feringghi (on the northern coast of Penang) was at that time (2013) re-opening after major refurbishment. The hotel consists of two buildings, the 25-floors tower with hotel rooms and a 3-levels pavilion with the main lobby, restaurant, pool area and the access to the beach. Both buildings are connected by a flyover over a busy road. Malaysia seems to be a favorite destination for the tourists from Gulf countries, including these most traditional ones like Saudi Arabia. However, cohabitation of cultures and traditions works very well in this place. I even could satisfy my curiosity and check how the women with niqab are managing to eat their breakfast :-).
Pool area is big enough for the hotel guests to find their place either directly at the pool or in the adjacent garden with the palm trees which separate the hotel from the beach.
Batu Feringghi is a typical tourist village with plenty of shops, restaurants and markets. Prices are a bit higher than in the tourist destinations of Thailand. The overall impression from the place is more modern and less exotic. Batu Feringghi has beautiful, wide sandy beaches with occasional restaurants, massage points or rentals of water sport equipment. These beaches are very calm and almost empty, contrary to the busy beaches in Thailand. This is probably due to plenty of jellyfishes living in the surrounding sea waters. However, those who love empty and sandy beaches and do not have to swim in the sea will certainly find their heaven there. All services like money exchange, local food courts, supermarkets selling all types of alcoholic beverages are widely present in Batu Feringghi.
I wish to mention a catch which concerns traveling to Malaysia after having spent vacation in Thailand. Whereas the ideal time to go to Thailand is the period between November and February, this is not the same for Malaysia. February is already quite cloudy and rainy although Penang is just 1 hour flight from Phuket.
George Town – the capital of Penang
Thanks to the reliable and cheap public transportation system, tourists can save a lot of money on taxis when exploring the island of Penang. So did we when going on the trip to George Town, which is an old colonial city combing the British, Chinese and Indian influences. However, before experiencing all of them we were traveling on the public bus and we admired monkies walking on the telephone cables and very luxury residential developments in the northern suburbs of George Town recalling the skyline of Dubai rather than a provincial city in Far East.
We focused our city tour on Little India, the commercial and residential district for Indian minority and the Chinatown, both of them neighboring each other and both of them located closely to the harbor. It can be clearly seen in these places that all these ethnic groups have been forming the Malaysian society at least for decades and the belong to it as strongly as ethnic Malaysians do. This impression is strengthened by dozens of Chinese and Indian temples, mosques and churches, often Located close to each other, in a peaceful coexistence.
A must-to-see is the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower commissioned in 1897 to commemorate Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which is reminiscent of the British supremacy over this territory until 1960s.