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Pulau Pinang Tourism Highlights
My Top Ten Hotspots
Situated off the north west coast of peninsular Malaysia, Penang is only a short distance from the border with Thailand, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and Pulau Pinang tourism has a lot to offer the discerning traveller.
Penang is a tropical island, that built its wealth on passing trade, many years ago during the days of the British Empire. The Peranakans, also known as the Babas and Nyonyas, played a significant part in Penang trade. They were native Chinese, often educated in English, who moved to Penang, Malacca and Singapore to make money. Many of these Chinese went on to marry Malays, and as they assimilated into the ways of the local people, and later the colonial British, they created a unique lifestyle and set of customs that are still visible in Penang today.
After being relegated from being an important port, when Singapore began to dominate Southeast Asian trade, Penang became run down and the buildings were left to decay. An unintentional plus side of this was that many original buildings remained from the colonial period, and part of George Town was fortunate enough to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.
Many areas of George Town are now being gradually restored and a limit has been placed upon the kind of new buildings that are allowed to be constructed.
It is not possible to talk about my Penang without mentioning food. Penang became a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indians and Europeans and the island's food represents the ethnic diversity of its population, including such well known dishes as Satay, Penang Laksa and Nasi Kandar.
From Hawker stalls to 5* restaurants, coffee shops to top hotels, Penang has it all, and I have reviewed several eating and drinking venues as part of my top eleven places to visit.
For two happy years I lived on the island of Penang, and I want to share with you some of my favourite places.
Please come with me as we take a peek at my Pulau Pinang tourism favorites as we take an island tour of Penang.
Selamat datang ke Pulau Pinang saya— Welcome to my Penang Island!
Useful Bahasa Malaysian Phrases to use during your Penang island tour
- Goodbye - Selamat tinggal
- Please - Sila
- Thank you! - Terimah kasih!
- The same to you (in reply to Thank you) - Sama Sama!
- Good morning - Selamat pagi
- Good afternoon - Selamat petang
- Good night - Selamat malam
- Bon voyage - Selamat jalan!
- Where is the toilet? - Di mana tandas?
- I don't understand - Saya tidak faham
Pocket Guide to Penang - and the neighbouring island of Langkawi
If you are looking for a bright pictorial guidebook, that covers Penang (and the neighboring island of Langkawi, then this is the one for you.
Top tourist attractions in Penang
If you research the top places to visit in Penang, most of the websites and guide books will lead you to the same places.....The E+O Hotel, Fort Cornwallis, Komtar, Little India, the Spice Gardens, Penang Hill, the Snake Temple, Batu Ferringhi, etc.
All of these places are well worth a visit, but I want to use my inside knowledge of Penang to give you some alternatives, gems that you might not discover from the guide books.
Listed to the right are some popular websites that list places to visit in Penang.
Expat Mamasita's Favorite Penang Places
A: Bali Hai Seafood Restaurant
1: Dim Sum Breakfast
We are starting our Penang island tour on the cosmopolitan Gurney Drive, at the seafood restaurant of Bali Hai. Here, one wall is completely taken over with floor to ceiling fish tanks where you can choose your dinner.
I have never been there for an evening meal, but what I would recommend is paying Bali Hai a visit for a leisurely Dim Sum breakfast.
You can drink Jasmine tea and choose from an array of delicacies, including pork dumplings, braised chicken feet and prawn rolls.
At the weekend there is a trolley service to your table. What you choose is marked down on an order sheet that you take to the counter to pay. During the week, when it is quieter, you order your choice of food at the counter.
This was always my favourite place to go for a dim sum breakfast, and an amazing place to take visitors.
Great Dining in Penang
Great Places To Eat
I have my own well thumbed copy of this book from when I lived in Penang.
It gives you lots of ideas for restaurants and a price guide.
If this was to list every food outlet in Penang it would run to many many volumes, but even in this manageable slim size its an invaluable guide to Penang eating.
As you stroll along Gurney Drive, towards Gurney Plaza, you might have reason to glance to your left and peek through the wrought iron railings, and stare in wonder at the colonial opulence that is Loke Manson.
Built in the 1920s by Alan Loke, the son of tycoon Loke Yew, Loke Mansion is an impressive example of Arts and Crafts design.
I was lucky enough to visit Loke Mansion, but it is not usually open to the public, and even though it is such a prominent position it remains unknown to many.
If you would like to visit Loke Mansion try contacting Penang Heritage for more information.
3: Fishing Village
A half hour drive from Gurney Drive takes you through the popular resort of Batu Ferringhi to our third stop, the small fishing village of Teluk Bahang.
The village has an air of being deserted. The five star Mutiara hotel has been closed for some years and at a first glance there does not seem to be much to offer to tourists.
There are however several good reasons to visit Teluk Bahang:
1.It is the entrance for the Penang National Park, and after you have registered you can go into the jungle to visit beautiful beaches, like Monkey Beach.
2. The Butterfly Farm is here
3. There are boat trips available from the jetty area, which is in itself very picturesque.
C. Penang Butterfly Farm
4: Tropical Insects
While we are in Teluk Bahang, the Butterfly farm is definitely worth a visit.
It is home to a huge variety of butterflies and tropical insects, enabling you to see close up many of the insects that are native to Malaysia,
You will be able to see the butterflies close up (or in the case of my husband, one literally landed on his head) and explore the delights of insects that look like warrior masks and huge cockroaches that appear to be gold plated!
D.Penang Fruit Farm
Toilet with a view.....
5: Time For A Drink
Turn left as you leave the fruit farm and the road will take you past the forest park and the dam and becoming increasingly winding, until you will chance upon a left turn onto a steep driveway.
Drive to the top of this precipitous entrance and you will be delighted to find a 25 acre fruit farm that has gorgeous views, a wide choice of fruits, exquisite drinks and the most amazing tandas (toilets).
Malaysian tandas (toilets) often differ significantly from western toilets, but the toilets here are different for an entirely different reason - they have an open unglazed window that gives you an amazing view of the surrounding countryside!
It is possible to take a tour of the farm, or you can just relax with a glass of freshly prepared juice, before we make the picturesque 45 minute drive to George Town.
On a hot and humid day at sea level in Penang, climbing the few extra feet up to the fruit farm, and sitting on the shaded seats, whilst gazing out at the sea view and feeling the cooler breeze on your cheeks really does help to cool you down.
E.Si Tigun Cafe
6: Historical Enclave
After the drive through the scenic Penang countryside our tour takes us straight to the historical enclave of Jalan Nagore.
This is an oasis in the middle of a bustling city, where you are guaranteed a friendly welcome and a relaxing ambience.
Tigun Wibisana and his wife Judith have created an absolute gem of a cafe where you can park your bicycle right alongside your table if you wish.
They brew delicious coffee and serve yummy food, either for breakfast, lunch or simply a snack.
I recommend the croissant with scrambled egg and bacon for breakfast, accompanied by either a jasmine tea or freshly ground coffee.
F. Penang Rd Market
Crafts and Entertainment
Just a few minutes drive from Jalan Nagore, situated across the road from the opulent colonial splendour of the Eastern and Oriental (E & O) Hotel is Upper Penang Road, that is home to a street market on the last Sunday of each month.
Since it began in 2006, the market has become an excellent showcase for the varied artistic and creative talent in Penang.
There are lots of craft stalls, stalls serving food and drink, live performances, creative demonstrations and other activities.
If you happen to be in Penang on the right Sunday, this is well worth a visit, and you will find gifts to take home that cannot be bought elsewhere.
Expat Mamasita's Shopping Hotspots
I could give you a list of the malls in Penang and advise you to visit, but truth be told they are not much different to malls in Kuala Lumpur or anywhere else in SE Asia. Yes, they have a few local gift shops, but most of the shops are national and international chains.
Instead, I would like to share with you my own personal favorite shopping places, places I used all the time and know that you will love too.
Come with me on a shopping tour of Penang.
- Mydin Wholesale Emporium
As you walk up Penang road towards Komtar you might become aware of Indian music becoming louder and louder. You haven't wandered left towards Little India by mistake - you're approaching Mydin's, the Indian store that sells most of what you want and
- Penang Bazaar
On the opposite side of the road to Mydin's is the Penang Bazaar, nestled in-between Lebuh Cambell and Jalan Chowrasra. If you look closely at the open fronted shops hanging their wares up high for all to see, you will notice narrow corridors leading
- Chowrasta Market
On the junction of Penang Road and Jalan Chowrasta is the Chowrasta market. This large building sells any local food item that you could possibly wish to purchase. The dry market, selling dry goods, spices etc is at the front and the wet market, sell
- Little India
Nestled in-between Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Queen and Jalan Pasar is an area known as Little India, an Indian enclave in an otherwise Chinese area. The first time I visited here I likened it to turning down a Penang side street and finding myself in a Mum
- Batu Ferringi Night Market
If you can bear to leave historic George Town behind then take a trip to the nearby beach resort of Batu Ferringhi for their famous night market. Open daily from 7pm, but livelier at the weekend, the market is a hive of bartering and banter.
G. Kuan Yin Temple
8: Chinese Temple
We continue our tour through colonial George Town with a visit to the Goddess of Mercy Temple.
The smell the burning of incense nostrils and will fill your nostrils and you will see the majestic red candles being burned outside the temple. I love the tranquility and ambience of this temple, and am always in awe of the sheer elegance of it.
Penang has many hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese and Indian temples and Muslim mosques. your trip to Penang would not be complete without visiting a good selection of them.
9: Eclectic Cafe
Walk for a couple of minutes and you will find our penultimate stop, the Edelweiss Cafe, in Lebuh Armenian in the heart of historical George Town. It was once a dilapidated shop house that was lovingly restored by Malaysian Teresa Capol and her Swiss husband Urs.
The menu is an eclectic mix of East meets Swiss and there are some yummy Swiss influenced food and beer available.
If you are fortunate enough to meet Teresa while you are there she is very knowledgeable on the history of Penang. She also does guided walking tours which are full of anecdotes and are extremely interesting.
I: Penang Car Ferry
10: Colorful Transport
A five minute walk from the Edelweiss will bring you to the Penang Ferry terminal, that signals the end of our tour of the island of Penang.
As you board one of the colourful ferries that still ply their trade between George Town and Butterworth, despite the presence of one and soon two be two bridges that link Penang to the mainland, take a look behind you and admire the spectacular view of the island's skyline and the historical clan jetties that just out into the water.
If you are leaving Penang to drive northwards towards the border with Thailand then leaving the island by the ferry will cut some miles from your journey, and as a foot passenger, the ferry makes the perfect way to access the island as the ferry port in Penang is only minutes walk away from the historical centre.
I hope that you have enjoyed your tour of the island of Penang!
Travel and Accomodation— in Penang
Getting to Penang
Boutique and Heritage Accommodation in Penang
- Hotel Penaga
Hotel Penaga, in the heart of GeorgeTown, Penang, Malaysia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel was converted from a cluster of 15 pre-war terraces and shophouses, facing Hutton Lane, Transfer Road and Clarke Street, into a heritage boutique hote
- Clove Hall
Clove Hall is a privately-owned Edwardian Anglo-Malay bungalow set in an oasis of tropical gardens. It is just ten minutes by trishaw from the vibrant living culture of the world heritage site of Penangs, Georgetown.
- Chymes Hotel
Chymes provides an alternative accommodation for travelers to Penang who are looking for a cosy, private holiday by the sea instead of the typical chain hotels. We are a cosy little bungalow tucked away from the stresses of city life in Georgetown, b
- Straits Collection
The Straits Collection is a total eclectic mix of Retail, Restaurants and Residences located in the core zone of UNESCO Heritage Georgetown, Penang.
- China Tiger
China Tiger is made up of 2 separate properties side by side on China Street, and is owned by Rebecca Duckett - Wilkinson who also owns 29 The Gallery.
Terima kasih kerana melawat "Saya Pulau Pinang"— Thank you for visiting "My Penang"