What are you thinking when you hear the word Penang? An area in Malaysia that is quite popular after Kuala Lumpur? The next area of exploration where you can enjoy various activities and enjoyment? Whatever your reason is, Penang can be an exciting place to travel and explore. If you are bored with the layout and condition of Kuala Lumpur, you can probably try other places in Malaysia, including Penang. So, what are your options and choices?
About Penang in General
The name Penang originated from ‘pinang’ or Malaysian word for betel nut. This is a cosmopolitan place, the second busiest and most crowded spot in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur. Besides the modern highlights, this place is also known for its unique cultural and beauty appeal.
This island is rich in its cultural aspect, especially the Chinese culture. That’s why you can find a lot of museums, beautiful beaches, ruins, temples, and also preserved forests in Penang. Not to mention that this is also known as the country’s food capital unofficially – which makes it more special. There are tons of attractive places to explore in Penang and there are different places for different purposes.
General Tourist Destinations
There are some places in Penang that are just for everyone. Whether you are travelling alone, with friends, or with families, these spots will pamper everyone. Both adults and kids will definitely enjoy the view and activities provided there.
1. Georgetown Exploration
Georgetown is the capital area of Penang and it has unique heritage constructions of the past. You can find British heritage houses, mansions, religious sites, Chinese shop-houses, and also colonial buildings. No wonder if this area is included in within World Heritage Site from UNESCO. Malaysia has a diverse city and it is reflected in Harmony Street.
If you want to explore every corner of Harmony Street, try the trishaw ride. It is unique and you don’t have to exhaust yourself. You can also take pictures with street graffiti as the background. the wall graffiti and paintings can be found in Cannon Street, Armenian Street, Ah Quee Street, and Acheen Street.
2. Adventure play Escape Theme Park
Escape is one of the latest and most modern theme adventure parks in Penang. It has obstacle courses, water slides, and other family-friendly enjoyment and activities that will offer entertainment, fund, and joy for both adults and kids. Since the park is relatively new, not many people know the adventure park. But I can’t guarantee that you may find a very quiet spot by the time you come to this place.
3. Museum Exploration
As it was mentioned before, Penang is filled with museums because of the rich cultural heritage. There are different museums for everyone – family-friendly museums, fun museums, and even quirky ones. For instance, if you are a foodie, you should visit Wonderfood Museum with the giant food replica of Malaysian foods and cuisine. There is also a Trick Art Museum with its unique setting – perfect for your photo background. There is also Dark Mansion Museum with its paintings – both in 2D and 3D forms. If you like vintage toys, there is Ben’s Museum for Vintage Toy. It is a cool place with lots of vintage toys, such as antique aircraft, old trains, classic robots, and space toys.
4. Penang Hill
This is hill resort with some peaks situated in Bukit Bendera or Flagstaff Hill. You can find a lot of things there, including museums, some points with Insta-worthy appeal, mosques, and temples. The view is just amazing! That’s why a lot of people would be willing to spend extra efforts to reach the top. The only way to reach the area is via funicular train that takes you up to 833 meters.
Nature Explorations and Tourists Destinations
If you are into nature exploration and you like outdoor travel, there are some spots in Penang that will pique your interest. They are natural. They are beautiful. Each of them has their own appeal so it is worth to check them one by one.
1. Recreational Forest Bukit Mertajam
Located at 475 meters above the sea level, this recreational forest covers 37 hectares of land, mostly filled with hilly and lush terrain. The forest has various streams and camping sites that are perfect for your outdoor adventure. There is also a hiking track stretches over 4 kilometres of area, leading to the peak. If you want to go through the track, you will see a small waterfall in case you want to take a dip or simply rest while enjoying the view. This forest is 18 kilometres away from Butterworth Ferry terminal.
2. Mengkuang Dam
The dam is located in Wellesley Province. In fact, it is the only dam there. It is located 28 kilometres northeast from Butterworth Ferry terminal. The dam has its beautiful park with jogging trails. Not only it has an amazing view, but the trail is passing a rubber plantation and orchards. The dam was opened officially in 1985 and it has 300 visitors per day. This is the location where the Dragon Boat International festival is held. You can use the bus 24 from Bukit Mertajam to reach Mengkuang Dam. But a lot of people find it easier and more convenient to use the car.
3. Penang Botanic Garden
This garden has impressive collections of plants within its 29 hectares of well-maintained and green land. It is both a recreational spot as well as an educational place for everyone. It has its own lush park or hiking track. You can reach the garden on foot from Pengkalan Weld. You can also use transit bus link number 10.
4. Forest Park Bukit Panchor
The recreational park is small but it is well maintained and built. The park is situated in Nibong Tebal which is close to Seberang Perai, covering 8 hectares of forest. It is rich in lush vegetation and flowing river. If you want to escape the hustle and crowd of the big city, you should head here. You can find wetland boardwalk, bat caves, and mangrove habitat here.
Religious Travel Destinations
There are tons of mosques and temples on this island. Religious life is quite diverse in this place, so you have a lot of options when you want to come to mosques or temples.
1. Nattukotar Chettiar Temple
If you are seeking for the biggest Hindu temple on the island, you should head here. Besides being the biggest, it is also the most popular Hindu religious spot on the island. The temple is on Jalan Kebun Bunga and it was constructed to dedicate to Lord Thandayuthapani in 1854. Who built it? It was the Chettiar community, which is immigrants from Pudukottai and Sivagangai districts of Tamil Nadu in India.
2. Han Jiang Ancestral Temple
If you want to see the only temple with Teochew-style construction, you should come to Georgetown. The temple is run by Teochew Penang Association, awarded for 20016 Culture Heritage Conservation by Asia Pacific UNESCO Heritage. The temple was originally constructed to honour North Taoist God, who is the patron deity of Teochew.
3. Kuan Yin Temple
This is the oldest temple that was built to honour Kuan Yin or Mercy, the Chinese goddess and important Buddhist deity. Some people may refer to the temple as The Goddess of Mercy Temple. It was built at the very early of the 1800s by the Chinese immigrant settlers. That’s why it has a classic and artistic Chinese architectural style.
4. Kapitan Keling Mosque
This is the first mosque ever built in Penang before the 20th century. It makes it the oldest and also the biggest mosque in the place. The mosque was named after the leader of the Indian Moslem community. It has a unique and beautiful construction, with its copper domes in Moghul-style and low walls. If you want to enter the mosque, you need to ask permission first from the officials. It is situated in the busy and crowded junction of Jalan Buckingham and Lebuh Chulia. Visitors must dress appropriately and decently and they can’t wear shoes inside it.
Historical and Cultural Travel Destinations
Penang has long years and decades of history and also cultural diversity (contributing to its richness). There are some interesting places that you can visit while you are in Penang. It allows you to learn more about the cultural and historical aspect of the island.
1. Penang Peranakan Mansion
If you want to know the lifestyle of a Peranakan tycoon, you can come to this stately century-old mansion. You can see its tradition and also custom. This place serves as a museum for Peranakan heritage. It once belonged to Captain Chung Keng Kwee, a rich and well-known Baba leader
2. Clan Jetties
This is another part and aspect of the Penang Heritage Trail. Originally, there were 7 jetties but now there are only 6. Each of it was named after Chinese clans. The one that is most popular because of the traveller-friendly nature is Chew Jetty. It has a temple and also the longest walkway with stilt houses along its side.
3. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
It is a unique and artistic boutique hotel that was constructed with Hakka-Teochew traditional style. The hotel is situated in Leith Street 14 and it was built in the 1880s. The hotel was constructed by Cheong Fatt Tze an affluent and self-made trader. The hotel has 38 rooms, 7 staircases, 5 granite-paved courtyards, and also 220 windows from timber-frame.
4. Hainanese Mariners’ Lodge
The place was built by 49 Hainanese sailors before World War II. They collected resources so they could build a clubhouse and a lodge. Somehow, it became an internal part of the community. When the sailors moved away in the 1980s and also 1990s, the building was then rented to Penang Heritage Trust. The place has been restored and it is now a popular tourist destination.
Penang has some of the best local foods that you must try! There are some options and suggestions to pamper your taste bud.
1. Naan and Tandoori Chicken
Don’t forget to find a popular restaurant, the Kapitan, with its great Tandoori chicken and Naan. The chicken is great and it only costs you $2.50 a portion. The restaurant is located in Lebuh Chulia 93 in Georgetown.
2. Murtabak or Stuffed Flat Bread
This is a folded flatbread that is pan-fried. It can be plain but it generally has chicken stuffing – which can be egg and mutton too – served with pickled onions and lentil curry. It is somewhat gooey and sloppy, but it is delicious. Find it at Hammediyah located in Lebuh Campbell 164 in Georgetown.
It is a Chinese and fresh spring roll – not processed in a deep-fried manner. The outer has thin crepe form while the inside has saucy ingredients, like fried tofu, soybean curd, shredded eggs, and grated turnips. The texture is soft and sweet. It can be consumed by dipping in a sweet chilli sauce. Find it at New Lane Hawker Center in Lorong Baru.
How to Reach Penang
Transportation is one of the best infrastructure features in Malaysia so it is pretty easy to reach Penang. If you want to fly there, you will arrive at the International Airport Penang. You can use MAS or Malaysian Airlines to reach Penang or to leave it. The airport also caters to budget airlines like Firefly and AirAsia. If you use the car, you will access the North-South highway connecting Penang to other big cities on the western side of Malaysia Peninsula. Butterworth is the main entry point in the island. From there, you can spend 4 to 5 hours driving.
If you use the train, use the national train, KTMB. It has a daily route from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, and vice versa. If you use the train, it takes 6 hours of the trip. You can also reach Penang from Kedah. There is a train service from Alor Setor to Penang.
If you want to explore Penang, the most popular transportation is to use buses, taxis, and cars. You can always rent a car although it may be better if you charter the car service. Malaysian drivers are notorious and Penang is known for tricky routes and narrow alleys.
Penang can be your alternative destination if you want to come to Malaysia and yet you don’t want to visit Kuala Lumpur – again and again. Once you know some of the best travel destinations in Penang, you will have an enjoyable and memorable trip.