This post was created in partnership with Visit ASEAN. As always, opinions are my own. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turns 50 years old this year! They are celebrating by sharing ASEAN stories and hosting a contest (details at the bottom of the post). They asked me to share my favorite experience in the region. I couldn’t help but to share my amazing trip to Penang and Singapore.
Asia is for food lovers! Last year, I was in Japan for work and decided to go to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia for a foodie trip. My friend Olivia, a Indonesian who grew up in Singapore was the perfect guide. At five months pregnant, competitive eating had become my favorite activity. Singapore and Malaysia are the perfect destination for that! She suggested we take a trip to Penang, Malaysia exclusively to eat. That suggestion was music to my ears.
Stop 1: Singapore
Singapore is unique from the rest of its neighbors. I believe it’s the perfect destination for those who want an introduction to Asia. Everything is orderly, clean, and everybody speaks English. It can feel less overwhelming than let’s say, Bangkok. It’s hot and humid all year long and the city is filled with ultra luxe malls to cool off. There’s plenty to do: rooftop parties at Marina Bay Sands Hotels, wander along the Gardens by the Bay, and discover the delicious food markets.
Where to Eat in Singapore
While preparing for my trip, I started asking my friends about food in Singapore. You have so many cultures converging in this city-state and it reflects in its cuisine. If you have to have three dishes in Singapore, you must try: chicken rice, laksa, and chilli crab. Pretty much everybody told me the same thing-”there’s no such thing as a bad meal in Singapore”. They were not lying.
Some of my favorites during my trip:
Indian Food at Muthu’s Curry:
Olivia and her family have been going to Muthu’s Curry since she was a little girl. She says that she has seen the place grow from a tiny restaurant to a Singapore staple. Loved how they served the dishes in traditional Indian style. The food is presented in banana leaves. You have the option eating it traditional style with your hands (which you see a lot of diners do) or the standard fork and knife. Muthu’s Curry, 138 Race Course Rd, #01-01, Singapore
There are several locations Jumbo in Singapore. Olivia took me to the one on Riverside Point. Located among other fine dining establishments, Jumbo stands out. The thing to order is chilli crab: a huge crab smothered in chili sauce. It’s messy but delicious. Don’t worry, the staff provides you with bibs and gloves! Jumbo’s, 20 Upper Circular Road, #B1-48 The Riverwalk, Singapore
Kuan Food Hall
No trip to Singapore is complete without a trip to a Food Hall. There are so many stalls! Thankfully I was with a local that guided me through the process. There, I indulged in laksa, a spicy coconut noodle soup. Kuan Food Hall,122 Neil Rd, Singapore 088855
Where to Stay in Singapore
There are plenty of places to stay in Singapore. Although I stayed with a friend, I had the opportunity to visit two unique properties. The Adler Hostel is a modern luxury hostel located in Neil Road. I am not big into hostels, but I would totally make the exception for that one! On the luxury side, The Ritz Carlton Singapore. Bonus: they have one of the best buffet meals I have ever experienced. Book a dinner or brunch there even if you are not staying at The Ritz. You’ll thank me later!
Stop 2: Georgetown, Penang
Olivia and I hopped on a one hour plane ride from Singapore to the Malaysian island of Penang. Our agenda: eat, eat, eat! Olivia’s father arranged for us to have a private driver during our 2 night, three day trip to Georgetown. Given our short period of time, this was a great decision as he knew all the good places to eat!
Penang is an island off the west coast of Malaysia. We heard good things about the beach but we decided to focus on the food for this getaway. We stayed in George Town, the main city in Penang. You can immediately tell the difference between Singapore and Penang. Penang was more chaotic, people everywhere, and a more humble vibe. It was the perfect contrast for our trip. Bonus: Penang is much more affordable than Singapore.
What We Did
There’s plenty to see and do in Penang. What makes Malaysia unique is the many religions and cultures that coexist in the country. That makes everything from the landscape to its culinary treasures so rich. In Penang, it’s very common to see a buddhist temple, a mosque and a church closely located from one another. There are plenty of temples you can enter and tour. The ornate buddhist temples are stunning with their golden touches, colorful details, and history.
What we loved about Penang was the street art that surrounds the city. Keep your eyes open for the amazing streetart throughout the George Town. We did a lot of walking, taking in the street art and architecture. I also went to my first cat cafe! I know, it’s cheesy but I got my kitty fix at Purrfect Cat Cafe. We ended our day with a foot massage at a small spa near our hotel. The purrfect day!
Where We Ate
I wish I would’ve taken more copious notes of the exact places I ate but I failed! Too busy being a pregnant woman with an appetite. We did a lot of roadside stands and small restaurants with our driver, which was amazing. We had plenty of Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Laksa at tiny, anonymous places.
However, one of my top meals of the trip and of the year for that matter was at Wai Kee Char Siew. I think we paid the equivalent of $3 but it was epic. Caramelized pieces of pork with white rice and bok choi. It was so simple yet the flavors were so beautifully complex. True story: I will fly back to Penang just to relive that meal. If you can only have one meal in Penang, let this be it! Wai Kee Char Siew, Lebuh Chulia, George Town, 10200 George Town
Where We Stayed
We stay at Seven Terraces Hotel. This gorgeous small boutique hotel has a traditional chinese decor with modern touches. Our two-story hotel room is what I envision my Asian summer home to be! Their breakfast was fantastic. Included in our rate ($150 a night) we had the option of traditional Malaysian breakfast or a western breakfast. We tried them both. We approve.
Singapore & Penang: The Verdict
If you’ve been reading the Dining Traveler for a while, you know my love affair with Asia is real. I loved this itinerary because it was the perfect balance of luxury tied with great food and off the beaten path adventures. If you have any questions about my itinerary, don’t hesitate to comment or email me!
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Winners will be selected based on their creativity. Winner will be required to document their travels, so the content can also later be featured on the website and social. Winner must confirm their preferred travel dates no earlier than 8 weeks in advance. Prize includes a roundtrip airfare ticket to two of the countries along with hotel covered by ASEAN. All other expenses will be on the winner. All entries must include #ASEAN50Ambassador and our respective username can be tagged as well.
The contest runs from September 15 through October 15.
Winner will be chosen on October 20th.