Penang is the city Singapore should be. Warrens of sidestreets - packed with restaurants and coffeehouses - hide behind gleaming waterfront hotels. Metal trays of steaming Indian food can be had for $2 - or, just two blocks away, the E & O serves unlimited lobster and wine under a waterfront pavilion, flanked by immaculate lawns with the occasional cannon (after all, what's a great colonial hotel without some ancient artillery).
Our perfect day in Penang begins with breakfast in the Museum hotel courtyard and ends with a table full of dishes at the Red Garden Food Paradise (or, if we're feeling fancy, at the E & O). The Red Garden is like the food court at your local mall - that is, if the food court was outdoors, and if every restaurant at your local mall served cheap, authentic food from every country in Asia, and if your local mall served beer, and if instead of Justin Bieber CD's the music was a local singer belting out Karaoke hits from the last 30 years (Careless Whisper is still REALLY big here) In between, we rent a scooter ($8 for the day), and shoot off to the North of the Island for a hike to the beach and lunch at one of the organic restaurants in the hills.