I think we’ve all established by now that I love Penang. I’ve been to this place many times, and each time I’m always surprised by it. Not only that it is a great foodie destination, Penang also has the most amazing shop houses, house of worships and street arts.
If you haven’t been to Penang, I think it’s high time that you finally visit this island.
DREAM: Is this the right destination for you?
Penang is your dream destination if you:
- love eating, the food scene is great in Penang, from street stalls to high end restaurants
- don’t mind being in the heat as Penang is kind of hot, but really it’s super worth it (besides that’s what ais cendol and ais kachang are for!)
- like old houses with amazing tiles, windows and doors
- are interested in the history of Peranakan Baba Nyonya
- have a thing with cute, boutique hotels
- like to go lazying on the beach
- are a fan of nature
- are a fan of street arts
EXPLORE: Interesting places to see
There are so many activities to choose from in Penang that you won’t get bored. You could lazily stroll around its unique neighbourhoods, or go lazying on its beaches, or you could do “hotel-hopping” and street arts hunting like what I did the last time I went there. I especially love the boutique hotels in Penang as some of them are built in former shop houses so there is a lot of history behind them. A blogger friend of mine already told me of yet another amazing boutique hotel in Penang, which I will have to check out next time I go there.
TIP: I have to warn you though that these hotels get booked up easily so if you’re going any time soon, you can book your Penang hotel now. If you haven’t heard of Traveloka, do check it out to ease your hotel bookings, plus there are many advantages using them including no booking fee, win!
For the explorers in you, there are so many things you can see and do here. Here are some of my favourite places to explore in Penang:
Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill
The two are actually inseparable since they are near each other. Kek Lok Si temple is actually the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia and it is a beautiful complex. Don’t forget to take the inclined elevator which will take you to an amazing Chinese zodiac garden and the unmissable statue of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). After seeing Kek Lok Si Temple, make your way to Penang Hill by bus where you can take the funicular to go up. From the hill, you can explore the area while gazing at the city from above.
Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram
This Buddhist temple is simply amazing. I love the mythical creatures placed on the front of the temple as well as the reclining Buddha inside. You may see many visitors and locals praying while you’re here, so respect them and don’t make noises when you enter the Wat.
Dhamikarama Burmese Temple
Just across the road from Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, there is a Burmese temple. This too, is an amazing complex full of history. It is said that this place is actually the first kyaung or a monastery-temple complex in Malaysia.
St. George’s Church
This is an Anglican church which has been around since the 19th century. I love its white-washed building and it is actually one of 50 National Treasure’s of Malaysia.
Penang Peranakan Mansion
There is no denying of the influence of Peranakan in Penang. Peranakan people are those who are descendants of Chinese immigrants (from Mainland China) who came to this area in the past. Those immigrants later on blended with the locals therefore playing an important role to present day culture, food, language and many more. This mansion is a typical Peranakan mansion, showcasing furnitures and their way of life. I recommend taking a tour of this house as you’ll be explained more of its history.
This fort was built by Sir Captain Francis Light to protect himself from attacks. However, it didn’t quite serve its purpose since there were no attacks and so the place was used for storage mostly. You can explore the place and see the remnants of the fort including a chapel and cannons. One of the cannons, the Seri Rambai cannon, even has a special legend behind it, it is believed that when infertile women place flowers on the cannon, they can get pregnant.
Other places that you may want to see in Penang (that I didn’t get to see): Snake Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
WANDER: Where to get lost
There are many ways to wander around Penang and my favourites are by taking the bus, biking and walking. The buses in Penang are well connected, there is even a free bus for tourists that stops in all the major sites. There are several Central Area Transit (CAT) in the city where you can find buses to almost all parts of the city, these buses are ran by Rapid Penang.
Walking and biking is also great though you may have to stop often at cafes to cool down (luckily Penang has many cool cafes).
George Town’s City Centre
George Town is the capital of Penang, therefore a large area. However, focus on the city centre and wander around the area to see some of Penang’s main attractions. I love wandering here as I get to see old shop houses in its signature Peranakan style. These days there are also many cafes with mouth watering food popping up here and there in this area so you can check them out too.
Apart from that, I love finding street arts in Georgetown. In the recent years, the street arts scene has developed into something quite interesting. There are so many to see and it is almost like a treasure hunt finding all the street arts around Penang.
TIP: Check your hotel for a map of these street arts, which they will probably provide for free. By following the map you get to see the street arts as well as the old shop houses.
Stroll around Chulia Street at night and you will find so many food stalls popping up here and there. This is the opportunity for you to try out Penang’s famous dishes and immerse with the locals. Anyone in Asia knows that food talk is the best way to bond.
Penang National Park
Apparently this is the world’s smallest national park. If you prefer to be with nature, you can go and visit Penang National Park which is on the other side of the city. There are many things you can do and see at this National Park from trekking, relaxing by the beach, seeing its wildlife and walk its canopy walkway.
TIP: Do bring enough water if you are thinking of trekking since there won’t be anyone selling water once you are inside (when I went here, there was someone selling water once I reached the Monkey beach and that was after two hours of walking)
Penang definitely has it all! You can go beach hopping at Penang’s Batu Ferringhi. It is quite far from the city centre so if you want to spend more time in this area, it is wise to find a place to stay here. This area is near the National Park, Tropical Fruit Farm, Butterfly Farm and Tropical Spice Garden.
Have you been to Penang? Which activity did you enjoy most?