Dusk to dawners: Penang nightlife
Whether you wish to dance ‘til dawn, rub shoulders with local society or find the perfect perch to see and be seen, the choice of clubs, bars and pubs will not disappoint in Penang, say Eric Fam and Sheena Loh
Penang was always different, due in no small part to its beginnings as a trading port. The people of Penang are descendants of those who at first came to trade, so such beginnings give the island a startlingly rich and cosmopolitan flavor that sets it apart from the rest of Malaysia. The nightlife here is reflective of that diversity. And like many a tropic isle, the night is forever young with no shortage of places to go. From the site of Malaysia’s oldest ferry-service to the tip of Batu Ferringhi’s tourist-track, there are a mind-boggling number of watering holes that will prepare your Cosmopolitan just the way you like it and throw in a dose of madness to boot.
Just across the street from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, The Garage was originally home to famous automobile distributors, Wearnes Brothers of Jaguar and Rolls Royce fame. Fully restored now, it houses a selection of clubs, bars and cafes. Taking centre stage is Slippery Senoritas (2 Penang Road, George Town. +604 263 6868/www.slipperysenoritas.com). Known simply as ‘SS’ by the locals, the club is popular for bringing in the best live acts. From classic rock to the latest radio-friendly hits, be prepared for a wild night of raucous fun. Friday and Saturday nights see the place bursting with people. And keep an eye out for the bartenders. Their synchronised juggling and fire-breathing acts are crowdpullers.
If you don’t happen to be a fan of live music, a short walk will bring you to the polished doorsteps of MOIS (1 Upper Penang Road, George Town. +6012 418 6647/ www.moisclub.com) – the music is super-fast here, so you actually need to dance. French for ‘month’, MOIS opened her doors some four years ago and unsurprisingly, people thronged. And, the club shows no sign of stopping for air let alone pausing to take stock. Unwilling to rest on their laurels, MOIS’ owners undertook a massive refurbishment last year and the results are more of a revolution than an evolution; from the original Baroque opulence the club is now a contemporary, chic blend with Victorian inspired chamber-fittings.
Voodoo (1 Upper Penang Road, George Town. +6012 496 8859) is another option at The Garage that’s all about fresh new styles and attitude. From their outdoor alfresco bar with a Balinese-inspired courtyard to its cosy lounge area, this pub-bistro is an ideal venue for after-work drinks, late nightfrolicking and outrageous parties. The sort of place that trendy youngsters like to frequent, Voodoo, a converted mansion is currently one of the latest and hippest clubs on Upper Penang Road that will put a spell on you.
And as you make your way down the pedestrian walk, you might be in time to catch a cabaret act in Boom Boom Chambre (3G Upper Penang Road, George Town. +6012 565 6847). Saucy and very, very tongue-in-cheek with plenty of audience participation, you might find yourself on stage if you catch the eyes of Freida, the hostess of this establishment.
If you want to drink your pint in peace, check-in at Soho Free House (50A Penang Road, George Town. +604 263 3331) – the ground floor of this English styled bar is perfect for those in search of a place to hang out with mates and listen to some old rock music. Despite the pub-like atmosphere, it does attract a mixed crowd. But don’t limit yourself to just that one street. The island is peppered with hip and happening joints. Whether you’re a lounge lizard, karaoke queen or just born to dance, there’s something for everyone. Experience the grandeur of E&O’s Farquhar Bar (10 Lebuh Farquhar. +604 222 2000/www.e-o-hotel.com); drink and dine on the upper floor of QEII (Church Street Pier, 8A Pengkalan Weld. +604 261 2126/ sohopenang.com/qe-ii-on-the-sea) for a bit of romance; or swing to the vocals of Rozz at Bagan Lounge (18 Jalan Bagan Jermal. +604 226 4977) that’s in a 1920s bungalow. Whatever your choice of tipple or scene, Penang’s nightlife will keep you up from dusk to dawn.
Still raring to go? Head down to Batu Ferringhi for Sixty9ine Mansion (69 Jalan Batu Ferringhi. +604 881 9966/ www.69mansion.com). Featuring a unique architectural concept, the building features indoor sections, alfresco areas and before you know it, you’re on the beach – all linked by a pool. Not just any pool either, but a waterway, swimming pool and wading pool where you can enjoy drinks whilst dipping your feet in.
Looking for a haunt in George Town? Try Soju Club (77-G-1,2&3, Jalan Dato Keramat. +604 210 3080), where the crowd can only be described as eclectic. The only nightspot in Penang Times Square, Soju features three sections – an alfresco café, beer garden and inside, a casino-themed interior – but if it’s a futuristic vibe (and some karaoke) you’re after, head to Bed (368-01-08 Bellisa Row, Jalan Burma. +604 227 2725/www.bed.com.my). The first thing you’ll notice here is how everything is white; there’s whiteon- white on Perspex, tempered by stainless steel and hardwood and Soju’s ground floor is the epitome of minimalism with a marble bar counter and Louis Ghost chairs.
Penang’s also capable of dishing out a more laidback experience for night owls. Find this at That Little Wine Bar (54 Chow Thye Road. +604 226 8182/www.thatlittlewinebar.com), a quaint little boutique wine bar that boasts an unassuming and uncomplicated experience of fine wine and exquisite cuisine. It’s the sort of place where beautiful people congregate to enjoy good food and the company of friends, and they also host wine appreciation classes. Or, for live music by the beach, the energetic live band at Hard Rock Cafe Bar (Jalan Batu Ferringhi. +604 881 1711/www.penang.hardrockhotels.net) will not disappoint.