Penang and Butterworth; Rapid Penang buses

I’m always avidly scouring the Internet for cheap air tickets. When I came across the sales fares on Tiger Airways, I immediately booked two tickets for mum and I to Penang.

We stayed at the Hotel Royal Penang in Georgetown, booked via

The hotel is adjacent to Penang Plaza, linked by a bridge on the second storey. We got our daily titbit-fix from Giant Supermarket on the ground floor. Other than the supermarket, the mall lacks appeal –the tenancy rate is relatively scanty.

Checking in to the hotel was quick and a breeze. Grab a free Map of Penang from the customer service.

Penang is as multi-cultural as my hometown Singapore, thus language won’t be a barrier. The languages English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay and Tamil are widely spoken.

The hotel is equipped with the necessary air conditioning, coffee/tea-making facilities that include an electric kettle, mini refrigerator, complimentary bottled water, Wi-Fi access in public areas and wired Internet cables in rooms. It would’ve been perfect if there were Wi-Fi available in rooms as well.

Pardon my messy desk. This was only day one.

The room is clean and spacious, though not majestic. My nights were nothing short of restful.

There is a nice window view, overlooking the urban Penang City.

Penang comprises mostly of low-rise buildings, although the growth of commercials and high-rise condominiums are prevalent.

The tallest building standing on the right side of the picture is Komtar; it is Penang’s tallest structure, ranking at the sixth tallest in Malaysia.

Towering at 65 storeys high in the heart of Georgetown, Komtar houses the Penang central government’s office, along with other offices, shops and food-courts.

Whenever you need public transportation, look out for the tallest building, because that’s where all bus routes in Penang diverge –from the Komtar Bus Terminal.

There is a free CAT shuttle bus service that will take you to various places of interest in Georgetown, covering a route to Weld Quay, and back.

We wanted to venture out of Georgetown, without the hassle of scrambling for loose change to pay for bus fares. Thus, we purchased a weekly Rapid Bus “Passport” for RM30 and were entitled to a week of unlimited travel onboard all Rapid Penang buses.

All Rapid buses are air-conditioned.

Armed with the Rapid Penang iPhone app, there is no more fretting about taking the wrong bus!

Taxis do not go by meter, as they should; you will need haggling skills to derive at a reasonable fare, although each trip will set you back at least RM10 as apposed to the less-than-RM2 bus fare.

(Random shot)

All buses terminate at Weld Quay Terminal where you can hop onboard a ferry that costs RM1.20 for a single 15-minute trip, to Butterworth.

This is the waiting area before boarding.

Peer through the barred gates, at cars boarding the ferry. Yes, cars boarding the ferry.

Then it was our turn.

Here we are, onboard with the cars.

It was a spontaneous venture to the Butterworth, where it is desolated of tourists.

We arrived at the Butterworth Bus Terminal (Penang Sentral) where our Rapid Transport “Passports” can be put to good use.

We took a bus to Sunway Carnival Mall. The mall is strapped for any form of excitement, and is slightly dingy. Don’t be expecting a plethora of high-fashion boutiques. We didn’t stay long.

I bought a Domo Kun bag there though. Loving it!

Picture above: A family-owned provision shop positioned in a bus station in Butterworth.

The family was baking love letters (crispy egg rolls/kueh kapit made of coconut milk, eggs, flour and sugar) over a charcoal grill –it is a popular Malaysian/Nyonya biscuit, traditionally served during Chinese New Year. The process of making is tedious and time-consuming; it was indeed a heartening sight to see a close-knit family working on it together.

Butterworth has yet to move with the times as compared to Penang, and cleanliness is an issue. These occasional discomforts aside, the town is peaceful, quiet, and dearth of bustling traffic.

We spent just a couple of hours in Butterworth before heading back to Penang.

At the Weld Quay Terminal, there are several stalls selling beverages, munchies and fresh fruits.

Fresh fruits are my staples for rejuvenation.

My mum’s favourite Steamed Peanuts.

A variety of preserved fruits are vastly available in Penang.

Fritters are my favourite snacks! Loving the sweet potato fritter.

As you can see in the background, some parts of Penang aren’t unblemished, and have yet to modernise.

The Rapid buses, on the other hand, are in mint condition.

What I love about the public transportation in Penang is that bus drivers are eager to help and will ensure that you alight at the right destination.

The bus stops however, need more comfortable seats!

Heart-warming experiences include a bus driver dropping us off right outside our hotel where there isn’t a legit bus stop. Another bus driver went out of his designated bus route to send us to the Butterfly Park.

You can get to popular places of interest by Rapid Transport buses: Batu Ferringhi, where resorts and villas are aplenty, along with delicious barbeque and seafood delights, alongside a bustling night market; Gurney Drive, where an array of hawker delights will tantalise your taste buds; and Queensbay Mall, where shopaholics will rejoice.

(Shopping at Queensbay Mall)

If you do not have a smart phone to utilise the iPhone app, you can print a copy of the bus guide here:

I highly recommend traversing Penang on buses; they are clean, safe, reliable, comfortable and most importantly, inexpensive.