Georgetown Penang is by far the best Thai VISA run from Bangkok. For me anyway. Laos I now find tedious, Cambodia involves lengthy bus treks and flying to Singapore et al. takes bigger budgets. The Penang VISA run is cheap, simple and delicious. It is also the cheapest route with return train travel at 2,500(ish) Baht from Bangkok, free VISA on arrival in Malaysia and cheap accommodation throughout Georgetown. While an overnight train is necessary the journey is comfortable, relaxed and surprisingly enjoyable (Bangkok to Penang here). On the VISA run to Penang stay in Georgetown, Chulia Street area. Georgetown an absolute gem of a city and easily one of my favourite places in Southeast Asia. Thankfully going under the radar of tourism and traveller trails it remains unique and authentic. Here are 5 reasons why the VISA run to Penang is the best Thai VISA run from Bangkok.
For convenience stay on or around Chulia Street and have the Chulia Street tour agents organise your Thai VISA application. Drop in your passport the day you arrive, fill in the forms, pay an extra 200 Baht (20 RM) agency fee and let them do the legwork. The 60 day tourist VISA should cost 1,400 Baht (1,200 VISA fee + 200 agency fee). Using agents saves you a tedious half day of travel and queuing at the Thai Embassy found outside Georgetown. The following day pick up your VISA stamped Passport back at the agency (generally 4pm or later). If using an agent the best accommodation is on Chulia Street and the parallel Muntri Street (connected by Love Lane). Here for hotels around Chulia and Muntri Street. If planning to apply in person then the Gurney Drive area is an easy enough walk to the embassy and it saves 20 RM taxi fare each way, when travelling from the Chulia area.
Alone worth the trip to Georgetown. The food in Penang is top notch and my eating tends to centre round the Mamak Restaurants (Malay Indian). Indian food better than any you will find in Thailand and at tiny prices. Georgetown’s Little India the perfect place to find roadside Roti Canai and awesome curries. If your new to Nasi Kandar get on it. And of course make room the local Malay food and authentic Chinese eating. For all these foods under one roof (and cheap beer) try the delightfully garish Red Garden Food Paradise at the end of Muntri Street (on Leith Street).
It’s amazing to see such diverse and close-knit cultures in such a small city. Georgetown’s unique harmony found not far from Chulia Street where three prominent temples sit side-by-side at the corner of Queen Street and Kapitan Keling. Sri Mahamariamman Temple (Indian Hindu), Han Jiang Temple (Chinese Ancestral) and Kapital Keling (Muslim Mosque). Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures all brought together by the British and their colonial trade routes back in the 18th Century. If planning a VISA run to Penang for February be sure to catch Thaipusam (note Thai Embassy closes on public holidays).
Picturesque backstreets, painted wall art (Ernest Zacharevic) and iron wall caricatures can be found dotted through Georgetown’s Unesco Heritage area (and beyond). Below are just a sample from Muntri Street, Kung Fu Girl also on Muntri Street and Tok Tok Mee on Kapitan Keling. The Iron Wall caricatures depicting culture and history through cute humour.
The perfect splurge to finish your VISA run to Penang. Travelling back via the pristine beaches and cheap booze of the Langkawi the Duty Free Island. Two boats leave from Penang to Langkawi early morning, relax a night or two then from Langkawi it takes a quick boat back to mainland Thailand. Travel to Bangkok is either by direct bus from Satun or by overnight train leaving Hat Yai.