An afternoon street scene in Penang, Malaysia

Street Eats in Penang, Malaysia: Overland From Thailand



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To reach Malaysia after spending a week on the southern beaches of Thailand, we chose to catch a van down the Thai/Malay peninsula to Penang. Despite the cramped conditions for ten hours in the van, the trip wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’m not saying that it was comfortable or something that I’d do for fun, but we arrived in Penang with enough time to shop around Chinatown for a good place to stay. By 8 pm, we were starving because the van never stopped to get lunch, but luckily we found an awesome local restaurant nearby and stuffed ourselves on Chinese food before wearily crashing in bed.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    The trip to Malaysia from Koh Lanta started out just like all the rest: with the Lonely Planet map.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Getting something to eat seemed to make the trip a lot more bearable.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    The end of the road was Penang, Malaysia, where we finally got out of the van we had traveled in for ten hours.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    We chose to stay at a guesthouse in Penang's Chinatown because of the good food and cheap places to stay.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    The Stardust Guesthouse had a pretty good review in Lonely Planet , so we went with it for one night.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Our room overlooked the street outside, but was air conditioned and quite clean.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    To get to the room, you had to climb the steepest set of stairs that I think I've ever seen.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    For dinner we abandoned the guide book and just walked around. Not far from the Stardust we found the Teik Seng Rice Stall that was completely packed with local people so we took that as a good review and walked in to get a table.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    The menu at the Teik Seng was pretty diverse, with fried frogs mixed in with braised sea cucumber. We ended up picking a few chicken, beef, and fish dishes and sharing them. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Since we were so hungry from traveling, we didn't spend too much time deciding what to eat, we just got the order in.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    This little fellow was at the table next to ours. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    The overland route down the Thai/Malay peninsula was pretty much an all day adventure starting very early in the morning.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Our waiter was really friendly and seemed to be in constant motion throughout the Teik Seng.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    For some reason the Carlsberg logo on the sign for the Stardust was bigger than the ad for the guesthouse itself.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Here's another perspective on the steepest set of stairs.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    For breakfast we hit a local dim sum restaurant. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Dumplings were the order of the morning, and we filled the table with several different varieties. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Since we were already full from the dim sum breakfast, we passed on McDonalds' "Ringgit McSavers".

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    In search of a travel agent who could help us get to the Taman Negara rainforest, we headed towards this towering building that reportedly housed the government run tourism office.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    All buses to the Taman Negara ran through Kuala Lumpur first and we had the option of the overnight "Super Nice" bus...

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    ...or the slightly less luxurious "Extra Nice" that also somehow earned an "Excellent" rating.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    In the end we decided to abandon the Super and Extra Nice options and rented a "somewhat nice" Proton car so we could come and go as we pleased.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    I don't think any of us were too excited to be in a van this early in the morning.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Before we left, I ordered what turned out to be the worst meal of the trip at the Stardust. I thought I was getting fish and chips, but I got what turned out to be fish flavored fried bread with some soggy fries. Should've tried out the Ringgit McSavers I guess...

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Within about 15 minutes of hitting the open road we went from being able to stretch out comfortably to having every available space in the van crammed with people and baggage. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    To reach the mainland from Koh Lanta we had to catch a ferry in the van.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Steve pulled out the trusty Yahtzee to try and make the day go faster.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    Here's the Yahtzee that has traveled over three continents--it's still running on the same AAA battery that it came with (note sample score on the screen).

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    About five hours into the trip I think all of us were getting a little road weary. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004

    Thai / Malay Peninsula South to Penang, Malaysia - October 2004
    At the Thai/Malaysian border, Steve made a quick visit to a small food stall to get us some food.