Gurney Drive is a seaside esplanade with luxury hotels, condominiums and the famous hawker center. It is a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike. Besides local Penang hawker fare, there are small family-run eateries (kedai makanan) as well as Western-style cafes and restaurants.
Although I didn't enjoy eating at the hawker center, I like to come here to stroll along the water front. Especially in the evening, the feeling of sea breeze is so relaxing. This is something I can't find in the city i live in. It may get crowded during holidays or weekend. But it is the place to come and relax, or people watching.
The new G Hotel and Gurney Plaza is just nearby the hawker center.
This is the most popular hawker center in Penang for tourists. I don't think the locals come here to eat too often. I can't recall any food that I ate here was great. But it's fun and exciting when I saw so many food in one spot.
If you have only a very short time in Penang, then you should go to Gurney Drive, located on the northern side of George Town, towards Tanjung Bunga. There is a seafront promenade that spans the length of Gurney Drive, where locals take their early morning walks or jog, or just enjoying the sea breeze.
The Gurney Drive hawker stall area is a collection of stalls selling all the specialities of Penang. The action starts at 6pm when hawkers start setting up their stalls, preparing ingredients and lining up their tables & chairs. But Gurney Drive is not just an area for hawker stalls anymore. Stylish and elegant cafes, bars and restaurants springing up around the area in recent years. Gurney Drive isn't just a favourite of the locals. On any given day, you can always find tourists around hawker stalls, curiously looking and taking time to decide on what to eat.
When ordering any savoury dishes from the hawker stalls, be sure to specify if you want mild rather than spicy. The locals here love their food extra hot and spicy. The stall owners will be more than happy to oblige to your request.
Business runs late into wee hours of the morning before finally closing at about 5.00 am on weekends, or roughly 3.00 am on weekdays.
Gurney Drive (Pesiaran Gurney) is probably one of the most famous and popular tourist destination of locals and foreigners. It is about 1.5 kilometer and was called the "new Esplanade" to differentiate from the original "old" Esplanade.
Being a much longer stretch, Gurney Drive has eclipsed the Esplanade as the place to be at night for food or sea breeze.
You can walk along in the early morning and see joggers or seniors doing their taiqi dance.
There are many hotels, condominiums, food centers and a major popular shopping mall called "Gurney Plaza".
Previously, food stalls were allowed to operate along the stretch and you could sit along the sea wall and eat your favorite fare. However, the sea became a rubbish bin and so all the hawkers were grouped together at a hawker center at the northern part of Gurney Drive.
There used to be sand and waves and even turtles laying eggs. Those were the days. Due to land reclaim at Tanjong Tokong, it more of a mud flat most of the time but in the morning and at sunset, you can see the wonderful Kedah Peak and mainland across with ships and liners cruising by.
During New Year's eve and other festive occasions, many would gather at Gurney Plaza to walk along and enjoy the sea breeze and crowd. Only problem is that Gurney is so popular esspecially on weekends, it is always a challenge to find a place to park.
Gurney drive is very popular with courting couples, retired folks, and simply anybody who loves the sea breeze, the many food stalls, restaurants, the condominiums, apartments, the majestic casuarina tree etc etc etc.
Good for joggers, the people watchers, the bold and the beautiful, the old and the slow..............
A very busy place where cars crawl along, especially in the evenings. Things have gotten more congested with the popular Gurney Plaza Shopping Complex and that area is always jam-packed ...
"Imagine a free-ranging buffet, several hundred square kilometers in area, through which to graze at will. This limitless cornucopia brings together some of the liveliest culinary traditions of Asia, and participation costs only a few dollars. That's the Malaysian state of Penang. "
(Time Magazine, Nov 2004)
Now with such a fitting description of Penang, what do you think a sane fella like yourself should do? Why arm yourself with lots of loose ringgits ( that's the Malaysian currency ) and charge out into the streets to eat of course! Everything is extremely edible around here and the local fare that you find on the streets is just bursting with flavour and colour. Of course, do yourself a favour and avoid the fare in the touristy regions of Batu Ferringhi and the hotel restaurants . They're sterilised to suit the foreign tongue and may not quite match the authencity that you can find in the streets.Of course, there's this thing about hygiene but you should be alright if you've gotten your shots. IMHO, this place is way cleaner compared to HCMC. In the many days I spent here, the only time my tummy rumbled was only when there were too much rich food inside:)
How to Start?
Do yourself a favour, get a couple of good recommendations from us VTers in the Forum or better still, grab a Penangite and cajole him to reveal to you the island's best grub. If you're really lazy, you can just print out my food list. You haven't been to Penang if you haven't tried their:
1)Char Kway Teow - Flat Rice Noodles fried with Prawns, Sausages,Bean Sprouts and Lard, yes lard. So this is definitely not kosher or halal!
2)Lor Bak - A schizophrenic selection of fried pork sausage, squid, beancurd and other yummies.
3)Penang Laksa - A Delicious Seafood Broth Noodle Soup flavoured with a dollop of prawn paste, shredded fish and fragrant herbs.
4)Tau Sah Piah - A sweet flaky confectionary with green bean paste.
When you are in Penang do pay a visit to Gurney Drive. For the full effect, come in the evenings and take a stroll. Don't just drive through!
In the good old days the numerous Gurney Drive hawkers would set up their stalls, in the evenings, along the road side. Due to the large number of patrons, the lightweight tables and metal stools would inevitably and casually spill onto the road, Pesiaran Gurney, itself, therefore causing mini-traffic jams (nothing when compared to KL...). Over the years, things have become less chaotic and more organised because the hawkers have been moved inwards a little. They now occupy an open space, instead of being set up along the side of the road. I have to say that I liked it better the way it was before, because good food, great smells and chaos, seemed to go well, hand-in-hand. (I feel so nostalgic~sigh~)
With many more hawker centres and food courts being set up, the Gurney Drive hawkers are considered to be a bit "pricey" by Penang standards, but I would say it is still very pleasant and the atmosphere here is unique, set as it is by the sea.
Apart from eating and drinking, you can also take a seat along the benches that face the seafront. During the day, you could go shopping as Gurney Drive has seen the development of tall shopping malls (eg. Gurney Mall). There are a few restaurants and cafe, even a Starbucks! Several sea facing hotels and condominiums have also been built here.
PS. The picture does not do the area justice-very sorry!
If you are in Georgetown and need to do something, why not take a walk along Gurney Drive, enjoy the sea breeze at night (the beach is not much to rave about; pretty much silt and rocks), see locals hang out at the benches catching up each other or life, have a huge slice of local delicacies at the various restaurants and hawker centre spread out along the bay and maybe even drop into Gurney Plaza Shopping Mall just to enjoy the air-con.
The stalls at gurney starts at around 5pm. This is the easiest found spot for the tourist to get penang food but, the food are not the best that penangites will purposely go for.
If you want to try penang laksa.. gosh.. there are a number of it and you never know which one is better.. (the situation applicable for other hawker food)
A fast try of penang food in gurney are: penang laksa, cendol, lok-lok, pasumbur, rojak
A thing to take note is, those tables and chairs belong to the drink stalls owners and seperated into different 'authorities'. So if you sit on the table belong to a sugar cane stall you have to drink sugar cane ..
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