Life as a digital nomad or expat in Penang, Malaysia is awesome.
So we want to share what we consider to be the three best ways of plugging into the Penang digital nomads and expat community.
Like Chiang Mai, we found Penang to be a great a place to spend a month working on our businesses. It ticks all of our boxes: internet is everywhere and fast. There are plenty of options for eating keto. Cost of living is low. Great people including locals and expats.
And both Chiang Mai and Penang are full of fellow digital nomads and expats.
But we found the DN/expat community a bit harder to find in Penang than in Chiang Mai or Da Nang.
This was mostly because the DN/epat Facebook groups that we typically relied on in Chiang Mai, Da Nang and Bali are not nearly as active in Penang making it harder to meet expats and fellow travelers.
So we’ll provide some easy answers…but also lay out a challenge in terms of finding the best of Penang for digital nomads and expats!
Start Here: Thursday Night Wine Soiree at That Little Wine Bar
If you are looking to plug into the expat community in Penang, start with Thursday night wine soiree at That Little Wine Bar.
Formerly one of the best restaurants in Penang, at the moment That Little Wine Bar is only open for Wine Soiree Thursdays 6:30 pm onwards.
3 tasting glasses of wine with nibbles for RM 64 ($15.25 US). Additional pours and bottles are available once the tasting is finished.
But the wine is just the start. The real beauty of wine soiree is the people and the conversations and relationships that develop there.
Owner Tommes plays host, sommelier and lively participant to the evening.
We met and became friends with many expats and long-term visitors every Thursday evening.
In fact, we literally built a full social calendar around the relationships that came from doing wine soiree!
It really is the nexus of so many expat relationships and people in Penang.
Wine soiree is the perfect place for any expat or digital nomad to start building relationships in Penang.
Regular and Special Events in Penang – The Penang Free Sheet
Our second suggestion is to keep an eye out for special events.
The best way to do that is to subscribe to the Penang Free Sheet.
The Penang Free Sheet is chock-a-block with events, goings-on, exhibits, recitals, tours, concerts, get-togethers, etc. etc.
Whether you are a digital nomad, expat or a local, the Penang Free Sheet will give you lots of options to fill your social calendar.
You can do an email subscription to the Sheet which is published each week, and/or go to their site and check out This Week in Penang.
One special event we went to in Penang was an Oysters and Barbecue night at Heap Seng House.
It featured all-you-can eat Gallagher oysters and barbecued meats in a social setting.
We met so many expats and locals that night, several of whom we saw again during our time in Penang. We even happened to meet our Booking.com homestay host!
We also met and chatted up Edward Gallagher whose world-famous Irish oysters are a staple in Asia!
Monday night pub quiz at Healy Mac’s Irish Pub in Straits Quay is also a great way for digital nomads and expats to be social and meet people in Penang.
Straits Quay is a hub for Penang expats…particularly European early retirees.
Pub quiz at Healy Mac’s is indicative of that.
The host, Dave Griffiths, is an English expat who organizes the weekly event. As a result, the quiz can tend to have an English tilt. Hone up on your Premier League and British history if you want to win!
The participants are a mix of residents, expats and tourists. Everyone is very friendly and teams can spontaneously form (max. 6 people per team), making it a great way to meet and get to know people.
This one is more of a challenge than a how-to!
Penang is full of secret bars. Call them speakeasies, hidden bars, whatever you like.
But here’s the thing: in Penang they are well-kept secrets!
To get into them you first have to know about them.
Then find them.
Then know how to get in…and it’s never as simple as knowing a password! There is often a hidden lever to find or code to punch in order to gain entrance.
But once inside you find the most amazing bars…everything from quiet speakeasy joints to full-on clubs with DJ’s blaring music.
You can google secret bars Penang and find some info. But they are constantly changing, popping up and then disappearing.
We never would have been able to find these places much less get in without a long-time expat who took us on a tour of these amazing places one Friday night.
Since Malaysia is a Muslim country, gay bars in particular have adopted the secret bar approach. We visited a couple and they were fabulous!
We feel that if you can find and get into several secret bars in Penang over the course of an evening then you had earned you expat masters degree!
But it’s easier to befriend someone with a Penang expat masters degree and let them lead the way!
Penang is an amazing place to be a digital nomad or expat.
Although it’s a little tougher to break into the DN/expat crowd in Penang than in other hubs around southeast Asia hopefully our suggestions will help!