Welcome to Penang, Malaysia’s paradise and the world renowned exotic holiday destination. This island was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008. Long ago in the past, it was known by the name Pulau Pinang or the “Isle of the Betel Nut”. There is so much on offer in terms of beaches, nightlife, food, culture, art, history that its considered a perfect combo of leisure, history and culture.
Penang, a former British colony, is a huge Malaysian island state located on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The state of Penang comprises the mainland and the island, but here I will focus on Penang the island which is the tourist heaven, where the majority of travelers spend their time. There is another huge island beside Penang, named Langkawi, which is another tourist attraction and very different than Penang. But I will cover Langkawi in another blog post.
Also Read Penang 3 Day itinerary
Also Read Tips for Langkawi-Malaysia
Also Read How to apply for Malaysia eNTRI Visa
Penang is named as the Pearl of the Orient and has popularly come to be now known as one amazing melting pot of diversity in Malaysia, where you find a wonderful mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures. Even food, so dont be surprised when you find quite a few South Indian restaurants in Georgetown, South Indian temples playing carnatic music and the shops selling Indian wares. I am honestly surprised when most travelers miss this beautiful island when travelling Malaysia. Agreed its a bit far, but thats no reason to miss it. It has a beautiful mix of British architecture, history, art, food, old town romance, culture, and relaxation that is rarely seen anywhere in South East Asia. In fact, Penang’s legendary street hawker foods and street art have been featured in numerous magazines the world over. A perfect trip to Penang involves a fair mix of all of these and a little more. No wonder it is high up on every traveler’s bucket list!
Gorgetown is the maintown of attraction and is the cultural melting pot. Buddhist, Chinese and Indian culture and food all over the place. Narrow streets speak volumes of the past and its beautiful how amazingly well preserved all the houses are. This is one of my favorite places to stay when in Penang. Also the street art is Phenomenal and is literally everywhere. Their exact locations are on the tourist map, but requires quite a walk to explore some of the really famous ones. But its worth it, especially the ones in Armenian Street.
Penang is also known famous for its pristine and soft sandy beaches. The beaches have quite a lot of watersports to keep you entertained. And there are lot of interesting beaches in Penang including Tanjung Bungah. being an island city, you are never really far away from the beaches. But its also interesting to note that this island city has quite a few mountains and mountain trails and also the Penang Hill Railway known as Funicular. The view from atop the Penang Hill is splendid and even on a hot afternoon, the weather is pretty chilled on top of the hill. Another interesting place I visited was the Snake Temple which has live Vipers everywhere. They are out in the open and worshiped. But its scary as they are literally everywhere. its important to hire a motorbike as all the places are far and cannot be covered by the city bus. You can also explore the Tropical Spice Garden which the claim is only spice garden in South East Asia.
In Penang, one of the most famous places is George Town and its heritage houses. Penang houses, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site one of those cities frozen in time but also having a modern lifestyle beautifully complimenting it. It is also home to the biggest collection of most beautiful heritage monuments comprising pre-Second World War buildings and shops. In any new city, we usually one attraction after another. But it will be wise to say that the entire city of Penang is the attraction here. Look in any direction and travel in any direction. It is simply beautiful getting lost in its maze of buildings without any real agenda and still end up feeling you had a wonderful time.
Penang is an island and so will generally hot and humid all year round. However, it’s particularly hot in March, April, and May. It is recommended that December to February is the best time to visit. August to November are the wettest months of the year. Max day temperatures can hit a high of 35 degrees in summer. So it can be hot in summers, but not unbearably so in other months. But it can rain at any time of the year. So you have to be prepared for that.
To reach Penang, you can fly here directly from Kuala Lumpur. Penang has an International airport and so you can book your flights directly to here. You can also take a Bus or a train from Kuala Lumpur city. Busses and Trains are at fairly regular intervals. The bus route is scenic as well. The bus journey ends at George Town or Butterworth bus stations. Local cabs and Grab taxies are easily available.
You can stay anywhere on the island as its very well connected to all parts. The main point of attraction is George Town, the place of heritage buildings, cultural mix, and street food. Therefore George Town is the place to be, and you will find a lot of options to stay here for every budget.
Major languages spoken in Penang are Malay, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tamil. But English is widely spoken, so you will not feel lost. During the 2012 George Town Festival Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist, created 6 wall paintings. They depicted the local inhabitants, their local culture, their lifestyles. Several iron art fixtures have also been installed throughout George Town, with each caricature detailing the city’s heritage.
Georgetown is also a photographer delight apart from the art installations. You will also find a lot of excellent coffee shops called kopitiams. Infact there are so many exquisite coffee shops that for a moment you will think you are in Paris. The artistic vibe on the city streets has encouraged creative coffee shops and relaxed restaurants. There are a lot of options to
George Town also houses the Little India colony. This is just like stepping into a little part of India. Suddenly you are in a different world. Different people, different clothes, different languages, beautiful temples, beautiful flower decorations and oh yes, the aroma of Indian food. Oh, my heart just melted. The buzzing streets are full of shops of rainbow-colored sarees and dresses, spice-scented Indian grocery stores, Indian Hindu temples, tempting Indian restaurants, and Indian music playing over loudspeakers.
For me, the trip has always been leisure, drinking in equal measure of cuisine, art, history, culture, beach activites and much more. i dont even have words to express how at home I feel in Penang. In addition, its also a very modern city with high rise residential buildings and malls, so you never really feel out of place. My favorite activity is to grab a bycycle or a scooty and go exploring on my own, stopping midway fo cool fresh fruit shake or the wonderful streetfood on offer. Time does not fly and so you really cam explore a lot here. I spent 4-5 days on each of my visits here. I may go back for more. Yes that how amazing this place is. Truly a gem in Malaysia.
More in future blogs. Stay tuned. Until then enjoy the pictures. Cheers and happy travels.