If you're up for a taste of virtual reality, enjoy good coffee and need some respite from the greasy street food of George Town, then here's an easy, short journey out of town to invigorate the senses.
Also, if you're planning to visit the Reclining Buddha while you're in Penang, then here's your chance to combine it with some fun things that the other tourists miss.
Optional Side Trips:
Grab the shrapnel ( coins ) off the bed side table and head down to KOMTAR ( that big, ugly tower in the middle of town that was built to give backpackers their bearings after the Lonely Planet tricked them into straying more than a block from the awful bagels on Chulia St. ).
Under KOMTAR you'll find the Rabid Penang Buses. In the far right lane catch either a 101, 102, 103 or 104 and ask the driver to stop at The Paragon. Bus ticket will be RM1.40 ( at time of writing ). They depart regularly, so you won't wait long.
There are several other places around town where you can catch those buses. Depending on where you're staying, just ask a local. KOMTAR is easy to find and it's the main transport hub.
Alight from the bus on Kelawei Rd. opposite The Paragon. Walk another 100 metres in the same direction the bus is heading and cross at the lights - it's a busy road with psychotic motorbike riders, so be careful even after the green man beckons you across.
Enter the Paragon and take the escalators up 2 and a half levels. Walk toward the front of the centre ( away from the Kelawei Rd end ) and you'll see Coffee Elements. Good coffee, cheaper than anywhere else for that quality, friendly staff and a relaxing place to sit and chat.
Now for some adventure. Take a series of escalators ( starting right next to Coffee Elements ) and make your way all the way up to the top of The Paragon. At the top of the last escalator you'll see the Senoptium.
There are a choice of 'rides' but no need to hesitate here, just ask for The Great Wall, it's the best. Costs around RM20 per person but worth it. You'll enter a small movie theatre with only 4 seats in an open carriage. Ask to have the setting to 2 ( 1 is a bit tame and 3 might be too vigorous ). With the addition of 3D glasses and a safety bar in front, you're off. It's a wild ride - enjoy.
The Paragon is Penang's most recent venture into the realm of upmarket shopping. It's hardly New York but there are some interesting shops.
There's a food court, book shop, supermarket and clothing shops worth checking out.
If you exit the Paragon the same way that you came in, at the Kelawei Rd. end, cross at the same crossing and start walking back down Kelawei toward town ( against the flow of traffic ).
Cross over Cantonment Rd. and then turn right at the next street - beautiful Bangkok Lane. It's almost as though you've been transported to South Kensington in London. Stroll along Bangkok Lane until you reach the other end at Burma Rd.
Turn left and walk about 200 metres along Burma until you reach the pedestrian crossing. Before crossing, note the bus stop ( just a sign ) near the crossing. That's where you'll hail the bus ( any Rabid Bus ) back to town afterwards.
Cross Burma with the lights, turn right and walk about 50 metres against the flow of traffic. Turn left at the first small street and that brings you into the Pulau Tikus Market area.
Turn right down any of the lanes or the little arcade and it will take you into the market. The market closes before 1 pm, so you probably need to be there in the morning to enjoy the hustle. It's definitely one of Penang's best meat, fruit & veggie markets. There are many hawker stalls & coffee shops there too.
For the purposes of this itinerary we are heading to IE Organics. So once you reach the end of the little road that leads you in from Burma, turn left and walk around 30 metres.
On your right you'll see the latest handiwork of Penang's evil Property Developers. If you crane your neck and look up, you'll see a horrendous new monolith being thrust upon the local community. Directly opposite this huge concrete monstrosity is IE Organics.
Apart from being a great health food shop, they have annexed a little cafe on the side serving the most delicious, healthy, local style treats you'll find anywhere in Penang.
Amazing rice and noodle dishes cooked with healthy ingredients and good oils. It's about double the cost of a hawker meal and about 10 times better. I guess that's what you would call value. About USD3 for a main course - fantastic value.
They also have set lunch specials, healthy fruit juices, homemade ice cream, healthy-ish desserts, tea & coffee.
That's it. Take the bus back to town from Burma Rd. or walk back to Kelawei and take the bus on to Batu Ferringhi etc. If you are coming from Batu Ferringhi, then you can do the itinerary in reverse, getting off at Burma Rd, lunch at IE and then walk through to The Paragon or Gurney.