From Phuket, I took a US$101 flight on Firefly Air, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, to Penang International Airport (PEN). From the airport, my lodging was a 41-minute taxicab ride to George Town (spelled with two words), a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a reputable food capital of the world.
Penang has a population of 1.5 million and is a state of Malaysia, which numbers more than 30 million citizens. George Town is the capital of Penang and houses more than half a million residents.
I was expecting humble surroundings, so I was struck by the many condominium towers and billboards for new developments. The tallest building of Penang is 232 meters high and is the sixth tallest building in the country. There is no dense concentration of skyscrapers, but tall buildings randomly mark the city’s low-rising neighborhoods.
Since this area is known for inexpensive and delicious food, I looked up Anthony Bourdain’s destinations when he filmed an episode here. We went to several hawker stalls, which are essentially markets for street food that are popular in Malaysia and Singapore. I had my first full dinner there for the equivalent of US$1.34. I quickly warmed to the area, which was literal because the temperature and humidity can be characterized as oppressive, without exaggeration.
My expenses for my four days in George Town totaled less than $300. $101 for flight. $114 for lodging. $85 for several taxicab rides, a lot of food, and a ticket to watch the new Cinderella in a multiplex.