All I knew about Penang was that it was an amazing place to sample an array of different cuisines – they have the some of the best Chinese, Malaysian and Indian dishes in this small island.
However there is more to it – Georgetown, which is the main hub of Penang is an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. People of different backgrounds and races have lived in harmony here for many years. The historical buildings have been well preserved and are still standing – it’s a very fascinating place to explore.
Besides the cultural and historical side to this city, as an island there are a few beaches available to go and relax at.
I think we had one of the best stays in Penang, which was all thanks to Danny, the owner of the Friendly Green House we stayed at in Georgetown. He took us:
- to a private beach to see the sunset, but unfortunately the clouds had gathered and the rain had started by the time we reached it. Then we headed straight for some yummy seafood at a local restaurant.
- to eat lots of local famous cuisines around Georgetown. You can read our ‘Penang – Foodie Recommendations’ post.
- to see half of Penang lit up at night.
- lent us some bicycles so we cycled around an hour and a half to get to the Kek Lok Si, a Buddhist temple in Air Itam.
Penang is also the first place, besides Kuala Lumpur, that had a decent public transport route!! The rapid Penang buses are all fully air-conditioned and run frequently. They also have a free shuttle bus (CAT), which provides a hop on and hop off service in Georgetown. This is a great way to visit and see the attractions because you don’t have to think of other modes of transport to get you from one tourist attraction to the next, which is just a pain. The map/routes can here found here. The best thing to do is go to the bus terminal and get a map of the route it goes.
Penang Tropical Fruit Farm
This fruit farm was built to preserve Penang’s green heritage. They have all types of local fruits as well as fruits from around the world (around 250 species in total). This 25-acre farm is big. We took the tour, which was 40RM per person (not including 6% GST), and this included a fruit platter and juice at the end. The tour was really interesting. I didn’t know what half of the plants were and how they were grown or what they looked like in their natural state. There was nutmeg, cinnamon, pomelo, kiwi, papaya trees, dragonfruit, mango, durian, jackfruit, water apple, rambutan, longan, mangosteen, pineapple, lemongrass bush and many others we had not heard of before. The fruit platter was really yummy, we went for 2 rounds and then had a papaya with milk juice, which was refreshing.
To get here you have to get the 101 bus to Teluk Behang and then wait for the 501 bus to the fruit farm. Note the 501 bus is every 2 hours!!
After the fruit farm you have to take the 101 bus back to central Georgetown. We decided to stop of at the Spice Gardens to have a look around. I did feel a bit disappointed as there were lots of different spices and herbs but some had not grown yet so there wasn’t much to see. They have an audio tour which was great and told you about the history and how they were brought to Malaysia.
Admission is 26RM per person. Remember to make use of the citronella oil provided or the mosquitos will make a meal out of you.
3D Art Museum
Quite a good way to spend a couple of hours. This museum has life size figures that protrude from the walls and with the painted backgrounds create a 3D effect, which you can capture on your camera.
Admission is 25RM per person.
Pinang Pernankan Mansion
I think this is my favourite bit of Penang. The mansion is home to a Kapitan Cina – Cheung Keng Kwee and coming to see his house was breathtaking. These Kaptians, which can be found all our Southeast Asia had immense power, influenced and contributed to social and economic development in areas under their jurisdiction. They made their money either in opium or in tin mining, for example, and these Pernanakans (also known as Babas and Nyonyas) lead an interesting life. They adopted the Malay ways and the colonial British lifestyle, which is reflected in this house. The mansion itself is divided up into separate areas, each one so grand, so lavish – they seriously had a lot of money. Even the buttons on the children’s clothing were made out of gold. They had a headdress and jewellery on show that were made out of the feathers of the kingfisher. I would definitely recommend coming to have a look at this house.
In and around Georgetown
There are plenty of hawkers stalls and buildings to explore. We also travelled to see the clan jetties near the ferry terminal – see the old ways of life, which is still being preserved although many of the young children have now moved into the city to find work.
Penang is definitely worth visiting!
Next on our list in Langkawi, an island near to Thailand. You may think of 5 star luxury, endless pampering, pristine beaches – stayed tuned for our next post.