Exploring the Delights of Penang Island

Penang is a must-visit destination in Malaysia, located on Penang Island. The captivating colonial streets of Penang serve as the epicenter for culture, street art, and the nation’s best street food. Traditional Chinese houses stand alongside skyscrapers, giving this town a unique ambiance. Penang Island is not just about Penang; venture a little, and you’ll discover monkeys, breathtaking temples, and white sandy beaches in the jungle.

Things to Do in Penang, Malaysia

Penang Island offers a fascinating experience for a pleasant few days during your travels in Malaysia. In Georgetown, Penang, you can explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the following ways:

Follow the Street Art Trail in Georgetown

Georgetown undoubtedly reigns as the king of street art. Hundreds of murals are scattered within a small radius of the old town, now forming a massive art trail. You can bike or walk along the route, or abandon the map and see what you stumble upon in many alleys. You can download a street art map here.

The most famous works are created by Ernest Zacharevic, commissioned by the local government to breathe new life into old Chinese shophouses. His murals tell the story of Penang’s culture, often incorporating a physical element to bring the artwork to life.

Georgetown has attracted many artists to create art. So, you can spend your entire time on Penang Island searching for street art.

Discover Wildlife at Penang National Park

Penang is not just about Georgetown. The island boasts some incredible natural landscapes! Penang National Park is a pleasant place to escape the city’s crowds, just a short bus ride from the city center. Although the world’s smallest national park, it is home to hundreds of different species of flora and fauna.

Choose one of the many hiking trails, relax on beautiful beaches, walk the canopy walkway through natural treetops, or look for monkeys and turtles. Visiting the park is one of the most popular activities for Malaysians in Penang on weekends.

Tip: Check the opening hours, as some parts of the park may be closed depending on the season.

Penang’s Top Attraction: Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia! Translated as the “Temple of Supreme Bliss,” it is a sacred place for Buddhists worldwide.

The temple’s various tiers are covered with many pagodas decorated in red, yellow, orange, and gold, blending Chinese, Thai, and Burmese architectural styles. At the top is a stunning 30-meter-high bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy, overlooking the entire city.

During the Lunar New Year, the temple is illuminated at night with thousands of lanterns and lights, creating a beautiful spectacle!

How to get there: The temple is located in Air Itam, about a 20-minute drive from Penang, near Penang Island. Plan to spend the entire morning visiting.

Take the Cable Car up Penang Hill

Georgetown is situated in the shadow of Penang Hill, the last part of the island’s tropical rainforest. Take the cable car up the hill, enjoy magnificent views of the island, and experience the cool atmosphere of lower temperatures. Pre-book your tickets here.

Tip: It’s best to visit earlier in the day to avoid crowds, as it’s one of the most popular activities in Penang.

Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion)

The Blue Mansion is a 19th-century building constructed in Chinese style and painted in striking indigo blue. Once owned by a former tycoon turned philanthropist, it earned the nickname “Blue Mansion” for its outstanding color and is one of Penang’s most popular attractions.

During the day, guided tours are available for visitors, giving them the chance to peek inside. The perfectly preserved mansion features elaborate corridors and an open courtyard composed of materials imported from around the world.

The building also serves as a hotel for those wanting to experience a night like Cheong Fatt Tze.

Chinese House Cake

China House is comprised of three traditional houses connected and repurposed into a creative art gallery, small library, and cake shop. And the cake shop at the China House Bar is no joke. Waiting for you is an abundance of cakes and delicious desserts 🙂

Experience a Different Lifestyle at Khoo Kongsi

Khoo Kongsi is a must-see ancient Chinese clan temple in Penang. “Kongsi” means gathering place for Chinese in Penang, and “Khoo” is one of the families among them. These clan temples were once widespread, but only five remain today.

Although Khoo Kongsi is located in the heart of Georgetown, tourists hardly visit, making it an excellent place to escape massive tourism. Beautiful classical Chinese architecture, with slanted roofs, intricately carved pillars, golden Chinese symbols, and mythical creatures from Chinese legends. There’s also a small museum on-site to learn more about the clan and its history.

Sample First-Rate Street Food

Penang is hailed as one of Asia’s best street food destinations. Due to the rich and diverse culture within Penang, various delicious and exotic dishes can be found on the streets and in markets. Every night, various food markets pop up around the city. Join a street food tour for the ultimate culinary experience. Book your food tour here.

Colorful Streets of Georgetown

Strolling around Georgetown, the details of the architecture are the most striking. Colorful buildings, intricate decorations, and beautiful tiles of various shapes and designs. The streets here have the most tiles, and these buildings are full of color.

Unleash Creativity at the Bus Depot

The Bus Depot is a creative space, once an old bus depot transformed into a beautiful art space thanks to the 2014 art project Urban Xchange. Now you can find a small market here with shops, street art, and tasty food stalls.

How to Explore Penang/Georgetown

As Malaysia’s second-largest city, Georgetown is well-connected to other parts of the country. There is an international airport serving destinations worldwide, with multiple flights to the capital Kuala Lumpur daily.

Getting from Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown

Buses run from both Kuala Lumpur Airport and the city center at various times. Alternatively, you can take a train from many places to Butterworth, then take a ferry from there to Penang Island.

Getting from Langkawi to Georgetown

A high-speed ferry runs twice daily between Langkawi and Penang Island. The three to four-hour ferry journey is easy to book online, and reservations are recommended.

Getting Around Penang and Georgetown

Once in Georgetown, walking is the best way to navigate around the town. It’s the best way to see all the street art. If you’re pressed for time, consider cycling. Buses regularly go to places on Penang Island, such as Penang Hill and Penang National Park, for a more in-depth exploration of the island. Grab (ride-hailing app) is also a popular way to get around the island.

Best Dining Spots in Georgetown

During your stay, taste your way through Georgetown’s markets and restaurants, and you’ll find you’ve barely scratched the surface of this culinary paradise. Modern flavors from around the world mix with traditional local recipes, creating a cooking haven.

Penang Island is a treasure trove of diverse experiences, from street art and natural wonders to historical sites and delicious cuisine. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, nature lover, or foodie, Penang has something to offer for every traveler’s taste. Explore this vibrant island and uncover its many delights, one colorful street at a time.

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