“Why don’t you just go straight to Kuala Lumpur?” asked my taxi driver when I arrived by train in Butterworth. “Because I want to see Butterworth,” I replied. “This is Butterworth,” said the driver, “this is it.” Butterworth is the coastal town from which you can travel to Penang island, where trains from Thailand and northern Malaysia stop, and trains to Kuala Lumpur start. Most people travel straight through this little backwater, but I had already visited Penang and I wanted to be somewhere “normal and boring” before I continued my journey to Kuala Lumpur.
There really isn’t much of interest for tourists in Butterworth, but I wanted to experience everyday life in Malaysia, sipping teh tarik in street corner coffee shops, and eating at hawker centres. And Butterworth is great for that. There are few tourists there, and eating and drinking are so cheap compared to Penang, KL, Malacca and the other more touristy places I have visited in Malaysia. So if you are travelling through, consider a stopover in Butterworth, and experience real life, Malaysian style.
Komtar is the tallest building in Georgetown, by far, and going up it to enjoy the breathtaking views was my favourite Penang activity.
It rained throughout our entire trip to Penang, and after three days of nonstop trudging around looking at Georgetown, the botanic gardens, temples and museums all while clutching our umbrellas and returning to our hotel with soaking wet shoes, it was time for an indoor activity. Of course, it was our last day when the sun finally came out.
For only RM 5 each we took the lift up to the 60th floor. Stepping into the viewing area, the vista spread out before us of Penang with its white tower blocks, colonial era roofs and forested hills behind was stunning.
We could see out to sea and across to mainland Malaysia, and by having a closer look we were able to spot the intricately detailed roofs of temples. Having soaked up the view from the main room, we asked if we could go round to see the other side, and we were able to look out from most of the round building, getting a 360-degree impression of the island.
If you visit Penang, go up the Komtar building. It’s not obviously advertised and we hadn’t read about it in our guidebook, but it offers one of the best city views I’ve seen in Southeast Asia.
Stopping for a break from our rainy walk around Georgetown, Penang, we found ourselves at Medan Selera Lapangan Kota foodcourt, on the edge of Padang, the open “field” area right next to Fort Cornwallis.
We noticed Hameed “Pata” Special Mee was serving a lot of customers so we decided to try their mee goreng, or fried noodles. And it was delicious. Well worth it if you are hungry and nearby, and only RM4 each. We washed it down with a yummy coconut shake for RM2.50 each.