Living in Penang Part 2

Key factors when living in Penang with kids

Much of our decision on where to live has been determined by needing to accommodate kids, as well as understanding our actual goals. These can be hard to pin down, but talking about them and stack-ranking them as a family (me and my wife) helped. Here are the factors we considered, and we would suggest you do the same with your own set of priorities:

  • swimming pool
  • playground
  • nearby strollable area
  • walkable access to food
  • sea view
  • access to mini-mart
  • deliverability by Tesco

These look very much like “conveniences” and we had to take a hard look at the objective of coming here. If we wanted to replicate life in San Francisco, well, we would have been better off living in San Francisco.

So, as a result, we asked ourselves, “What can we do that we really cannot do in San Francisco?” and “What do we want to experience?”

That helped us start to refine some options.

I don’t want to belabor the full weighting and discussion, but one of the things that came out was recognizing that Penang is known for its diversity of food. And even though we live in a foodie town like San Francisco, I actually found the diversity of street food to be low, as well as often unaffordable. So being able to explore the diversity of foods here easily and readily became a factor.

Proximity to hawker centers as one heuristic

Initially, we thought to explore where the different hawker centers, the area with the congregation of street food stalls, as a determining factor. We found a list of hawker centers online here. Of those, as of this writing, we tried the following:

  • Northam Beach Cafe
  • Gurney Drive Hawker Center
  • Air Itam Food Market Court
  • mini version of Pulus Tikaus Hawker Center

Georgetown Little India

We also walked around Georgetown Little India. I started to read more of Robyn’s blog which described a life of walking around and exploring food, often in Little India, but often beyond. When we have our first morning in Little India and literally just stopped by to have a roti for breakfast which was awesome, then stumbled upon a pretty solid dimsum place called Prosperous Dim Sum somewhere adjacent to this, I started to think that maybe Georgetown was calling us.

Even though we liked the views and feel of The Breeza out in Tanjong Takong, it felt far: a good 15 minutes from Georgetown by taxi. We wouldn’t go out if we did that.

Originally, when we were walking around the Georgetown area near Times Square it just felt like a busy, hectic part of town and not that appealing. But we ended up walking around historic Georgetown and that started this internal shift.

We’re still not completely decided, yet. We plan to go on one of Robyn’s walking tours on Wednesday to help us get a real feel for life in the city vis a vis the food and sites in historic Georgetown.


We found three primary ways of getting around, and again this was key with the kids:

  • taxis
  • public buses
  • CAT (hop along)
  • walking/strolling


What helped us initially was using the iPhone app MyTeksi. The most important part is that it gave you an estimate of the fare. Without it, we realized that many taxi drivers were inclined to overcharge us. With it, we had at least some reasonable baseline. And most of the time, they came relatively quickly.

Yes, they are supposed to use a meter. But many won’t. Some will say that people in Penang don’t use meters, but we did meet people who used meters.

When we did find ones we liked, we kept their phone numbers handy. We found two that so far have served us well:

  • Paul Neoh: +6-013-531-6610
  • Sivam: 012-445-9663

That being said, the cost can start to add up.

Public Buses

These have been very nice and air-conditioned. We actually took one all the way to Air Itam, and tried again today to go to Penang Hill (but for some reason, Miniature Baby had a meltdown, I don’t know why, so we got off in Air Itam and cabbed it back).

These appear to be geared for longer routes, versus short inter-Georgetown trips.

CAT (hop along)

There’s a free hop-along bus which I was hoping to get on today. But, for whatever reason, the buses just kept accummulating at the stop, but no one was taking off. The lines built up, and no bus drivers were to be seen. Very bothersome. But, in principle I liked it, and kept it in the back of my mind. You can see a pretty good write up on the CAT line here.


This is hard. The only place we found that was strollable was Gurney Drive. As a result, we started to lean very heavily on living along Gurney Drive. It wasn’t super-close to Georgetown, but it did have it’s own Gurney Drive Hawker Center. Lots of reviews said that this is more pricey and touristy…but honestly, it wasn’t that bad.