There’s so much to see and do in Georgetown that it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a whole island to go and explore, and one destination outside the centre that is really growing in popularity is modern retail complex, Straits Quay. Set around what is undoubtedly Penang’s most exclusive marina, it provides a breezy contrast to Georgetown’s busy streets and is a perfect retreat for a relaxing sundowner or evening meal.
Having risen out of the sea — quite literally — on a spot of reclaimed land, Straits Quay is now a popular evening and weekend destination for locals, who come here to enjoy the many shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as the views over the Straits of Malacca to the mainland. Most of the establishments offer outside seating overlooking the rather fancy yachts in the marina, and there is a certain charm to sitting with a beer in hand, listening to the bobbing of boats and the clinking of riggings.
There are cafes and restaurants to suit most pockets, and as well as chains such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Dome, there are some great independent places. Healey Macs (T: 04 890 3477) is a well-patronised Irish bar with a good range of beers and excellent food, including some very generous pizzas, while you can pick up delicious seafood and other Hawaiian fare at Maricosa (T: 04 899 0809). For local specialities, go up to the first floor to Nyonya Breeze Desire (T: 04 899 9058) for some fiery indigenous Chinese-Malay food, or try Papa Rich (T: 04 890 3282) for staple Malay favourites.
It would be fair to say that there is much better shopping in Penang, if retail therapy is what you are after, but Straits Quay nevertheless has most of the basics, including several clothing and shoe stores, designer fashion boutiques, a small branch of Borders and even a small art gallery. At weekends, there is a ‘street market’ under the front arcade, which is a good chance to pick up unusual arts, crafts and souvenirs.
Another reason for coming here is for the Peforming Arts Centre of Penang, or penangpac as it is known locally, on level 3A of Quay 1. With one main auditorium and two smaller spaces, it showcases a year-round programme of theatre, dance, music and art house cinema, and is beginning to attract more and more performers from KL, Singapore and further afield. Check the website for further details or call the box office on 04 899 1722 /2722.
How to get there
Straits Quay is about six kilometres northwest of Georgetown and Rapid Penang buses 101 and 103 depart regularly from the centre, at a cost of 1.80 ringgit one-way. Alternatively, a taxi should set you back around 20 ringgit from anywhere in Georgetown. However, since Straits Quay is, after all, a marina, why not take the water taxi? It departs from the E&O Hotel at 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 18:30 and returns from Straits Quay at 11:30, 13:30, 15:30 and 17:30. A one-way ticket costs 50 ringgit (free for children under two) but if you can show a receipt for any purchase of 50 ringgit or above at Straits Quay, you will only pay 10 ringgit per person for the trip back into Georgetown.