What is Penang famous for?
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The city of Penang has always been a personal favorite destination in Asia. Even back in colonial times, travelers and immigrants from all over the world would flock to its shores. Penang Malaysia was inscribed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2001, as this beautiful paradise offers a rich culture and natural scenery that attracts people.
During my previous visit in 2019, there are a lot of things we did from exploring the beautiful streets of Penang where most art murals are, or strolling around its famous beach which is Tanjung Bungah. You can also visit the nooks and crannies of Georgetown and the Tropical Spice Garden where you’ll get to experience the best of Malaysian culture.
Known as Malaysia’s best foodie destination, Penang is a world-class captivating holiday spot famous for its sandy coasts and its plethora of exotic food. No wonder their locals call it the food capital of Malaysia.
Since there is no direct flight from Manila to Penang, you can book a connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) via the AirAsia website.
In case you’re going to visit Penang, we listed below are the best things to do while you’re there.
Exploring the Penang National Park
Well, nature might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Penang, but Penang’s National Park has a lot to offer, from their gorgeous trails to beaches there are so many things for you to explore. Penang National Park has two trails – one leads to an old lighthouse that was built in 1883, and the other to Kerachut Beach, which has a Turtle Conservation Centre, a perfect place for a day of picnics, swimming, and trekking.
Take the tram up to Penang Hill
The trip up to Penang Hill is also part of the fun. Tourists can take the Penang Hill Railway, one of the oldest funicular systems. The tour takes you past dense jungle and the occasional old bungalow. The railway starts from Air Itam, and you will have to change trains twice.
Occupy Penang’s Beach Street
Lebuh Pantai, or famously known as Beach Street, is taken over every Sunday by vendors who sell a host of gifts, food, and games. It’s part of an initiative that aims to boost the city as a tourist destination, to showcase local artisans, and promote a healthy lifestyle.
The street is divided into four unique Zones, with each Zone supporting a different activity. Here, you can get a henna tattoo or a cool face painting, or join in making some local crafts. Take note that Beach Street takes place only every Sunday, from 7 am to 1 pm.
Take a calming stroll through Penang Botanic Gardens
Penang Botanical Gardens features a diverse range of local plants that visitors can admire. Most famous among these are the cannonball tree; its trunk is wrapped with vines of showy flowers, and large, round fruits, and the Sengkuang tree, which has large buttress roots.
Aside from that, you can also stroll amongst the many hills and try to spot the garden’s other inhabitants, black giant squirrels, dusky leaf monkeys, and long-tailed macaques. But do remember that the monkeys are wild animals, and there is a fine for feeding them.
Stroll or dine by the sea at Gurney Drive
Gurney Drive is most famous for Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. In the past, the hawker stalls were located at the seafront, but they have since been relocated. Now, besides eating your fill at the hawker center, there are also other things you can do at Gurney Drive.
A stroll along the promenade in the evening offers excellent views of the sunset. You can also stop by Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon to shop. Both shops provide trendy and international brands such as Fossil, Sephora and H&M and other foreign brands. Some more unique shops to stop by would be Analogue Kaki, a store that specializes in analog film equipment and Rivet, a lifestyle loft that sells rustic and chic home accessories.
Never miss a tour of Penang’s Street Art
Last 2012, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Georgetown Festival. Since then, every corner of the street is now considered as an Instagram-worthy spot perfect for travelers who love posting beautiful pictures.
Perhaps the best thing about the murals is how they celebrate the energy and life within Georgetown. Some of the artworks are very popular, so expect a long line before you can take your pictures!
Take a trishaw ride through Penang’s heritage streets
Georgetown is a walkable city, but if you want to travel the streets in style, then go for a trishaw ride. It’s a slower way to travel compared to a taxi or bus, but slowing down gives you the chance to drink in the nook and crannies of Georgetown, and it’s a novel experience in itself. The trishaw riders are also full of information about tourist attractions, thanks to their government’s training.
Admire the wide range of architecture around central Georgetown
To all the architecture-lovers, Georgetown is jam-packed with a wide range of architectural styles. Thanks to the diverse inhabitants of the island, the colonial architecture, of which you can see many different kinds, and it’s fascinating to see how colonial architecture blends with Chinese and Moorish styles as well. Apart from the usual shophouses, you can also see grand mansions, temples, mosques, and churches.
The best part about wandering about Georgetown is that you don’t just get to see the architecture. Maybe you’ll stumble across some great food, local shops, or some street art. A stroll about downtown Georgetown is sure to give you some insight into local life as well as architecture.
Tour the six Clan Jetties on the waterfront
Perched on the backwaters of Georgetown, the six Clan Jetties hark back to a time when Penang was an important maritime port and immigrants came to make their fortune. The six Clan Jetties are Chinese settlements and are made of houses built on stilts over the water. Each jetty is home to a different clan – Lim, Chew, Tan, Yeoh, Koay, Lee and married surnames. Relationships between the families were bitter, and fights would often break out.
The Chew Jetty is the most established, with the most houses and a souvenir shop. Do note that people still live in the houses, so be respectful during the visit! The jetties can be found at Weld Quay, near to Penang Ferry Terminal.
Dance all night long at Starz Club Penang
If you don’t want to miss the nightlife at Penang, you should start wearing your dancing shoes and head over the Starz Club Penang. It is a high energy club that features excellent DJs that will make you groove to the beat. Not to mention, with an overflowing drink in Starz Club Penang, and it’s delicious food, you will surely create unforgettable memories with friends or the people that you will meet there.
Cheer your lungs out at City Stadium, Penang
Never let your Penang Malaysia adventure end without watching a live football game at the City Stadium in George Town. You can bring your family or friends and together scream in solidarity and support for your favorite team. And to make your experience more enjoyable, don’t forget to try out the delicious snacks at the surrounding food stalls.
Enjoy a night filled with lights at Kek Lok Si Temple
Standing tall on the Air Itam hilltop near Penang Hill is the famous Kek Lok Si known as the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia. The temple has three zones wherein the temple grounds cover the hill entrance, food stalls, and the beautiful turtle liberation pond wherein you’ll experience the best of Malaysian culture.
Extra tip: It’s a good idea to visit this place during the night when the streets are livelier, and the whole area shines because of the lights surrounding the temple.
Walk among the snakes at the Snake Temple
If you’re a thrill-seeker and one who lives for adventure, the Penang Snake Temple is something that will surely get your blood pumping. The Snake Temple was built in 1805. Legend has it that when it was made, snakes, particularly pit vipers, starting taking shelter in the temple. The monk who built the temple allowed them to stay, and the snakes have been coming ever since.
With the free-roaming snakes in the area, so far, there have been no records of someone being bitten at the Snake Temple. All the same, watch where you step and exercise caution! Snake Temple is a bit out of the way compared to other temples, but if you have children, then this will be interesting for them.
A little adventure to pump up your adrenaline at Penang Ghost Museum
Another must-experience destination in Georgetown Penang, this Ghost Museum is something you shouldn’t miss when in Malaysia. It’s like a horror house ideal for visitors who love scary things. A lot of tourists who visited the place compliments the way the whole site is being set up and how it’s a genuinely terrifying experience. If you’re after a little adventure, then don’t forget to check this one out.
The part we’ve all been waiting for … food!
We can’t say enough about Penang’s street food. This island is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, and the food scene is a beautiful reflection of that. At Penang, you’ll find roadside pushcarts and packed hawker centers that serve up a variety of Chinese, Malay, and Indian dishes. From oily, stir-fried char kway teow to curry-drenched plates of Nasi Kandar, Penang’s street food might not be the healthiest, but no trip is complete without trying at least one or two dishes!
Some of the most popular dishes that Penang that you should not miss are char kway teow, Asam laksa, and cendol. Hawker food can be found in nearly any street of Penang, but to see everything in one place, stop by hawker centers such as Joo Hooi Café or the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.
A visit to Penang, Malaysia, is one of the best places you can go to whether you’re after an excellent adventure or soul search, it’s something you should see. If ever you decide to take a leap of faith and jump on the next plane towards Malaysia, listed above are the best things to do for travelers like you!
Penang Travel and Tour Packages