Penang is crowned as Malaysia’s food capital by many, but it’s also so much more than that.
A fusion of East and West, and modernity and tradition, here are 9 things to do in Penang that would convince you to visit ASAP.
With legendary street eats, and exceptional fruit and seafood, Penang is one of South-east Asia’s premier culinary destinations.
A virtual microcosm of George Town’s hawker fare is the Lorong Baru Hawker Centre (corner of Jalan Macalister and Lorong Baru), which serves good versions of almost every dish that has made the city famous, from char kway teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles) to otak-otak (steamed spicy fish custard, pictured).
If you prefer somewhere with a roof, Tek Sen (18 Lebuh Carnarvon) has to be the best restaurant in town.
Come for the almost candy-like roasted pork with chilli padi or, for more delicate palates, the restaurant’s delicious dishes prepared using homemade tofu.
George Town, the capital of the state of Penang, is best known for its UNESCO-listed architecture.
To best appreciate it, ideally with the help of a knowledgeable narrator, sign up for a private walking tour with George Town Heritage Walks (Tel: 601 6440 6823). They’re led by Joann Khaw, an experienced guide and native of the city.
To see George Town’s buildings from the inside, don’t miss a visit to the city’s excellent house museums.
Boasting an emblematic shade of cobalt is the Blue Mansion (pictured), the former residence of Cheong Fatt Tze, a wealthy Chinese businessman.
A guided tour of the 18-bedroom mansion reveals decadent features such as imported Scottish cast-iron pillars and art nouveau stained glass, while also serving as a crash course in feng shui (or, take our crash course in feng shui).
Another peek into George Town’s decadent homes can be had at the Penang Peranakan Museum.
The gorgeous two- storey former residence is positively stuffed with items that range from priceless treasures to household items. It’s a fascinating insight into the lives of the Baba-Nonya, a predominantly Chinese community who adopted the ways of the local Malays.
When the city gets intolerably hot, do as the English did and escape to Penang Hill, which is 833m above sea level. Reach its summit via a funicular and enjoy amazing views and cool weather.
When you leave, take the 5km path that winds downhill through the jungle and ends at the Botanic Gardens.
For untamed green spaces, visit Penang National Park (Jalan Hassan Abas, Teluk Bahang).
It has a network of marked jungle trails with flora and fauna such as pitcher plants and monkeys (Lots of them!). There’s also a meromictic lake containing layers of freshwater and saltwater that don’t mix.
By Austin Bush, SilverKris, June 2016 / Updated September 2019
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