Penang is one of my favourite places I have ever been to. There’s something so charming and welcoming about it. The locals want the tourists to fall in love with it as much as they love it. How nice is that! If you love quirkiness, street art, food and a real mix of cultures, the Penang is absolutely perfect for you. It may be small but there’s plenty to do and see.
It is a brilliant mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian due to Penang being heavily involved in the spice trade and it being located on the India-China Naval route. So naturally there’s a bit of everything going on and they love to celebrate this in their annual George Town Festival.
Penang is easy to get to from Kuala Lumpur. I travelled there by bus to Butterworth where you then hop on the ferry over to the island. Alternatively you can get the train from KL to Penang which goes through some amazing scenery. Simple! It really is a fabulous place to visit, and here are 7 things you absolutely must check out in Penang.
EXPLORE GEORGE TOWN
in 2008, George Town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to many of the Chinese shops, houses and buildings dotted around the island. The architecture is beautiful and be sure to spend time wandering down the roads such as Love Lane, King Street, Carnarvon Street and Pitt Street. The chances are that you will be based pretty close so make sure you have a good look round both in the day and at night as the atmosphere is brilliant! Just a little bit away from these streets you will find Port Cornwallis, the largest standing fort in Malaysia which was built during the British Colonial period when Sir Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company landed.
JOIN IN WITH THE STREET ART
George Town is a street artist’s heaven. It is everywhere and it really represents the history and day to day life of the Penangites (brilliant name!). You will see beautiful wrought iron pieces which often tells stories of Penang as well as beautiful paintings which have been brought to life with real objects incorporated into them that you can sit on. It’s great for some fun photos and you can go from piece to piece and see so much of Penang. The Penang Tourism site has a map of the street art locations so you can find them all.
SCOFF THE LOCAL FOOD
Penang is known the food paradise and has some of the best food in South East Asia. And they ain’t lying! The street food is delicious and there’s a million and one dishes to feast on. There’s something so nice about throwing yourself into the street food culture and eating outside! Don’t forget to get something sweet for after also. Indian Jalebi is my personal favourite. There are also loads of restaurants and cafes to escape the humidity and enjoy a refreshment.
VISIT THE TEMPLES
As Penang is so diverse, there are some beautiful temples to visit. The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi temple is known as ‘Heritage Jewel of Penang’ is a stunning Chinese Clan house to visit, along with the Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi temple. Don’t miss on on visiting some Hindu temples also – I loved the Sri Mahamariamman temple with its tall incredibly ornate front.
I absolutely love going to a view point when I’m travelling, and if you do too, Penang Hill is a must. You can get a local bus (no. 204) to the site. You can then get the funicular (brilliant word) train up the hill to get fantastic views of the whole of Penang and even over to Langkawi. There is also the beautiful Kek Lok Si temple to visit at the top.
CHILL OUT AT BATU FERRINGHI
A short bus ride North of George Town is the cute and beachy area of Batu Ferringhi. It’s a great place to chill out and there’s a fantastic food and night market to explore. The sea isn’t the beautiful crystal clear water that you might see elsewhere, but the beach is beautifully clean and it was pretty empty when I was there.
SEE THE MONKEYS AT THE NATIONAL PARK
A visit to the National Park is a must, and it’s only a short bus ride from Batu Ferringhi. There a number of walks to choose from but I headed to Teluk Duyung beach to see the monkeys! They are so sweet but be careful with your stuff and don’t take food with you as they will take anything they can get hold of! It takes the best part of an hour trekking through the forest to get to the beach but it’s so worth it and you get to have a refreshing dip in the sea. There’s also the option to get a boat back to the entrance rather than walking which is perfect!