The hierarchy to enjoying George Town (GTown) Penang ; Walk, Cycle, Bus, Scooting, GrabCar, YOUR OWN CAR , strictly in that order.
I keep screeching on about this and I will rant again here , OUR STREETS ARE TOO SMALL FOR CARS! Its ridiculous how we keep shoving more cars on to this island. You drive out of your house, solo and sit, and sit and sit in traffic. Pedestrians step off the bus and they’re suddenly accosted by a waft of heat and pollution, sashaying between bumpers and everyone is just angry.
I’ve been riding for a while now and this year I was confident enough to graduate myself from solo rider to rider with passenger (must weigh less or same as me-ish).
Every year, if Tiff and I are around for Thaipusam , we make a big deal of dressing up to participate in the the most colourful, happiest street festival in Penang, and probably Malaysia. Thaipusam is enjoyed by all ages, all nationalities, no matter how well off or how poor you are, here is where we all come together, dance, eat free, juice or cordial were offered and endless waves of people in their most colourful outfits parade towards the Waterfall Temple atop the hill (531 steps). The biggest piss-up is the traffic, big bulky cars smelly cars all fighting for parking. So we rode in, for the first time on a fiesta little Italian scooter that I”ve named Sophia for Sophia Loren. This gave me the confidence for the next scooter adventure with a passenger!
Next morning, I was up early and got ready for a bike ride into town. “Tiff! Wake up! We doing a breakfast trail, pick you up in 20 mins!” And so began our “Two Wheel Breakfast Trail ” (to the tune of Guantanamera !) Play below on loop while you read on, for a taste of island life and the forever nostalgic feel of the island :
Manoeuvring around GTown a little after 9.30 am is easy. Without being careless, you can go at your own safe pace and enjoy all the smells from stalls and restaurants as you ride by. Our first stop was at the corner of Argyll, theres always parking for motorbikes, scooters or bicycles, but don’t be a dick and block pedestrian paths or walkways. This is one of the reasons you don’t see prams or wheelchairs being used freely, they’re forced on the roads, with the cars and everything else on wheels and big engines spewing smoke.
Our first parking stop was a blooper, (oops) , we found a spot near Caltex but was shooed away, despite there being other motorbikes lined up. So we rode across and snuggled Sophia onto the corner of our first breakfast place Transfer Road Roti Bakar Telur Goyang .
Transfer Road – Roti Bakar Telur Goyang
First rule of thumb for strangers to Mamak stalls : Mamak stalls are never about the ambiance, the whole experience IS the ambiance. “Life is like a box of chocolates, you’re never know what you’re gonna get..” Forest Gump was saying the same thing about Mamak stalls. Each stall owner is fiercely proud of what they serve, they are NEVER wrong, and will look at you funny if you try to suggest you ordered something else, just go with it. The Mamak “experience” will not be for everybody, some get it, some don’t Our first shared breakfast set us back RM 5.20 , 1 Teh Tarik (typical Malaysian tea served piping hot with sweetened condensed milk and “pulled” for frothiness) 1 set roti bakar (2 slices Bengali bread charred lightly on the hot pan) 2 perfectly half boiled eggs served in a glass mug ( white pepper and black salty soya sauce for taste, we call this black magic “kicap”)
Famous Roti Canai Transfer Road
Don’t be confused, we’re not, thats really all that matters. Ask anyone on the island or most Malaysians from Terrenganu, to Kedah, from KL to JB, we all know this stall. This mamak stall has rightly earned the title Famous Roti Canai Transfer Road. They are famous for being famous, not that they’re really GREAT, ALL the time, but when its good its really good. We keep rooting for them, even after a “meh-it was ok” – roti. It’s something about their obvious blasé attitude, the absolute human machine of churning roti, after roti, after roti. When ordering make sure you know that, here the roti canai is served as Roti Banjir, literally translated “flooded”. Tiff’s face made a perfect pout as she was served her roti canai slopped with dhall curry, have you seen a cat snob a dish she didn’t expect? It was like that. Mine came with spicy chicken curry, red sauced and alive with burning curry in my mouth. I tried my best to finish but really couldn’t…I am the lesser Asian..I know, and I admit. but perked right up after with my 2nd mug of Teh Tarik. Total cost for 2 roti canai, and 1 teh Tarik ; RM 4.70.
Transfer Road Roti Bakar through Lebuh Clarke
Right next to Famous Roti Canai Transfer Road is a small alley that cuts through to Lebuh Clarke. After feasting on what felt about 10 different styles of egg filled menu we wobbled upon this cute alley and were drawn to the simplicity and quietness of the place. They made a slight effort in growing some greens around and sitting under a shady tree is always my favourite thing. I ordered another Teh Tarik of course, and a roti bakar set (usually comes with 2 slices charred Bengali bread with 2 half boiled eggs which sat so prettily on my toasted breads. Total cost RM4.90.
Restoran Nasi Padang Minang at International Hotel
By the time we finished faffing around with selfies, poses and wiped up the last of the yolk on my plate, we headed towards Sophia with the intention of arriving early for our next appointment. Tiff spotted Nasi Padang in big bold so we made a slight detour. We’ve heard so much about this spot but never had a chance to sample because we’d usually whizz by in Tiff’s car, and looking for parking is SUCH A HASSLE (hence; don’t drive, you’ll discover more). Nasi Padang is from Padang, Indonesia. Its farm food, good wholesome and tasty. The big big smile from Tiff is a genuine whoopwhoop! It’s always full here, but you can plop yourself onto empty chairs, if occupants on table don’t mind the extra company. Trays and trays range from 10 different styles of stir-fried vegetables, grilled stuffed fish, fried chilli tofu, salted boiled eggs, Gulai Ayam (Indonesian styled chicken curry) , served with fluffy steamy white rice. Nasi Padang is a luxury meal in taste and price, a full plate can set you back between RM7.60 – 10 and sometimes more. But it doesn’t stop the crowd from pouring in.
Before we love you and leave you, be safe on the roads. Don’t take the rules rules for granted, and don’t assume EVERY rider or driver will follow the guidelines given. ALWAYS buckle your helmet and remember to look at your side mirrors every so often.
Penang Local personal scooting guidelines:
1. avoid making friends at each traffic light
2. avoid potholes (keep our tits in place)
3. go from point A to point B only, not A.1, A.2, A.3 etc 4) avoid laughing too much (bugs fly into mouth) 5) when singing while scooting try to remember lyrics other than the chorus)