Trip Report by Dennis Booth March 2001
Well not sure how to get into Notable Posts or Trip Reports so thought I would post to here and maybe Kayes can pick it up if it is useful. My wife Desiree and I and a young "adopted" daughter Emily have just spent nine days in Penang (Mar 20-29) and for Desiree and I it was our ninth trip in seven years. For Emily, who turned 15 whilst in Penang, it was her first visit.
Impressions: GOLDEN SANDS RESORT - We have stayed at varying times at the Highway Inn and Bayview but have now stayed at the Golden Sands about 7 times. There is renovation work going on till about the end of May, perhaps early June on floors three, four, five and perhaps six so there is a bit of noise during the daytime if you are trying to rest in the room. However at least the Resort is out to give the place a refreshed and up to date look so full marks for that. Once again the staff were absolutely wonderful and it is little wonder that so many we meet each year keep returning to this place for their annual leave...and for some it is anywhere up to two months!
EATING PLACES - The Long Beach Cafe opposite the Bamboo Ferringhi and on the Golden Sands side of the strip is still our number one "cheap" eating place. Now has three extra hawker eating stalls. A meal for my wife and I and a few soft drinks costs about 25 ringitts and is more than enough and is good eating. Just across the road from the Golden Sands but moving down the strip to the right is the Kampong Kafe. Rather a quaint setup with tables and chairs set up outside a kampong. Food is good, prices reasonable. Only complaint is that they burnt mosquito coils at our feet whilst we were eating. No really an ideal setup but then we may have been in wrong spot. Further down on same side is Bamboo Ferringhi, opposite Long Beach Cafe. Again more than reasonable prices although I thought the food was not nearly as good as Long Beach. Next door to Bamboo Ferringhi is our favorite..the Jewel of the North. Wonderful place. Prices might be steeper than Long Beach and few other places but generally still cheap compared to hotels etc. Their curries are out of this world but they also do other International meals very well. Try their Narn bread...yum yum. Next to Jewel of the North is what was once known as Popular Ferringhi and might still be called that although the shine seems to have gone off this establishment. We had a bad first up experience there and have never returned. Further down still on same side is new eating place called Second Wave which claims to specialise in breakfasts although we went there for dinner. Food was good, prices about what you would pay at Jewel of the North. Comparison? None...Jewel of the North is much better but this one is worth having a meal at. Finally found On the Net (thanks to this site). This is a banana leaf luncheon eating establishment. Only small but food is very good and very inexpensive. Well worth a try even for an evening meal. Also on same side in same vicinity is what is known to Australians as the "Drop Down" Restruant...you walk down into the restruant which has a sign at the front proudly proclaiming it serves good Australian meals. May be suffering now because of the inexpensive places opening up but prices and food are still good. Across the road there is the Big Ship, specialises in Steak meals but is far from cheap and rather dark inside. Then next door is Eden Seafood "Palace". If you have an unlimited bankroll try it as the top diplomats eat there as do many of the local Penang dignitaries.
INTERNET ACCESS - Okay it is now obvious that the locals have woken up that those staying in the hotels and resorts need a cheaper way to access E mail or simply surf the Net whilst they are away from home. The Golden Sands was expensive enough at 12 ringitts for 20 mins and I believe the Rasa Sayang was almost double that. Yet across the road from the Rasa Sayang heading down toward the Golden Sands and virtually first shop front on the strip is a net cafe where you pay 4 ringitts for half an hour. Only complaint is that the machines were very slow. Much further down on same side and opposite the Park Royal is a place (from memory called Jaya something) it is in a shopping area and upstairs. And it was not open when I tried and no sign to say when it would be. Poor public relations. About 50 metres away on same side in another shopping area alongside Moghul Arch eating place is place on ground floor. It charges only 3 ringitts for half an hour, has good fast machines and I know the owners who once ran the same service in the Golden Sands. You can also make overseas phone calls from here or send a fax. Best of them all without a doubt and seems to be open all the time.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS - Money Changers: Still use the Batu Ferringhi strip stall holders or those advertising themselves as Money Changers...do not use the hotels or banks. Shop around. Opposite the Golden Sands in a curio/artefacts shop is a good agent and further down on same side near Ferringhi Bamboo cafe is a travel agent who also is a money changer. Barter between them and the one opposite Golden Sands for best price/rate. Have also heard that it is worthwhile going into Georgetown and trying Indian money changers near Komtar. Penang Airport - What a joy to behold after previous years and visits. Now is approaching what one can honestly say is an International airport with much cleaner and nicer facilities and much easier to move around in. One suggestion - the waiting areas for flights could be upgraded somewhat. Shopping Centres - Komtar is looking ragged and dishevelled but still worth a visit of course. Prangin Mall right alongside should be good once it gets a lot more traders into it. Midland Mall (One Stop Shopping). Not sure if a lift was working the day we went but unless you are moving around inside the main part of the complex this is a confusing building, seems to be going to pieces on the outside but is certainly good inside the main area. Hawker Stalls and Shopping in Batu Ferringhi. Be warned that authorities are cracking down hard on stall holders they consider are selling duplicates of name brands..this can mean sports shirts, shorts, watches, CD's etc. Whilst we were there a number of stall holders were closed down and not sure for how long. They are also in the process of opening up a Tourist Police section alongside the Golden Sands Resort. I applaud the move to protect the rights of those who have had copies made of their well known brand names however I hope it doesn't mean the end of a lot of these stall holders who are great fun to bargain with and the quality of their merchandise whilst obviously not "the real thing" is still very good. Finally - We will be back of course and next time to take in the local horseracing and get Kayes a winner (hehehe). Emily our "adopted" daughter fell in love with the place and can't wait to get back again but methinks she also fell in love with a few of the nice young local fellas at the Golden Sands. Have no qualms about holidaying in Penang. It is truly the best kept secret as far as holiday destinations go. We know now after this trip and having met him that one Australian has been holidaying in Penang year after year and has now racked up 30 stays at the Golden Sands. Why so many times? He has been around the world and stayed at many places but returns to Penang and the Golden Sands..."because of the people and the best kept grounds of any hotel in the world". ENOUGH SAID!!!!