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|Travel & Resources: PENANG
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PENANG -- area code (60-4)
Penang Island, with its UNESCO World Heritage treasure trove of George Town, the gold sand beaches of Batu Ferringhi, and verdant mountain backdrop, has everything that gay and lesbian travelers love: exquisite food including Nyonya-Baba indigenous fusion cuisine; thousands of architectural treasures including the stupendous colonial mansions of Asia's formerly rich and famous tycoons; sun and fun on tropical beaches; shady hikes through botanical spice gardens and jungle forests; multi-ethnic neighborhoods that are safe and welcoming places to explore on foot, bike, or pedi-cab; fascinating shrines, temples and mosques built over generations by the port's prosperous merchants and fortune-seekers from as far away as Arabia and Armenia; shops, malls and museums filled with beautiful bargains; and more than a bit of gay scene and nightlife for holiday fun and frolic.
All this, yet Penang is so quiet, so cheap, so uncrowded, so easy to access, so friendly, and so rich in cultural treasures that you'll wonder why its not on every tourist's map of must-see cities in Asia.
The population of Penang is over 1.5 million (that's about 60,000 Utopians).
- Penang Gay Scene Updates message forum
- Men in Penang message forum
Navigating the local gay scene is easy with our interactive Utopia Map of Gay & Lesbian Penang:
Cecil Street Market (lunchtime hawker stalls) UTOPIA VISITED JUN 2012
Lebuh Cecil (also known as 7th Ave by locals) at Lebuh McNair, Utopia Map. This traditional open air wet market has, at its Lebuh McNair side, several dozen lunchtime hawker stalls selling traditional foods, drinks, baked goods and sweets. Cheap and easy to try a wide variety of Penang specialties.
Eastern and Oriental Hotel UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2013
10 Farquhar St, Utopia Map. Enjoy a classic high tea on Sun afternoon at one of Asia's grandest colonial-era hotels. Perfect finger sandwiches (salmon, beef and cucumber), proper scones, and sweets. Losing some of it's shine: as of 2013, no more free flow of tea treats, no more fig jam, and the authentic clotted cream has been wrong-headedly replaced with plain, old whipped cream. Bring your guidebook to Penang (and your iPod stocked with songs by onetime guest Noel Coward) and spend an afternoon at leisure.
Hong Kong Tea Garden (hawker center) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
162 Jln MacAlister, Utopia Map. Delicious and low cost local hawker center that also specializes in Peking Duck. Tables of gays gather here, especially after 10pm, to chit chat and sample the local specialties.
Kedai Makanan Song River (Song River Café) (hawker center) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
In the middle of Gurney Drive, Utopia Map. This humble seaside hawker center is crowded with diners in the evening - always a good sign. Here you will find a dozen kiosks under one roof, dishing up excellent local food including char koay teow, otak-otak, fried oysters and satay sticks.
Kheng Pin (local food and drinks) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
Jln Penang, on the corner opposite White House Hotel, one block away from Cititel Hotel, Utopia Map. Foodie Alert! This unpretentious open-air eatery serves up local specialties for breakfast and dinner, including perhaps the perfect version of Penang's most famous street food dish - char kuay teow (see pic below) - chewy rice noodles with seafood. Try also the won ton noodles, kuay teow th'ng, iced white coffee or a frosty lime juice.
kissA Koyotei (Japanese) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
148 Jln Hutton, Utopia Map, 226-6272. The aliens from Planet Japan have landed in Penang. Orange Christmas trees and "gothic-loli" (gothic Lolita) waitresses in OTT lacey French maid outfits. Now serving Penangites a Hello Kitti combo of "Japanese cuisine, espresso, liquor, and sweets." Yaranaika!
Mews Kafe (local specialties and international) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014|
77 Muntri St, Utopia Map, 263-5125, email. Gay and lesbian-friendly Mews Kafe is generally busy with in-the-know locals who appreciate the freshly homemade faire, including daily specials (when we visited they had a Nyonya Baba bento box with exquisite Peranakan specialties and spiced Sri Lankan soft shell crab on linguini). A smile-inducing selection of Asian inspired desserts, such as the famous sago gula melaka (tapioca pearls, coconut cream and palm sugar sauce) or a woven basket from which a variety of fresh nyonya kuih (chewy rice and coconut puddings in a rainbow of textures and colors) may be sampled. Their cappucino, served in a broad, Chinese blue and white porcelain bowl, is the best we've EVER had. Specialty teas include icy tropical fruit infusions or pots of steeping lemongrass or ginger. Friendly staff are LGBT.
Ming Xiang Tai (bakery) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
133 Jln Burma, Utopia Map, 227-9880. Delicious local baked specialties like egg custard tarts, coconut puffs, pork-less barbecue crispy buns, and traditional local baked treats and drinks.
Nyonya Baba Cuisine (Peranakan cuisine) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
44 Nagore Rd, Utopia Map, 227-8035. Foodie alert! Famous locally for its authentic nyonya baba ethnic dishes. The owner cooks with the freshest ingredients at hand and her Auntie helps with service to the four big round tables in the front room of this classic old Penang home. They'll be happy to recommend favorites from the menu, but be sure to try the "Capitan chicken curry" with its surprising crunchy texture from fried shallots and otak-otak banana-leaf steamed savory seafood soufflé.
Nyonya Kitchen at Birds Nests Heaven (Peranakan cuisine) UTOPIA VISITED JUN 2012
179 Lebuh Noordin, Utopia Map, 261-6731. If you feel like you're dining in someone's front parlor it's because you are! Dad takes your order, Mom and two Grandmas prepare in the kitchen, and Grandpa serves and refills your drinks. Homemade Nyonya-Baba dishes. Small portions so you can try a lot of different things. Very reasonable prices. Colorful sweets and pickles come as starters. The walls are lined with examples of many varieties of bird nests (for knowledge, not eating). This is why we love Penang so much.
Perut Rumah (Peranakan cuisine) UTOPIAN VERIFIED AUG 2014
17 Jln Kelawei, Utopia Map, 227-9917. Foodie Alert! Gay-owned and specializing in nyonya baba specialties, all prepared the old fashioned way and served in a restored, 100-year-old Art Deco-styled mansion. Items do run out as nothing is made in mass quatitities. Some dishes are begun the night before while others take several days to complete. 70 dishes to select from including Kari Kapitan (chicken curry), otak-otak (seafood soufflé), perut ikan (fish maw stewed in tamarind juice), roti baba (fried pork sandwich) and bee koh moy (black glutinous rice with coconut milk). Open 11am-10:30pm.
Roasted duck kopitiam (duck, pork, and chicken on rice) UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2013
Corner of Lebuh Carnarvon and Jln Cheong Fatt Tse, Utopia Map. Foodie alert! Lunch time only. Go around 1:30pm, after lunch rush, or you may have to wait up to an hour at this famous food stall in an old fashioned open air kopitiam (coffee shop). The Uncle who carves the roasted duck, pork or chicken works non-stop for 3 hours with his giant cleaver, creating heaping plates of succulent meat that you dip in sweet or spicy sauce and eat with rice. Incredibly, for Asia, everything on the plate is edible (hardly a single bone) and nothing goes to waste - the bottom of the plate is filled with even the tiniest morsels of unctuousness. Enjoy with an icey cold mug of their wonderful herbal iced drink, almond susu (milk), or nutmeg juice.
- Suffolk House UTOPIAN VERIFIED AUG 2014
250 Jln Air Itam, Utopia Map, 228-1109. Tea, lunch or dinner at this restored, historic colonial mansion is a must. Great for a lazy afternoon of conversation. Waiters are gay-friendly.
That Little Wine Bar (mixed) UTOPIAN VERIFIED AUG 2014, UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2013
Comments from Utopians:
"Two new fun and young additions to the heritage district: Crazy in a Rocket, Armenian St and Lebuh Pantai, and Mugshot Café, Chulia St at corner of Love Lane." -- Chris, Aug 4, 2013
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Flower power at Pink Dot Singapore 2014 (photo by Lim Yew Kuan).