Penang, known as the Pearl of the Orient in West Malaysia has a plethora of sights, adventures and attractions that if seriously visited with each and every of them may take up more time than you would have planned in your vacation. So below are some of the must see and must do things in Penang that will make the trip more worthwhile, fun and unforgettable. They are a comprehensive and blended list of things from for family activities, traditional, modern as well as natural attractions.
One of the first and easy things to do in Penang is walking and exploring through the Penang Heritage Zones. This can be done guided, walking or renting a bicycle. Put on a hat, dab on some sunscreen and with a bottle of water, you are good to go. Little India with clouds of aromatic smells of Indian restaurants, colorful sarees, accessories and joss sticks along with a variety of Indian snacks and food is a strong vibe of Georgetown. Have a look at the little stores that is popular among the Indian community and drift along Lebuh Queen and head on to the Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia.
Kek Lok Si temple
One of the most complex and magnificent temples in South East Asia is the Kek Lok Si temple situated in a little old town of Air Itam. Apart from the beautiful structures of the temple, it is also heavily filled with devotees who give their prayers and holy acts of services and worship. The temple has a turtle pond also known as the Liberation Pond, seven storey high pagoda, huge displays of alabaster collection and bronze Buddhas, lively prayer halls and beautifully landscaped gardens. The temple has many different facets, footsteps, a vegetarian restaurant and many small souvenir and ornament shops along the steps.
Not too far from the Kek Lok Si Temple is the Penang Hill, also called “Bukit Bendera.” Known to be about 5 degrees cooler, refresh yourself after all that climb and walk around the first colonial hill station developed in the Peninsula Malaysia, a hill with the last patch of tropical rainforest in Penang. Due to this, the flaura and fauna here has been strictly preserved since 1960. Enjoy the spectacular view from the top on a clear day where you see the mountains of Langkawi and north Kedah and walk under the trees on the nature trails catching over 100 species of birds. For those who lack the energy, there is a popular way up the hill through the old Swiss designed Penang Hil Railway situated at the foot of the hill.
Would you like to see a big home that is covered in bright blue paint that belongs to an affluent merchant trader instead of the Smurfs? The “Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion” or what they call “Blue Mansion” is one of UNESCO’s Most Excellent Heritage Conservation winner in 2000 and bagged many other similar awards. It is a private residence and has a 16 room bed and breakfast designed according to different themes. You can either have a guided tour inside this ancient mansion cum museum or spend a night or two at the boutique hotel. The beautiful art glasses, tiled floors and distinctive achitecture’s preference in the Straits Chinese era at the time takes you back into a travel time machine reliving the lives of the merchant and his large family who lived together in this mansion.
A temple that is one of it’s kind and a must visit even if you have snake phobia, and maybe even because you have snake phobia is the Snake Temple which was built in the memory of a Buddhist monk named Chor Soo Kong who claimed to have healing powers. In 1873, David Brown, a British resident consulted Chor Soo Kong about his illness and was later cured of the illness and had since dedicated a piece of his land where the temple was built in Choo’s homage. According to legend, the snakes were given shelter by the monk and the snakes took residence in the temple upon it’s completion. The temple is free to enter and is interesting to experience, with it’s burning incense that is said to tame the snakes, a pool of fruit trees with snakes over them and a 600 pound Manchurian bell in the prayer hall. There are devotees present hovering around busily and yearly celebrations such as the Jade Emperor’s Birthday take place in the temple.
If you’re burned out from climbing up endless steps to temples, shrines and old structures in town under the ray of sun, it’s the perfect time to do the opposite – jump on the region’s longest zipline (456 feet-long), swing between trees or experience a free fall from a 20-metre-tall jump platform and other fun outdoor jungle acttivities. This is also an excellent choice for visitors with hyperactive kids for thrills and adventure at a park with tree climbing contests, balancing beams, getting entangled and walking on wobbly ropes. If this sounds daunting and your alarm bells are ringing, you will be relieved to know you will be flying into a protected large featherbed on the ground and is restricted to children above the age of 13 years for safety purposes.
Haven’t heard of a jetty with clans? The term seem completely foreign to most people making this attraction unique and interesting. The clan jetties are a waterfront settlement formed by the Chinese immigrants from the same lineage origin and shares the same historical background that morphed into clan-based communities. Explore the wooden made houses on stilts in water and pretty red lanterns hung in a line. It is said that till this day the residents do not pay tax because they do not live on land. The Clan Jetties are located near the ferry terminal in Georgetown. For photographer enthusiasts, this place promises unusual shots with it’s extended plankways and in motion harbour views especially at sunset.
Made in Penang Interactive Museum
This is no traditional museum and that can be good news for those looking for fun and new experiences. This museum changes the way we look at museums and takes on a new level of displaying art pieces. Instead of quietly studying and reading dozens of texts on an old rock about artifacts, the Penang Intertactive Museum offers brilliant 3D imagery features like a big 3D snake sticking out of a framework and other historical images such as cannons destroying battleships, elevators and classical horror movie characters. The artwork are creatively completed by various talented artists using clever tricks of various colors, textured silhoutte and props.
Up north of Penang is the infamous Batu Ferringhi. It is a long stretch of sandy beach on a winding road and is most popular for it’s nightlife particularly the night market. Starting from 7pm, you will find an endless line of shops selling everything from fake designer bags of various degrees, cheap pirated DVDs, souvenirs, home deco items and lots of other interesting things to bring home for friends and family. There are also plenty of local food, restaurants and pubs nearby. Other than the beach, Batu Ferringhi has a host of fun water sport activities like banana boat rides, parasailing and windsurfing.
Penang Gurney Drive
Penang is known as the place for trademark specialties and local delicacies. The Gurney Drive food court is nicely settled in front of a sea line. It is an open air area with a huge line of hawker stands, plastic tables and stools for customers. Guess the rougher and simpler it looks, the better the food tastes. From noodles, shaved ice, desserts, seafood and all kinds of local beverages, it will be one satisfying visit for bellies craving for an exotic dining experience.