Straits Quay is an area of low level housing, high rise condos and a marina built on reclaimed land a few km north of George Town.
The congress will be played at the Jazz Hotel, a new hotel at Straits Quay. You will find all the facilities you would expect from a good hotel. In addition, the hotel has a pharmacy on the side plus quite a few restaurants.
Opposite the hotel is the very big Tesco complex. On the ground floor is a money changer open from 10am-10pm. On the first floor is another pharmacy, George Town Pharmacy, with an excellent pharmacist. In the Tesco complex over 3 floors you will find a range of shops for clothes, shoes, household items, DIY supplies, opticians, camera and phone shops, souvenirs plus a food court, a range of restaurants and McDonalds, KFC and of course Tesco itself. There is a taxi rank in the car park. There are several ATMs on the top floor but mainly for local banks such as Maybank.
The Straits Quay Marina, a retail and leisure complex built round a marina is also opposite the Jazz Hotel. With restaurants, cafes, bars, another supermarket and more shops you will be well supplied.
In case you need emergency medical treatment the Penang Adventist Hospital on Burma Road is about 5 minutes away by taxi. It has a large A+E department. Slightly further away are Gleneagles, Loh Guan Lye and Island Hospitals
FROM THE AIRPORT
The easiest way to get to the hotel destination is by taxi. As you exit the airport buy a taxi voucher from the taxi booth, and then proceed to the taxi rank. You can pay by credit card if you don’t have Ringgits. You give one half of the coupon to the driver (he needs it to claim payment later) and you keep the other half. The fares are fixed so even if you get stuck in horrendous traffic you know you won't be asked to pay any more. Tipping is not required. The standard taxi will take 4 people with luggage. If you have a bigger group, or an excessive amount of luggage, you will need to take one of the 10-seater taxis. Allow 40-60 minutes to get to the Jazz Hotel depending on the time of day and traffic.
There are a range of ATMs at the airport if you need to withdraw money. The exchange rate if you change money into Ringgits is fairly poor. Perhaps wait till you get to the hotel and go to the money changer in Tesco.
TAXI FARES FROM THE AIRPORT
To Straits Quay daytime it will be RM54.70. From Midnight to 6am it will be RM82. 10-seater taxis are twice these rates.
If you have downloaded the Grab app, or the newcomer MULA, the fare will be about half the cost of the airport taxis. The driver will tell you where they will pick you up from. It may be downstairs near Arrivals or you may have to go upstairs to Departures.
If you want to take a bus, it will take a great deal longer, it's quite cold and there is not a lot of space for luggage. The 102 bus from the airport will take you all the way up to Tesco/Straits Quay via Komtar. It starts running at 6am and stops at 11.15pm, but it is not very frequent and you may have to wait 60-80 minutes. The 401E will take you from the airport to Komtar and the Weld bus stations. It starts running at 5.20 am through to 11.00pm and has a frequency of 25-35 minutes. If you want to get to the Jazz Hotel you will have to change at Komtar or the Weld to the very frequent 101 bus which will say Teluk Bahang on the front. Ask to be put off at Tesco/Straits Quay. Bus fares are zoned and start at RM1.40 for short journeys. The most expensive ticket is RM4. if you are planning on taking the bus do have some small change as the driver cannot give you change.
ARRIVING ON PENANG BY BUS
You are likely to arrive at either Queensbay Mall (Aeroline from KL), Sungai Nibong bus station south of George Town or Butterworth. If you arrive at Queensbay or Sungai Nibong you can take a local bus up to George Town and then another to Straits Quay. However a taxi will probably be easiest.
If you arrive at Butterworth, you will be at the new Penang Sentral bus/ferry/train complex. http://penangfoodie.com/penang-sentral-is-finally-open/ Just buy your ticket for the ferry and travel over to George Town. You will arrive besides the Weld/Jetti bus station where you can take a 101 bus up to Straits Quay or grab a taxi.
BY TRAIN INTO BUTTERWORTH.
See the information above for arriving by bus at Penang Sentral.
DRIVING TO PENANG
You will have a choice of the new or old bridges to get onto the island. If you’re coming up on Friday try not to get snarled in all the traffic around the industrial zones from about 5-7pm. It can easily add an hour or more to your travel time. Once on the island the address of the Jazz Hotel at Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang 1, 10470 Tanjung Tokong should get you there if you’re using Waze or a GPS system.
COMBINING A HOLIDAY WITH THE CONGRESS?
Penang is hot and humid. You can expect temperatures of around 30-35C and in March, not much rain.
The State of Pulau Pinang is composed of the mainland plus the island of Penang. The island itself is about 8 miles/12km wide and 12 miles/19km long and is sometimes described as looking like a pregnant turtle. You can drive round it in half a day and it has two bridge links to the mainland.
The state had a population of (in 2017) 1.75M with about 700,000 living on the island. Across the state the ethnic mixes are 41% Malay, 40% Chinese, 10% Indian and 9% other. On the island the Chinese % is somewhat higher.
English is very widely spoken on Penang, cars drive on the left and three pin plugs are standard.
There are sometimes a few biting insects, but you do not need malaria tablets. Some mosquitoes carry the dengue virus so a good spray, maybe with DEET, is useful.
The currency is the Malaysian Ringgit written as MYR or RM. Money changers are plentiful and registered and their exchanges rates do not vary much between them. The airport rate however is not the best!
WHERE TO STAY?
Here’s a rundown of the main areas.
If all you want is a beach, with access via a short taxi or bus ride to Escape and Escape Waterplay (now with the world’s longest water slide), Entopia (Butterfly Farm), Kraft Batik, the Tropical Spice Garden, the Tropical Fruit Farm and Penang’s own Taman Negara (National Park) then Batu Ferringhi may be for you
Batu Ferringhi is Penang’s seaside tourist resort with, in the main, very large hotels all fronting the beach. The main hotels are (North to South) Bayview Beach Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, Parkroyal, Holiday Inn, Golden Sands and the Rasa Sayang at the southern end of the main road. The Rasa Sayang and the Golden Sands have a shuttle bus to Hotel Jen (part of the same group) in George Town.
The beach is a public beach and you may come across packs of dogs. Many are just guarding the beach boys equipment but they have been known to bite. All along the perimeters of the hotels with the beach you will see warnings about jellyfish. On the beach there are many beach boys trying to sell you para gliding, banana boats, jetskis, horse riding etc.
Batu Ferringhi has a rather touristy night market. You have to barter and you’ll find most of the items down in George Town for a fixed, and lower, price. There are no supermarkets or shopping malls in Batu Ferringhi.
Food is not brilliant in Batu Ferringhi with the exception of places such as the Ferringhi Grill at the Rasa Sayang and the Ferringhi Gardens past the Parkroyal Hotel. For Penang’s famous street food you need to go down to George Town. There are a couple of popular beach bars - Frandys out past the Bayview and Bora Bora on the beach.
There is a frequent local bus, the 101, from Batu Ferringhi down to George Town. On a good day you might do the journey in about 40 minutes, but at holiday times it can be double that.
This is one of Penang’s residential areas. The hotels are older but do go straight down to the sea. The beach is quieter here. North to South, the first small hotel is the Lost Paradise - a collection of Thai inspired bungalows. Next at the traffic lights is the inexpensive New Hope Inn, then off the main road Leisure Cove and then the main big hotels of the Flamingo, Rainbow Paradise, Copthorne and the Mercure.
Tanjung Bungah has a daily morning wet market behind the bus station and on a Tuesday it transforms into the evening Night Market. There are lots of places to eat all along the road and more tucked away down Sungai Kelian. Two fruit stalls operate behind the small hawker centre opposite the Cove condos. There are no bars along the main road area but the cafes and restaurants do serve alcohol.
Buses from George Town to Batu Ferringhi have several bus stops all the way along the road. Expect a journey time of 20-30 minutes.
Continuing southwards brings you to the newly built Tanjung Point, with short term rentals, the newly opened Hompton Hotel and the Hotel Sentral Seaview. There is also a small motel - Bora Bora Georgetown. The area is well served by an excellent, very local, hawker centre and a few other places to eat. Bora Bora Georgetown is a favourite place for sunset drinks.
The new Jazz hotel and service apartments are here. Straits Quay is a large complex with the main branch of Tesco, two more supermarkets, a marina with bars and restaurants, a weekend market and Penang’s Performing Arts Centre. The buses into George Town run round the area.
Not exactly George Town, but really part of Pulau Tikus. There is no beach here although the majority of the hotels look out across the Straits of Malacca.
You’ll find the gHotel and the gHotel Kelawai on the side of the Gurney Plaza shopping mall with Paragon Mall next door. Shopping, supermarkets, cinemas, kids stuff etc. Further down is the Evergreen Laurel Hotel and the Gurney Hotel. There are a few smaller hotels too. Lots and lots of places to eat including a big hawker centre at the end of Gurney Drive.
Again, no beach here. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of hotels to choose from in George Town. It’s probably best to stay in the Heritage Area, or anywhere in the area from the E&O on the seafront to the Neo+ on the other side of the city, out to the Royal Chulan past the ferry in one direction or as far as Macalister Mansion or even the 1926 Hotel in the other. With new, old, large, small, expensive, cheap, heritage, serviced, dormitory accommodation etc to choose from it’s best to Google and then ask for recommendations. Popular places include any of Chris Ong’s beautiful award winning restored heritage hotels. Do bear in mind that the cheaper places may well not have a swimming pool due to land shortage, and there are no hotels you can go and use during the day if you need a pool.
THE MAIN SIGHTS ON PENANG
Most visitors have heard of Penang Hill and the nearby Kek Lok Si Temple, both up in Air Itam.
In George Town there is a wealth of historic buildings and museums, The Pinang Peranakan Museum, the Cheong Fatt Tze (Blue Mansion), Chinese Clan Temples and Houses (Kongsi), Indian Temples and Mosques. Built out over the water are the Chinese “villages” of the Clan Jetties. Street Art is everywhere and in addition there are about half a dozen 3D/Trick Art museums. Fort Cornwallis, the Lighthouse and the Queen Victoria Clock Tower are all near where the cruise ships dock, and on the Weld is the ferry terminal for crossing to the mainland. Free to go over, a couple of Ringgits to come back but a great way to see George Town from the water. In George Town is Little India which is nice to wander around amongst the cacophony of sound and smells of food.
For shopping there are quite a few Malls: 1st Avenue, Prangin Mall and the ITC Mall under Komtar, Gurney Plaza and Paragon along Gurney Drive, and Queensbay south towards the airport.
Going south from George Town is the Snake Temple, and then Batu Maung and the War Museum.
On the other side of the island is Balik Pulau (translates as Back of the Island) where there is much more of a local Malay feel with stilt houses, paddy fields and Mosques dotted along the road.
If you arrive at the airport there is a stand near the taxi counter where you can pick up maps and brochures of the island. Your hotel should also have lots but the main tourist office is in George Town on Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street). Also keep an eye on the Penang Freesheet for information about what’s going on while you’re here. https://penangfreesheet.my