Penang 槟城(Malay: Pulau Pinang) is an island-state off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It comprises two halves – Penang Island, where the capital city of George Town is located, and a strip of mainland Peninsula named Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley).
Penang’s beaches are nice, though a little lacklustre when compared to those in some other Malaysian states, but this is more than compensated for by the island’s rich multicultural history dating back to the beginnings of British colonisation in the 18th century, and is full of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences. Penang is also well known domestically and in Singapore for being the “food paradise” of Malaysia.
What to see:
- UNESCO World Heritage Zone & Armenian Street, old historical area in the heart of the UNESCO Heritage Zone in downtown Georgetown. The area contains a melange of late 19th century colonial and settler architecture, texturized by a community that still maintains a traditional way of urban life. For walking, highlights include Armenian Street, Pitt Street, Love Lane, Little India, the esplanade and Beach Road. Within this area, the Khoo Kongsi clan temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque, and Pinang Peranakan Mansion are highlights. A small flea market starts every evening at the park near the Armenian Street & Lebuh Acheh junction (pickpocket alert). Mostly, its used second hand junk for sale, but there may be the occasional find. Further towards Penang Road, the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion on Leith Street that exemplifies early Chinese courtyard houses is also a favorite.
- Penang Street Art, In conjuction with Penang’s Georgetown Festival, certain old walls within our dear capital has gained a new lease of life, thanks to the awesome efforts of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, Penang Street Art artist. The artworks are funny, fascinating, and very much open to everyone’s interpretations.
- Penang Hill / Bukit Bendera (升旗山), “Penang. Probably has the best view of Georgetown, especially at night. Go up via the Penang Hill Railway (Return fare: Malaysians – Adult RM10, Child RM4; foreign tourists: Adult RM30, Child RM15). The train takes 5 minutes to reach the summit. The service runs from 6:30AM-9PM daily, accessible by taxi or Rapid Penang bus no. 204 to the last stop (RM2). The train, which was upgraded in 2011, is a fascinating little cable train service that lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view and cool breezes. The 19th-century English travel writer, Isabella Bird, called the temperature on the hill ‘delicious’ because it can be very much cooler than at sea level. More than a century later, Ms. Bird’s statement still holds true. The more adventurous (and fit) may want to hike up the hill (800m elevation, bring water). Starting points for a trek up the hill is from the tarred road at the entrance of the Botanic Gardens (the more adventurous can start from the Moon Gate 300m from the entrance of the Botanic Gardens but trails are not well marked so best to follow a local during weekends/evenings). The hike takes about 2-3 hrs depending on fitness level. At the summit, you can take a leisurely stroll, or ride a buggy, along a track that runs for about 1km into residences built around turn of the 20th century. Food and refreshments can be found in the David Brown restaurant, which commands a nice view of Georgetown, or the food court.
- Penang Botanic Gardens,Jl Kebun Bunga, , ☎ +60 4 227-0428 (for group tour arrangement), Fax:+60 4 228-6075 firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily, 5AM-8PM. Take Rapid Penang bus no.10 from KOMTAR for RM2. The gardens were established by Charles Curtis of Britain way back in 1884; it’s generally known as the Waterfall Gardens by the local community because of a little waterfall located within it. Many locals will come to the gardens to perform their daily exercises like walking, jogging, jungle trekking, aerobic dance, and to practice Tai Chi, (太极) or Qi Gong, (气功). The garden hosts an annual international floral fest as well as a world music festival. . Free admission.
- Kek Lok Si-Temple of Supreme Bliss (极乐寺). A sprawling hillside structure that is reputed to be the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, with the Khmer/Thai/Chinese style Ban Po Thar (Ten Thousand Buddhas Tower) and various Buddha images in the main temple complex. Furthermore, a mini-funicular train (RM4) connects to the summit of the hill featuring a giant 36.5m high statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The current bronze version was completed after donations from mainland Chinese in 2003. Photographers will find it well worth the inclined elevator ride up. During the Chinese New Year period, the temple is decorated with hundreds of lanterns which turns it into a night-time wonderland. Located near the village of Air Itam; a taxi from Georgetown will set you back RM 20-25; catching a bus from the station next to the Komtar or 7-Eleven at Lebuh Chulia will cost you RM2 (take Rapid Penang bus no. 203 to Air Itam, the last stop). The complex reeks of commercialism with shops at every level and Buddhists may find little sacred at this site. Try to avoid the busy weekends. During the fifteen days of Chinese New Year the temple is colourfully lit and opened to the throngs of tourist and worshippers till 11pm.
- Tropical Spice Garden – The Tropical Spice Garden, which is in a 8 acre valley fronting the shores of Teluk Bahang showcases a landscaped garden that consists of tropical plant collections from all over the world. The garden has over 100 varieties of tropical spice and herb plants and a huge collection of other exotic flora.
- Penang Butterfly Farm, 830 Jalan Teluk Bahang, , ☎ +60 4 885-1253. Opens 365 days a year, 9AM-6PM daily (last entry at 5pm). The first tropical butterfly farm ever set up in the tropical world, with an average flying population of 7000 butterflies. Stepping in, you will be surrounded by a myriad of fluttering butterflies within a seemingly natural settings, giving the feel of being in an enchanted forest bejeweled with colourful gems of nature. Its modern enclosure also houses an assortment of other invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. Also features a souvenir outlet and a cafe. Admission fee is RM27 per adult and RM15 per child (4-12 years old).
- Pulau Jerejak Resort, (Jerejak Island), ☎ +60 4 658-7111, Fax:+60 4 659-7700, email@example.com, . This 362 hectare tropical island, is located directly across the channel from the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, on the south eastern coast of Penang island. The island is now open to the public as a recreational resort. Numerous outdoor activities including nature & historical trekking, mountain biking, and archery are available; personal care such as aromatherapy massage, foot treatment, body scrub are also available. Unfortunately, swimming around the area is not advised given the pollution. Ferries to the island start at 6:30AM and continue until 12:30PM. Return trip fare for guests with room / event reservations: Adult RM6, Children RM3. Day trippers: Adult RM16 (include meals), Children RM3. Various accommodation option available: tent for 2 person costs RM80 per night, 2-bed room RM115, chalet RM220 or promotional 3D/2N package for 2 person costs RM499.
- Tropical Fruit Farm,  – 25-acre farm lies in the scenic hills near Balik Pulau. You can view the many kinds of fruit trees there and sample fresh fruit at reasonable price. A small stall near the entrance sells fresh fruit juice and fruit dishes. You can also enjoy a great view of the north-western coastline of the island.
- Penang Durian Farm  – Located about 10 min from the Teluk Bahang Dam, the farm offers a durian buffet (early reservation required) and a variety of tropical fruits during the local fruit & durian season (May – Aug).
- Snake Temple, (蛇庙), built in 1850 in memory of the renowned Chinese monk Chor Soo Kong. The Snake Temple is situated in the small town of Bayan Lepas on the edge of a highway and is famous for the fact that it has pit vipers living within the temple grounds. Legend has it that Chor Soo Kong, who was also a healer, gave shelter to the snakes of jungle. After the completion of the temple, snakes appeared on their own accord. Today, the snake population of the Temple of the Azure Cloud is very small, due to the urbanization of the area, but you can still see them coiled up on the altar tables, and you can touch them, if you are brave enough. Originally, the snakes were said to be rendered harmless by the smell of the burning incense, but today, to be safe, the resident vipers are devenomed. There is a snake museum beside the temple where there are snakes galore and you can see a staff member occasionally handling an albino Burmese python. Museum admission RM5 for adults, free admission for temple (9AM-6PM). Take Rapid Penang bus 401 or 401E from KOMTAR or 102 from Lebuh Chulia (2,70RM).
- War Museum Lot 1350, Mukim 12, Batu Maung, ☎ +60 4 626-5142, 391-0067 Fax:+60 4 626-4142, +60 4 644-8015. Daily 9AM-7PM (last admission). Admission fee RM35 (adult). Located at southeastern tip of Penang, it is a large military fortress built in 1930s by the British to protect the southern approaches to the island. The British Royal Engineers and a work force of local laborers blasted and dug into the hill to create a fort with underground military tunnels, an intelligence and logistic centre, halls, offices, ventilation shafts, artillery firing bays, sleeping quarters, cook houses as well as an infirmary. The site lay abandoned for 60 years before it was reopened by a private entrepreneur. Historical accuracy should not be the prime motivation for visitors, with the attraction being quite kitschy and generous with self-researched “facts”.
- Toy Museum, Jl Tanjung Bungah, (10 km northwest of Georgtown beside the Copthorne Hotel, take Rapid Penang bus 101 or 103 from KOMTAR) – there are more than 100,000 toys on display. open daily 9AM-8PM, admission fee RM20 for adults (2012).
- Penang Bird Park, Jl Todak (near the Sunway Carnival Mall), Bandar Seberang Jaya, ☎ +60 4 399-1899.  – A small bird park located on the mainland (Seberang Perai) about 10 min from the Penang Bridge. Take a walk under nice shady trees and view dozens of kinds of birds including ostriches, sea eagles, peafowls, hornbills, flamingos, macaws, and grey parrots. There are also two walk-through aviaries and a fish pond. Some of the enclosures do need a touch of paint, but kids should love this place. Open daily from 9AM-7PM
- Amazing Nibong Tebal. See the synchronised flashes of light gently hovering over mangrove trees that line the river bank. The specific species of mangrove tree which attracts these fireflies is the berembang (sonneratia caseolaris). Firefly watching at Sungai Kerian is increasingly drawing visitors and the fire fly is an icon of Nibong Tebal. The fireflies emit light at the lower abdomen not only to attract mates but also to scare away predators. Their abdomens are filled with a chemical called lucibufagens which in fact tastes pretty nasty.
- Penang Peranakan Heritage. this is where you can find the remaining peranakan home used to be lived by a rich family
What to do:
- Beaches – The secluded and unspoiled beaches of Teluk Duyung (aka Monkey Beach), Muka Head, Pantai Kerachut, and Teluk Kampi are located on the north-western coast of the island, part of the Penang National Park (free entry). There is a pre-war lighthouse that is accessible from Monkey Beach involving a ~100m hike, boosting views of the pristine natural surroundings. You can reach these beaches by either hiking (1-3 hours from the entrance of the national park in Teluk Bahang) or by hiring a fisherman’s sampan (wooden, often motorized, boat) from Teluk Bahang or Batu Ferringhi. The entrance of Penang National Park is located less than 1km down the road northwest of the small roundabout as one approaches from Batu Ferringhi.
- Jungle Trekking and Camping – The Penang National Park was gazetted as a reserve in 1928 and boost a good many trails through virgin jungle. Camping is permissible wiithin Penang National Park but please check with authorities at the entrance. There are also hiking trails from the Botanic Gardens leading up to Penang Hill. The most frequented ones involves the tarred road that takes ~2.5 hours to complete starting from the entrance of Botanic Gardens. Be warned the hike involves ~800m in elevation and requires moderate fitness. The trails are very popular with locals over weekends and in evenings. There are natural trails criss-crossing Penang Hill but they are unmarked and should not be attempted unless one is with a guide or experienced local.
- Watersports are on the agenda for many visitors, although the waters are a bit too murky for scuba diving and a bit too calm for surfing or more extreme pursuits. You can try out jet skis and parasailing near most of the hotels along Batu Feringhi beach.
- Snorkelling is possible on day-trips to Pulau Payar Marine Park. These generally come in the form of arranged tours where hotel pickup would take you to Swettenham Pier in Georgetown to board a boat that takes 2+ hours to get to the marine park. Departs hotel 0715 and returns 1730.
- Nightlife can be found in Upper Penang Road, opposite the Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel. It is a very popular place to be at night among locals and tourists alike. The rooftop of City Bayview Hotel (right around the corner of the E&O) now host a bar/lounge called Three Sixty Degree Skybar. Just down the road from E&O, “32 at the mansion” has a beach-fronting restaurant/bar. There are local indie band performances on weekends at China House (Victoria Street). Along Weld Quay, there is a lounge/bar called Jammin’ overlooking the pier and adjoining jetties on top of Via Pre, an Italian restaurant. In Batu Ferringhi, Bora Bora (next to the Ship restaurant) is a laid back beach bar where you get sand between your toes over drinks.
Where to Eat:
Penang offers plenty of delicious and cheap Malaysian food, but is famed throughout the rest of the country for some specialities such as Char Kway Teow, Penang Laksa, and Nasi Kandar, which are found practically everywhere on the island. Penang is an island of countless food stalls, a veritable “food paradise”. It is known to many around Asia for its culinary originality and diversity. However, Penangites find good food in many places usually unknown (and even odd) to tourists.
The best way to find good food is to ask the locals. Don’t be surprised that some stalls that are set up beside a busy road or coffee shops located in some inconspicuous back alley are considered to serve very good food by the locals, sometimes even under a tree! The rule of thumb is to be adventurous with your tongue and to look at the condition of the stall and its surroundings. Generally, if a stall is being patronised by many locals, the food will be good to eat.
The locals also developed few mobile applications for both iOS and Android such as threesixty.us, that helps inbound travellers to find good food ranging from street food to fine dining.
For restaurant listings, see Georgetown, Batu Ferringhi, etc.
For the most well-known Char Kway Teow, try “Sister’s Char Koay Teow” at Macalister Road. Sister’s Char Koay Teow however, is widely regarded as overpriced, overrated and unfriendly service by most locals. More popular albeit still relatively expensive Char Koay Teow can be found at Lorong Selamat together with a wide variety of other stalls which are popular with both locals and tourists alike.
- The Royale Bintang Penang, No 1 & 2, Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300, Penang, Malaysia, ☎ (604) 259 8888, . The Royale Bintang Penang is a gorgeous 4-star business hotel in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. It offers different kinds of rooms/suites all equipped with Wireless Internet connection, TV with ASTRO channels, IDD phone, safe, Mini-bar, coffee and tea maker, complimentary bottled water and more. Some of its facilities and services are Business Center, Restaurant, Spa, Gym and Swimming Pool. Get intimate with the area and visit these interesting and key places near the hotel: Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Clan Jetties, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Kuan Yin Temple, Fort Cornwallis.
- Naughty Nuri’s Warung Georgetown, 114, Jalan Burma, 10050 Georgetown, Penang Malaysia, ☎ 0169898628, . 1800-0000. The famous Naughty Nuri’s from Ubud, Bali is in Georgetown too. Cozy Balinese feel of outdoor and indoor seating while eating its famous addictive pork ribs and beer. Some of the add ons like sports channel and pool table adds fun to the night. Located near to Tune Hotel and New World Park.
- Joo Leong Cafe 裕隆茶室 (Sungai Tiram), 179-H, Sungai Tiram, Bayan Lepas, Penang Malaysia, ☎ +60104124865, +60124984865, . 0620-1100 / 1800-2300. Famous for Seafood Porridge, Seafood Instant Noodle, Classic Roti Bakar, Chinese Silver Pomfret Fillets and Fish Balls Rice Noodle (Beehoon), Porridge, Satay, Nasi Lemak, Butter Toast (even for dinner). Glass cup is for double eggs (and people order this during dinner time).
If you’ve been travelling in Singapore or elsewhere in Malaysia, you’ll see some familiar names, but don’t be fooled: Penang laksa or hokkien mee are quite different from what you’d get in, say, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Topping the list are:
- Mee Sotong – Hameed’s spicy Mee Rebus, noodles served with a fishy, spicy sauce made with chilli and cuttle fish, has been at the Kota Selera Hawker Center in Padang Kota Lama (Fort Cornwallis) for nearly 30 years.
- Assam Laksa (亚三叻沙）- A far cry from the sweet, coconutty Singapore version, this noodle soup comes with sour broth flavored with tamarind (assam) with pureed fish, fruits, veggies and a generous helping of chili mixed in. Watch out, the combination is powerful and will have the uninitiated breathing fire! Famous assam laksa include Balik Pulau New Market, Air Itam market, Gottlieb Road, Gurney Drive, etc.
- Penang Char Koay Teow (炒馃条) – The definitive version of the ubiquitous stir-fried flat rice noodles, tossed with bean sprouts, cockles, and anything else the chef has handy. Eggs are additional and cockles can be opt out, if preferred by the customer; request when placing order. Some say the best Char Koay Teow can be found at Lorong Selamat but it costs at least RM8 per plate and that only if you have the patience of a saint to wait for it. Another choice is Ah Leng Char Koay Teow and the Char Koay Teow in Bukit Emas Restaurant, Seberang Perai.
- Penang Nasi Kandar – White rice (nasi) with anything else that you want with it! Usually served with fried chicken, fried fish, prawns, squid, hardboiled eggs, various vegetables, and a curry (which is poured onto the rice). Be careful though! Taking too many of the ‘side dishes’ can be quite expensive. Can be found at various places around Georgetown. The most popular restaurant selling nasi kandar is Nasi Kandar Line Clear in Penang Road , Restoran Kapitan at Chulia Street and Kayu Nasi Kandar in the Bayan Lepas area.
- Hokkien Mee – Two types of noodles in prawn and pork soup with slices of pork, prawns, hard boiled egg, vegetable, beans sprout and sprinkling of deep fried shallots.
- Koay Teow Th’ng （粿条汤）- Flat rice noodles (Koay Teow) in clear chicken soup (Th’ng) with slices of chicken, pork and fish cake. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Some places have duck meat and other organ meats as extras. Some say the shops in Hutton Lane and a couple of shops opposite Tandoori House are a good choices for this dish. You can also get good KTT at Gurney Drive, though at higher prices.
- Lobak, or Lorbak （卤肉）- Minced pork wrapped in tofu skin) – Very famous in Penang, Lorbak is similar to sausage (Lor means a kind of sauce whereas bak means meat in Hokkien). You can choose the accompanying servings of prawn fritters, tofu, fish cakes, Taiwan sausages, century egg (preserved duck egg, unique taste and texture. Usually eaten with pickled young ginger) and others. Locals dip Lorbak in sweet sauce and chilli sauce. Can be found in rather consistent quality all over Penang. Also available at Gurney Drive’s hawker centre and New World Park.
- Penang Sar Hor Fun (炒河粉) – A local dish with koay teow (flat rice cakes) in a delicious broth of beaten eggs and seafood bits. Goes best with pickled green chillies.
- Seafood – As you might expect on an island, seafood is abundant. Head for the fishing village of Teluk Bahang in the north, or go to Batu Maung / Teluk Kumbar in the south for fresh fare at local prices. You can also get good seafood at Batu Ferringhi beach.
- Or Chen (Oyster Omelette) （Chinese：蚝煎）- This is a popular dish available in multiple locations all around Georgetown. The food centre at Gurney Drive is a tourist-friendly place to get an oyster omelette. It is next to the Gurney Plaza shopping centre and a stone’s throw away from G Hotel. Expect to queue for ten to fifteen minutes; the price ranges from RM 8 to RM 16 depending on the portion you are ordering.
- Pasembor (Indian mixed fruits) – Despite its name, this dish does not contain any fruit. Basically it is cucumber plus your chosen ingredients covered in spicy peanut sauce. You can choose to add squid, sausage, tofu, local crackers, crabs, potato, eggs, and fish cake, among other possibilities. Prices range from RM 5 to RM 20, depending on the ingredients you want on your pasembor. Available at the food centre at Gurney Drive.
- Lor Mee (Noodles)卤面 – A bowl of yellow noodles in sticky brown coloured sauce. Unique to this part of Malaysia and a must try, lor mee can be found on the road called “Lebuh Presgrave” in town. There is a little link house converted to a restaurant that serves them. Also available in other hawker centres. Depending on the cook, it may or may not contain innards such as intestines, stomach, and liver. You can ask them first and if they do serve innards, you may request a serving without them. Lor mee are commonly served with shreds of chicken breast and some pork slices. Prices range from RM 3 to RM 6.
- Satay (Malay: sate) 沙爹- the famous meat-on-a-stick, is a traditional Malay food typically made from marinated meat – chicken, mutton or beef, skewered onto bamboo sticks and grilled over hot charcoals. A fresh salad of cucumbers & onions are served together with a spicy-sweet peanut dipping sauce for dipping.
- Nutmeg, (豆蔻) products – In traditional medicine, nutmeg oil or balm were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. Preserved nutmeg strips either in dry or wet form are used as a snack by locals.
- Traditional biscuits such as Tambun Pneah (淡文饼), Beh Teh Sor (马蹄酥), Heong Pneah (香饼), Pong Pneah (清糖饼), Tau Sar Pneah (豆沙饼) and etc.
- Kaya, (a type of jam) – A mixture of eggs and cocount milk to be spread over anything you want. According to some, the best kaya is at a little coffee shop at the end of Madras Lane. To impress the locals, order some kaya toast and dip it in some half-boiled egg.
- Coconut tart – If you have eaten egg tart before then instead of the egg put in some coconut and voila! You get coconut tart and definitely the best is at Cintra Lane.
- Cendol – A mixture of blended ice with big mushy red beans with gula melaka (brown sugar) thrown in. This will satisfy anyone even if it is raining. Cendol can be found anywhere but the best is at Penang Road.
* Information from Wikitravel