Penang is an island off the northern part of the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is also the name of the Malaysian state which is made up of Penang Island and the facing strip of territory on the mainland called Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley).
Penang is one of Malaysia's main tourist draws. Its beaches are a little lacklustre when compared with those in some other Malaysian states, but this is more than compensated by the island's rich multicultural history which is full of colonial and Chinese influences.
Penang's high season is around Christmas, New Year's Day, and Chinese New Year (check the lunar calendar; it could fall on the end of January or early to mid February), when the east coast of Malaysia is drenched and hordes of sun-seeking Europeans descend on the island. Accommodation tends to be packed, and priced accordingly.
Things to see
In addition to the sights below, Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi have a number of interesting places, covered on their own page.
• Botanical Gardens, Jalan Kebun Bunga, Phone:+60 4 227-0428 (for group tour arrangement). Every day, 5AM-8AM. The gardens were established by Charles Curtis from British way back in 1884; it's generally known as Waterfall Gardens by the local community. Every morning, local people come to the gardens to perform their daily exercises like walking, jogging, running, treckking, aerobic dance, practice Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Here also home of monkeys. Do not feed the monkey and beware of the snatch thieving from them. The gardens also hosts its annual international floral fest in May. Free admission.
• Penang Hill probably has the best view of Georgetown and Penang Bridge, especially at night. Go up via the Penang Hill Railway, a fascinating little cable train service that lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view and cool breezes. When you reach the summit you can walk around the hilltop, stop for tea, enjoy a leisurely lunch, buy a souvenir, try to photograph Georgetown and the Strait, or simply breathe deep lungs full of cool mountain air.
• Bukit Jambul Orchid, Hisbiscus & Reptile Garden, Persiaran Bukit Jambul. Phone:+60 4 644-8863. Daily 9.30AM-6.30PM (last admission at 5.30PM). This garden is close to Hotel Equatorial and is about 10 minutes from Penang International Airport. One can have a picture with Malaysia's largest tame snake, a rare Albino Phython or watch the Snake Show on weekends and public holidays, 11.30AM-3.30PM. Adult RM5 and children RM2.
• Fisheries Department Research Institute Aquarium, Batu Maung. Phone:+60 4 626-3925. Daily 10AM-5PM. Adult RM1, children (7-12 years old) RM2, free admission for children under 7.
• Penang Bridge was the largest bridge in Asia and the third largest in the world. The bridge connects the island to the mainland (Seberang Perai) and offers unparalleled ocean views. Engineers designed the bridge to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 7.5 on the Richter scale. An amazing feat of craftsmanship.
• Snake Temple was built in 1850 in the memory of the renowned Chinese monk Chor Soo Kong, the Snake Temple is situated in the small town of Bayan Lepas and is famous for the fact that it has pit vipers living on the temple ground. Legend has it, that Chor Soo Kong, who was also a healer, gave shelter to the snakes of jungle. After the completion of the temple, snakes appeared on their own accord. Today the snake population of the Temple of the Azure Cloud is very small, due to the urbanization of the area, but you can still see them coiled up on the altar tables, and touch them if you are brave enough. Originally the snakes were said to be rendered inoffensive by the smell of the incenses, but just for good measure, today the resident vipers are devenomed. RM5 for adult foreigner and RM1 for children.
• Temple of the "Ninth Emperor God", at Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth (mainland Malaysian peninsula). This temple will be decorated for the annual festival on every 9th month of Chinese Lunar Calendar. This is a very beautiful temple. The building architecture is impressive. The sculptures and carvings are very neat and nice!
• Kek Lok Si (Temple of Supreme Bliss). A rambling hillside structure that claims to be the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, now featuring a just-completed (2003) giant statue of Kuan Yin as well. Colorful and gaudy, but still atmospheric in spots. Located near the village of Ayer Hitam; a taxi from George Town will set you back RM 15-20.
• Pulau Jerejak Resort, (Jerejak Island), Phone: +60 4 658-7111. Also known as the Alcatraz of Malaysia, because of the Jerejak Prison. This beautiful tropical island is about 362ha, opposites the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, south eastern tip of the Penang island. In ancient time, immigrants must be sent to the health inspection centre in the island as a precaution step, before they were deported to Penang. In late 1930's, a hospital that could house 150 Tuberculosis patients were built. The island is now opened to public as a recreational resort. Numerous of outdoor activities including nature & historical treckking, mountain bike trails, archery are available; personal care such as aromatherapy massage, tired foot treatment, body scrub are also available. Ferry will depart from Penang starting at 6.30AM until 12.30AM. Return trip fare for guests with room / event reservations: Adult RM6, Children RM3. Day trippers: Adult RM16 (include meals), Children RM3. Various accommodation option available: tent for 2 person costs RM80 per night, 2-bed room RM115, chalet RM220 or promotional 3D/2N package for 2 person costs RM499.
• War Museum Lot 1350, Mukim 12, Batu Maung, Phone: +60 4 626-5142. Every day, 9AM-7PM (last admission). Located at southeastern of Penang, this museum could be the largest living war museum in Asia. It is the mighty military fortress built in 1930's by British to protect the island from enemies. The British Royal Engineers and a work force comprises of local labourers blasted and dug into the hill to create a fort with underground military tunnels, intelligence and logistic center, halls, offices, ventilation shafts, canon firing bays, sleeping querters, cook houses as well as medical infirmary.
• Bird Park, Jalan Todak, Seberang Jaya, Perai, Butterworth (mainland Malaysian peninsula). Phone:+60 4 399-1899. Every day, 9AM-7PM. This is the first and the largest bird park of its kind in Malaysia, houses more than 300 species of birds from throughout the world, of which about half are of Malaysian species. Experience hand-feeding birds in the geodesic domes and two giant-sized walk-in-aviaries, or take a bus either from KOMTAR or Butterworth Ferry Terminal. RM15 for adult and RM7.50 for children (below 12 year-old); additional charge of RM1 for camera.
Things to do
• Jungle trekking & camping - Enjoy walking through the reserved forest in Teluk Bahang, go to northwestern cape of the island and stay nights over there, you will experience an unforgettable life with beaches, sea and the sky.
• Sight seeing is the most important agenda when visiting Penang. Plan your trip and don't forget to bring your camera to capture all your sweet memories there!
• Shopping - the two most popular shopping malls in Penang would be Gurney Plaza and Prangin Mall, which houses a full range of fashionable goods and necessity items. If you crave the unusual, head on down to the flea market at Lorong Kulit, which is open from morning until around 2:00pm daily. If mingling with the masses is your idea of fun, check out the pasar malam (night market) along batu ferringi for some inexpensive shopping and dining, gets more interesting during weekends.
• Food tasting - Penang is popular among Malaysians for a huge variety of local food such as Chow Koay Teow, Penang Laksa and Nasi Kandar, which are found almost practically everywhere in the Island. However, the best place to go "food hopping" would be Macalister Road. For the most well-known Chow Koay Toew, try "Sister's Chow Koay Teow" at Lorong Selamat.
• Rest & Relax
- Participate in Penang Bridge International Marathon will be an unforgotable memory in life. Participants will be running over the third longest bridge in the world - the Penang Bridge - and along a scenic coastal highway. This is the only time of the year when the bridge is closed for several hours. The event will be held on July 30 this year (2006); the entry form can be obtained trough its official web site.
- Particapte or watch Dragon Boats racing during Penang International Dragon Boat Festival, which was held at Teluk Bahang Dam on 26th till 28th May 2006. The event has been staged since 1979 and it has successfully attracted teams from all over the world like Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and the USA.
• Golfing at Bukit Jambul Golf & Country Club and Pearl Island Country Club
• Watersports are on the agenda for many visitors, although the waters are a bit too murky for scuba diving and a bit too calm for surfing or more extreme pursuits.