Situated on the northwest coast of Malaysia, Penang is one of the most developed states in the peninsula, making it a popular tourist destination.
Its capital, George Town, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, thanks to its numerous Chinese style shop houses found all over the island. Visitors will not have any problem in getting into Penang as they can utilize any form of public transport – car, bus, train or plane.
Should you have an extra day or two when you visit Kuala Lumpur, consider taking the train to Penang and immerse yourself in its diverse culture and delicious cuisine.
Walk around George Town
Named after King George III, George Town is a melting pot of different cultures, including Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian. Walking around town will give you a glimpse of a Penangite’s daily life. Marvel on the town’s rich heritage influenced by its European colonizers, starting with Love Lane, Pitt Street, King Street, and Carnarvon Street. If you prefer to view the city at night, make sure not to miss Chulia and Campbell Streets. Beach Street and Light Street also boast some of Penang’s best colonial architectures. It’s not a UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing.
Drink coffee from a plastic bag
When I rode a bus going to Batu Ferringhi, I found a plastic bag filled with iced coffee by the driver’s seat. It even has a string that will allow you to hang it when both hands have to be busy. Being a coffee addict, it became my goal to try it. And luck was with me, as it was readily available in one of the food shops in Batu Ferringhi. You can even choose your preferred strength. I can’t remember how much it costs, but I’m sure it’s affordable.
Stroll along the shore in Batu Ferringhi
Some of Penang’s popular beaches are located in Batu Ferringhi, a long stretch of white sand beach filled with unlimited choices for your dining and accommodation needs. For those into water sports, this is an ideal area for activities such as jet skiing, parasailing, and windsurfing. If you prefer to have a quiet time by yourself, you can opt to walk along the shore, and listen to the sound of the waves crashing on your feet. Batu Ferringhi also offers a vibrant nightlife provided by the bars and gastro pubs nearby.
How to get there:
From Penang International Airport: Take Bus 102, which departs every 60 to 80 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. Fare is RM 4.00.
From George Town: Take Bus 102 along Chulia Street (in front of 7-Eleven), which departs every 15 to 20 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 11:20 p.m. Fare is RM 2.70.
From KOMTAR: Take Bus 101 at the end of the first lane of the bus station under the KOMTAR building, which departs every 10 to 20 minutes. The fare is RM 2.70.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in George Town.
See the sea of clouds from Penang Hill
Sure, we’ve seen clouds up close when we ride the airplane, but going up to Penang Hill and looking down at the city is a different experience altogether. At 830 meters above sea level, this hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, will provide you not just with a cooler temperature but a majestic panoramic view of George Town and the eastern coast of Penang Island.
A funicular train will take you from the foot of the hill to the summit in just a matter of minutes. Once you arrive, you are free to roam around the area to check out other sights. Don’t miss the Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple, one of the oldest temples in Penang. The hill is also perfect for nature lovers, as you will have the chance to explore the Hill’s flora and fauna. Have a taste of Malay cuisine from the food stalls found near the Owl Museum.
Admission fee: There is no entrance fee to Penang Hill, but you will have to pay for the funicular train that will take you to the top. Round trip fare is RM30 for adults and senior citizens, RM5 for children 4 to 6 years old, and RM15 for students. Operating hours are 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, with ticket counters closing at 10:30 p.m.
How to get there: Take Rapid Penang Bus 204, as this is the only bus that will take you to Penang Hill station. It departs every 25 to 40 minutes from 5:50 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Click here for more information.
Feast on local food
As Malaysia’s unofficial food capital, Penang will bring any foodie to a state of nirvana. Indulge yourself in a wide array of local cuisine, from char kway teow to ice kacang. If on a tight budget, food stalls are abundant in the streets of George Town, offering affordable yet filling dishes. I suggest you try the lok lok, their version of shabu shabu. Price per stick varies, the vegetables being the cheapest and the meat items being the more expensive ones. Over all, it is still the more budget-friendly option, and you’ll have fun mixing and matching everything.
Be a part of interactive street art
Want to interact with artwork for free? Then look for Ernest Zacharevic’s murals and other street paintings scattered all over the city. These beautiful works of art were part of the Mirrors George Town project in 2012 and has been a staple in almost every Penang itinerary, with tourists hopping from one street to another. Other artists have also contributed to this project, such as Louis Gan and Simon Tan.
Check out the funny wrought iron caricatures
Aside from Mirrors George Town mentioned earlier, Penang has another series of installation art that is worth checking out. Known as Marking George Town, this street art exhibition was commissioned by the Penang State Government a year after the capital was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A total of 52 iron sculptures tells the story of Penang’s heritage in a funny yet informative way. If you want to see every caricature, you can pick up a free Marking George Town map in the airport. It indicates the exact location of every artwork, plus a short history about it.
Marking George Town map can also be be downloaded here.
This Malaysian state is overflowing with diversity, and one visit will never be enough. There is something about Penang that will make you come back, and you’ll never regret if you do. Don’t forget to include it on your bucket list!
How to get to Penang:
By plane – There are numerous flights to and from Penang and its neighboring countries. In our case, we flew in from Singapore and flew out to Kuala Lumpur. Check the flight availability of your preferred airline.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Kuala Lumpur.
By train – KTMB travels daily from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, Travel time is approximately 6 hours. Upon arrival in Butterworth, proceed to the ferry terminal to board the ferry that will take you to Penang Island. Visit KTMB’s official site for more information.
By car – Take the North-South Highway to get to Butterworth. Travel time is between 4 to 5 hours, with toll charges. Once you are in Butterworth, you have two options: cross the Penang Bridge or transport your vehicle via the ferry for a minimal fee.
By bus – Most bus lines depart from Pudu Sentral, while a few depart from the KTM Old Railway Station Kuala Lumpur. Travel time is around 4 hours. Standard fare ranges from RM37 to RM42. Those with extra services such as Wi-Fi, personal television, and meals could charge from RM74 to RM103. Once they reach Penang, the buses will terminate in Penang Sungai Nibong bus terminal, which is 20 minutes from George Town. From there, you can either take a taxi or hop on Bus 401 that will take you to George Town for RM2.50.
Budget – Dream Catcher Travelers Refuge
Mid Range – Seven Terraces
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