Tag Archives: Penang

Monkey Beach: your perfect getaway from busier areas of Penang

Penang isn’t viewed as a hotspot for tropical resorts. Spending a few days in the Georgetown area will show you why – a densely populated place featuring urban development right up to the waterfront, you can only imagine what the water is like.

Up and down the east coast, residential, commercial, (and across the strait in Butterworth, industrial) development makes going in the ocean a less than appealing prospect.

The west coast, while much less developed, is also not a great place to go for a swim. This part of the island features mostly mangroves – great if you’re going kayaking, but not so wonderful if you are looking for a paradise beach.

The north coast is the best option for those seeking relaxation on Penang. Yet, peace and quiet is at a premium here as well, as resort areas like Batu Ferringhi are rife with mass tourism developments, and watersports (like jet skiing) is a very popular activity here.

Think you’ll have to board a ferry to Langkawi to find your beach? Hold up just a minute. There is a spot I need to tell you about.

Introducing Monkey Beach

 

I first became acquainted with this hidden gem during my first venture overseas in 2010-2011. After asking the owner of the homestay where I was staying about Penang’s best beaches, she expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for Monkey Beach.

Not everyone was convinced – a young Swedish woman decried the presence of trash on its shores. I wavered on whether or not to go before deciding to see it for myself.

After a few moments of doubt, I decided to go. I’m glad I listened to the locals over the subjective whims of a fellow foreigner – otherwise, I would have never discovered this underrated spot.

Getting to Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach is situated within the bounds of Penang National Park, which protects the flora and fauna found on Penang’s mostly unspoiled northwestern corner.

Whether you are in Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi, you’ll need to hop on Rapid Penang bus #101, as this route terminates at the front gates of the park.

After signing in (admission to the park is free), you’ll have two options.

The easy way

Take a speedboat to the beach. This will take about five minutes, and will cost about 20 RM ($4.90 USD/$6.30 CAD/£3.65GBP/€4.15EUR) each way, though prices may be negotiable.

The sweaty way

Hike through the jungle along the coast. The walk will take about 75 minutes each way, and will take you past a beach where Universiti Sains Malaysia has a dock and a marine biology research post. Keep on the trail past this point – this is not Monkey Beach.

The third way (what I do)

Hike in, cool off at the beach, and then take the boat back. You’ll save money over the easy way, and you’ll earn your swim on the way in!

Monkey Beach: one of the most special places in all of Penang

I’ll be honest: activity at Monkey Beach has picked up over years. There are vendors who never around before, and instead of being able to count other travellers on one hand, I had to use two hands on my most recent visit.

Despite this, Monkey Beach is easily one of the most chill places on Penang.

Go for a swing on a tire, or read a book while relaxing in a hammock. The choice is up to you!

There are plenty of excellent photo ops up and down the beach. Just don’t do I what I did on my first backpacking trip and put your camera in the pocket of your swim trunks. Despite a rice bath back at the homestay, its sea-soaked circuits were fried beyond repair.

As mentioned above, there are plenty of food/drink sellers here now. Don’t expect a deal – you’re paying for convenience here.

Ready to leave? Find a boat captain (who may be having a midday siesta – remember, this beach is quiet most of the time) and strike a deal for a return trip to the front gates of the national park. Do NOT pay more than 20 RM if you can help it.

Ever been to Monkey Beach on Penang? Tell us about it below!

Penang – Pretty Much The Best Visa Run Destination Ever

Penang is probably the best visa run destination for those coming from Thailand

Penang’ is the best visa run destination for nomads and travelers in Southern Thailand, as it has no shortage of attractions to discover while your passport is getting stamped.

After spending a week exploring Koh Samui, it was time to leave Thailand, as my 30-day exemption had run out. If you are in the south and you are looking for a great place to go on a visa run, Penang is an easy choice, as its combination of culture, drool-worthy cuisine, and historic attractions make the island the best visa run destination for those hanging out in Southern Thailand.

Butter Chicken and Naan, Penang, Malaysia

Char kway teow, Penang, Malaysia

Succulent Pork Chop, Penang, Malaysia

As one of Southeast Asia’s best food destinations, you can bounce from Indian to Chinese to Malay and Western food – and all of it for just a few dollars.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As much as your meals here will be a star attraction, the sheer joy of walking around Georgetown surpasses it.

Door in Penang, Malaysia

As common as these entryways appear to its lifelong residents, their weathered appearance gives them a presence that the impersonal, unspectacular doors back home could never muster up on their own.

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Archway, Penang Malaysia

Meng Eng Soo Temple in Penang Malaysia

The buildings here are not only gorgeous, but they are also custom-built to protect you against the elements. They feature overhangs that shield you from the intense equatorial sun, as well as monsoonal downpours that would otherwise soak you to the bone.

Chinese Temple in Penang Malaysia

And that doesn’t even cover this UNESCO-recognized town’s main attractions, as there are Chinese temples like the one shown, in addition to the Clan Jetties, which are so detailed that they will get their own post (stay tuned, it’s coming up very soon).

Love Lane in Penang, Malaysia

Iron street art, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang Malaysia

If you only have time to see one thing of note on the streets of Georgetown, make a sport of hunting down the stunning twisted iron sculptures that tell the story of this port on the Straits of Malacca. With 30 or so scattered through its Jalans, you’ll be spending some serious time outside – don’t forget to put on some sunscreen before heading out.

As mentioned earlier in this post, there’s more to come from Penang – have a question about this popular destination in Malaysia? Ask away in the comments below, as I’ve visited the island twice over the past six years.

Photo: A Fine Day At The Floating Mosque, Penang Malaysia

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Penang Malaysia is often a curious blend of the old and the new, with soaring condo developments overshadowing Chinese shophouses, food carts and establishments that crank out time-tested recipes, and ornately designed temples and mosques that testify to the faith of those that live on this lively and industrious island in the tropics.

Of the latter, the mosque with the most inspired architecture on Penang is none other than the Floating Mosque.  Located around the northeast corner of the island, it stretches out into a shallow bay, blending in with the surrounding landscape, yet standing out in its own special way.

If you do visit this landmark and wish to venture inside, don’t be like me and throw on a pair of shorts, which bars you entry. Instead,  don a pair of pants and a shirt with sleeves, which properly respects the cultural mores of the devout, and see this fabulous place from the inside and the view from its incredible deck out back.  I was not able to access it due to my dress that day, which limited me to just a single photo of its exterior.

Photo: Fruit Market in Penang, Malaysia

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When traveling through Southeast Asia, access to food is rarely a concern.  Convenience stores, food carts, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants abound everywhere you go, leading to an unexpected conundrum: instead wondering if you’ll be able to find good food, you’ll be debating just where you’re going to have one of an endless variety of meals to satisfy your hunger.

Another option to add to the list: the fruit market.  The tropics offers a cornucopia of fruits (many of which look exotic and intriguing) to choose from, and even if you’re aren’t jonesing for a snack like I wasn’t at the time I took this photo, it makes for a colourful shot to add to your trip photo album!