Back in Penang – How I packed in my two weeks in Penang, Part 3….a mini road trip south of Penang island and a walking rediscovery of heritage George Town’s streets.
Day 12 of our trip in Penang, 2 days before we leave Penang to face the reality of life – back to Australia and back to work. It all started with my partner surprising me by asking if we like to go to the Penang aquarium. Since we arrived, all he wanted to do was relax, stay home and blog, or go shopping at Queensbay Mall, Gurney Plaza or Prangin Mall. The other mission of his was to visit our tailor in George Town and custom made his business suits.
The last time I was at the Penang Aquarium was more than 3 decades ago, when I was a young boy. I vaguely remember it was a small aquarium with a colourful collection of interesting aquatic lifes. Little has changed when we arrived there. Actually, the place was pretty rundown. The car park was empty with 2 other motor vehicles. There was no proper signage directing us to the main entrance of the aquarium. The outside ground was badly maintained. The building desperately need a new coat of paint. It was empty. We walked up to one of the building which is the main aquarium buliding. It is a small rectangular block of single storey. It was pitched dark inside. We peered through the dark windows. All power were shut off. No one inside. It was midday. We could not see any opening hours sign. But, found the counter window with a note, MYR$5 for adult. I was glad the place was not opened. We would have been disappointed. If it looks bad from the outside, imagine what it will be like inside. This place should be shutdown.
The private aquarium and pet shop, “CTY Aquarium”, in George Town, on Burmah Road will be a more interesting place to visit if you are an aquatic, reptiles and pet person. CTY or Chew Thean Keang is a shop where you can purchase the pet. It is the largest and most popular pet shop in Penang, or largest in Southeast Asia according to this blogger. I have been there a few times in previous visits, but not for a few years now. The owner had a humble beginning like any other business with an “atap roof” in a backlane behind this new building. I remember going there as a young boy with my dad to buy live insects (mostly crickets and grasshoppers) and worms to feed his bird.
Since we were not able to visit the Penang aquarium, I suggested to my partner that we should continue driving south. This area, “Batu Maung”, used to be a small town, with several sleeping fishing villages. Unfortunately, like everywhere else on Penang island, it is changing rapidly as the island is running out of space and land. Big interstate developers, like Mah Sing and Sunway, have purchased the land, bulldozed the old “atap houses” (timber houses) and trees, turning them into million dollars landed properties, townhouses, villas and condominiums. This area, south/southeast of Penang island, is booming as it is the closest township to the Penang second bridge, which is expected to complete in 2013.
The drive along the coastal highway from Queensbay to Batu Maung is very picturesque with full grown casuarina tree lined on the left next to the sea and channel separating main Penang island from Jerejak island (Pulau Jerejak), and the second bridge clearly visible.
Penang second bridge, visible from a distant off the coastal highway, heading south.
I suggested we continue our drive to Gertak Sanggul, a sleepy traditional Chinese fishing village as far south as we can go on the road. It is peaceful and quiet, serene and layback with the villages on motorcycles, bicycles and the odd cars, and long colourful fishing boats.
On the way to Gertak Sanggul, there are two large seafood open air seafood restaurants facing the beach and sea. There is Hai Boey Seafood, that has been around for a long time and next to it, a newly opened Thai seafood restaurant, “KhunThai” (or, Simply Thai in English), with a soft opening on 29th November (just yesterday). KhunThai has an outlet in Butterworth, which is very popular. This is their second outlet and first on Penang island.
Khun Thai has a perfect seaside settings, with swaying coconut trees, the beach and the open sea. It is a huge restaurant. A perfect village feel with the long open seatings and atap roof. We already had our lunch. Instead, we ordered a refreshing Thai coconut juice and rested for fifteen minutes before continuing on our roadtrip.
Khun Thai is definitely a place we will come back on our next trip to Penang. I wish there are more places like this in Penang. This part of the island is so much better than Batu Ferringhi which is over populated with people, tourists, bikes, cars, buses, and noisy and overly commercialised. Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul is a sleepy hollow. But, I wonder for how long, as the road leading to these two villages is starting to change with more housing and developments.
After a two hours road trip to the fishing villages, we decided to head back into George Town to revisit the heritage precincts around the blocks of Chulia Street, Love Lane and Muntri Street. Each time we revisit the area, we will find new places of fully restored old heritage shophouses, traditional prewar Straits Chinese buildings and colonial buildings turned into boutique accommodations, cafes and galleries.
We went inside to have a look at Ryokan. It is chic, arty and trendy. Very affordable and clean.
Across from Ryokan is Muntri Mews.
…, and Muntri Street. If I have the money, I will buy one of the terrace shophouse as a retirement plan. But, the property price around this area has skyrocketed beyond my reach. I can only dream.
Around the block of Muntri Street is Love Lane, also being gentrified with a few backpackers accommodation and a quaint small art gallery, Unique Penang Art Gallery owned by young local artists, Joey Lim and Clovis Leong.