Gourmets and gourmands rejoice! The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ is a thriving melting pot of a city where everyone is a certified foodie. Rich culture and traditions give rise to lingering scents of irresistible food from all corners of Malaysia, as the island’s heritage is proudly and fiercely preserved without resisting the flood of modernity. What do you need for your pilgrimage to this food mecca? Just comfortable shoes and a large pack of indigestion relief.
Best of Penang
1. George Town
Step into George Town’s many quaint streets such as Armenian Street and Acheh Street, and you’ll find a place where time stands still. Here in this UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll find well-preserved colonial-era structures, including temples, mosques and churches. Attractions such as the recently added street artworks by Ernest Zacharevic are also popular.
2. Batu Ferringhi
Tourists will love the colourful night market along Ferringhi Beach. In front of the stretch of bars and hotels is a night market that sells every tourist’s dream souvenirs – lanterns, key chains, novelty tees, floats, swimwear, accessories, bags and many others. Come over for some trinket shopping, get a foot massage across the street or just hop on to one of the many famous bars along the street.
3. Kek Lok Si Temple
There is no missing the Temple of Supreme Bliss, its many towers sprawled atop a hillside, and a giant 36.5 metre high statue of the Goddess of Mercy standing tall at the summit. The view is fantastic, but more so during festive periods such as Chinese New Year when you’ll find the entire place decorated with hundreds of lanterns – quite a sight for all visitors. If walking’s not your thing, there is a mini funicular train that takes you to the top.
4. Penang Hill
Hike up or ride a Swiss-made funicular train to the former British hill station. The panoramic vistas and the cool breeze will make the trip worth it when the haze clears. You might even spot small mammals and bird species native to the island!
5. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
You’ll know it as “the blue mansion”, but the eye-catching indigo blue structure with detailed Feng Shui elements weaved into the Anglo-Indian architecture was named one of the ‘10 Greatest Mansions in the World’ by Lonely Planet. A tour will let you learn the rich history behind the mansion and find out more about the influential Cheong Fatt Tze himself, surrounded by the mansion’s historic splendour.
6. Khoo Kongsi
Shining brighter than the sun itself is the grand clan-house for the Khoo family. Intricate carvings bearing the mark of skilled craftsmen from China cover the temple’s exterior, whilst wood made from the finest quality make for sturdy beams. One of Penang’s finest, the temple is a hotspot for Chinese Opera performances during the 7th lunar month.
7. Penang Botanical Gardens
Come over to this huge garden to get close to nature, and join the locals on their jogs, walks, treks, aerobic dances and even Tai Chi practices amidst lush greenery. The garden also plays host to the Penang International World Music Festival and the annual Penang International Floral Fest.
8. Suffolk House
The great house stood on a lush green lawn – a picture of calm serenity amidst its colonial magnificence. The recently restored 200-year old mansion owned by Francis Light (the founder of Penang’s British Settlement) is now a fine dining restaurant and mini museum. The halls are luxuriously decorated with framed art paintings and resplendent mirrors.
9. Penang Butterfly Farm
Let thousands of butterflies surround you at this delightful farm, a favourite amongst Penangites. You’ll be surprised by the unusual insectsand creatures in the farm’s ever-growing collection. Don’t forget your camera—it’s a macro photographer’s dream!
10. Tropical Spice Garden
Spice up your Penang holiday with a stroll along three garden trails and even cooking classes at the garden, awarded the Excellence Award in Best of Malaysia 2012 by Expatriate Lifestyle magazine. One of the island’s top eco-friendly attractions, it is famed for its well-thought-out landscaping and picturesque setting.
11. Escape Park
Combining fun with nature, Escape is a family theme park filled with challenging activities for young and old. Swing from tree to tree and leap through the air with ‘Atan’s Leap’, or climb and balance like a pro with the three levels at ‘Monkey Business’. All visitors should always try the ‘Tubby Racer’ where you tube downhill, or unleash the Indiana Jones in you and climb through a series of rock tunnels and gaps in ‘Foxy Burrow’. So much to do in Escape Park!
12. Penang Food
Ask any local where to find the best local bites – char kuey teow, assam laksa, cendol, ais kacang, Hokkien mee, nasi kandar and many more! Regardless of where they point to, you’ll be assured that the food will be impeccably good! The birthplace of many famous Malaysian dishes, thestreets of Penang such as Lorong Selamat, Macalister Road and Kimberly Street are filled with variations of the classics.