Penang, Malaysia

Jim and Ellen

Jim and Ellen, our Canadian co-directors of Planet-Boomer have just moved to Penang.  They are actually doing what Planet-Boomer is all about - retiring for a cheaper and better life in Southeast Asia.

They have been living around Asia for years and decided Penang was the place for them.

And Penang is one of our picks for retirees as well.

Why?  Because Penang is the new cool.

This may sound odd to many Australians because Penang has been off the radar screen for most travellers for the past 20 or so years.  It's been all about Bali and Thailand and to a lesser extent Cambodia.

But now, Penang has go its mojo back.  The magnificent Eastern and Oriental Hotel, referred to as the E&O, has been completely refurbished and for less than A$200 a night, you can stay in luxury overlooking the Malacca Straits.  Happy hour around the pool is enough to justify a flight.  

Restaurants, hotels, cafes and flashpackers are popping up all over the place and Australians are a big part of the renaissance.  Check out Narell McMurtrie's China House, a cafe gallery, and Christoper Ong and Karl Steinberg's Seven Terraces boutique hotel and restaurant.  They shifted their interest away from Sri Lanka where they developed the famous Galle Fort Hotel.

New condominiums are on the way up, yet Penang has kept its soul.  Unlike Singapore, where most of the shophouses have been demolished, Penang is still full of them.

Penang got UNESCO heritage listing in 2008 and this has been embraced and respected by the Penang Government.  Old buildings and shophouses are being restored with integrity.

Penang is 'Asia-easy'.