Penang, the Pearl of the Orient, is a fascinating fusion of the East and West. The state embraces modernity while retaining its traditions and old world charm, which are reflected in its harmonious multiracial populace and well-preserved heritage buildings. Long regarded as the food capital of Malaysia, it also entices visitors with its beautiful coasts and scrumptious cuisines.
The island of Penang or Pulau Pinang is affectionately known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ but in Malay Pulau Pinang means ‘Island of Betel Nut’. In the Chinese Hokkian dialect, the Malay word pinang is pronounced as “pee neang”, hence the derivation of Penang.
The location of Penang is strategically at the northern end of the Straits of Malacca (Malaka) which is considered to be the busiest shipping lane in the world. Penang was used to be a popular trading post during the 18th century when traders and settlers from as far as the Middle East and Europe came together to trade and do business. It was then sort of like a melting pot where the diversified races, beliefs and customs have contributed to Penang rich tradition and culture.
Today Penang is a modern state with all sorts of industries. Its port is still functioning and the state has become a popular destination for many multinational electronics companies. Even though Penang is a developed city with world class infrastructure and facilities, this little island is still blessed with beautiful idyllic beaches and calm seas. Because of this reason, Penang is not only a famous tourist destination but also a hot spot in Malaysia where expatriates relocate to.
Penang consists of an island and a strip of land in the Peninsular Malaysia. The state’s administrative center, George Town, located on the north-eastern tip of Penang island has an ageless charm that echoes a past colonial era. The city is a bustling cosmopolitan centre that is a blend of old and new with its old colonial buildings sitting in between modern skyscrapers.
Penang George Town Travel Map
Penang is easily accessible by air as it is served by flights on international and domestic routes. Travelers can also choose to travel by road via the North-South Expressway. Upon reaching the mainland, a short drive across Penang Bridge or a 20-minute ferry ride is all it takes to get to Penang Island. Getting to Penang via rail is possible too as there are regular rail services to Butterworth from major towns in Peninsular Malaysia.
Getting To Penang
Penang is easily accessible by air as it is served by airlines plying international and domestic routes. Travelers can also choose to travel by road via the North-South Expressway. Upon reaching the mainland, a short drive across Penang Bridge or a 20-minute ferry ride is all it takes to get to Penang Island. Getting to Penang via rail is possible too as there are regular rail services to Butterworth from major towns in Peninsular Malaysia.
Penang Island Food Trail
Penang Chulia Street Chicken Rice
This is probably one of the most delicious chicken rice in Penang Island. Discover the location and direction here. Pictures are available.
Penang Bean Sprout Chicken
Ipoh is not the only place where you can eat the famous Bean Sprout Chicken. There is one in Air Itam where the taste is comparable to the one in Ipoh. Don’t believe? Find out more here.
Air Itam Wan Tan Mee Noodle
If Wan Tan Mee (Dumpling) noodle is your favorite, then you should go to this place. The Wan Tan or Dumpling is probably the biggest in Penang.
Penang Halal Food and Restaurant
Penang is not only a popular tourist destination in Malaysia; it’s also a food paradise that offers unique cuisines from its diversified multi-cultural society. Find out the best halal cuisines and restaurants in Penang.
Places of Interest in Penang
Penang Botanic Gardens
The Penang Botanic Gardens is a place of tranquility and calm. It’s the perfect place to escape the buzz and heat of the city. It’s an ideal place for all sorts of activities such as family gathering, exercises, photography and nature admiration.
Malaysia’s first hill station, Penang Hill is 830m above sea level. Ascend to the top by hiking up or by travelling in the funicular train which has been operational since 1922 and enjoy the cool climate as well as the fantastic view at the summit.
The Esplanade is one of Penang famous tourist attractions. Find out tips on how to get there, visiting hours, location and attractions. Pictures are available.
Kek Lok Si Temple Night Visit
The Kek Lok Si temple is a must-visit place in Penang. But have you visited the temple at night? Find out here the night attractions of this iconic temple.
Not a lot of people know there is an aquarium in Penang. Even though it is a small aquarium, there are a lot of things about the marine live to find out here. It’s a great place for a family outing.
A favorite haunt for food enthusiasts, this coastal road is famous for hawker foodstalls and restaurants offering a mouth-watering selection of Penang specialties such as asam laksa, hokkien mee, chee cheong fun, pasembor, rojak and various other delicious local delicacies.
Built in 1850 and dedicated to the deity, Chor Soo Kong, the temple is a sanctuary for pit vipers said to be “servants” of the deity.
The fort was built on the site of Sir Francis Light’s historic landing in 1786. Originally a wooden stockade, it is now a concrete structure and currently houses cannons, a history gallery, café, handicraft and souvenir centre as well as an open-air amphitheatre.
Khoo Kongsi is one of the grandest clan temples in the country. Clustered in its square are an elaborately embellished temple, association building, a traditional theatre as well as several 19th century row houses.
Kek Lok Si Temple
Reputed to be the biggest Buddhist temple complex in Southeast Asia, the temple stands majestically on a hill in Air Itam. It boasts the beautiful “Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas” which blends Chinese, Myanmarese and Thai architecture.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Featuring 18th and 19th century Chinese architecture, this stately mansion comprises beautiful bedrooms, libraries, ceremonial halls, courtyards and gardens. It also houses a rare porcelain collection, sculptures, carvings, tapestries, embroideries and antiques.
Built around the remnants of a British fort, this 20-acre museum contains several installations above and below ground where old war relics are stored. Visitors can weave through a complex to view barracks, old cookhouses, lock-ups, tunnels and ventilation shafts.
Hundreds of old prints, paintings, clay, stone and porcelain ware as well as other historical artefacts that highlight the important periods in Penang’s development can be found here.
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Built in early 19th century, the mosque features an ochre yellow façade and a dome-shaped minaret reflecting Moorish Islamic influence. It was named after the Indian Muslim merchant, the Kapitan Keling (headman), Caudeer Mohudeen.
Acheen Street Malay Mosque
Built in 1820 on land donated by Syed Sheriff Tengku Syed Hussain Aidid, the vernacular-style mosque, also known as Masjid Melayu, features an octagonal minaret and a Moorish arcade.
Large and well-preserved, its numerous clan houses, shophouses and temples provide a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of early Chinese immigrant settlers who came here in the 1800s.
This quaint Indian town dates back over two centuries and boasts the 167 years old Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Worth browsing here are the pre-war terrace buildings which house restaurants, jewellery and textile shops, dress retailers, music stores, barbers as well as shops selling spices, sundries and cutlery.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
Contained in this mansion are elaborate traditional costumes and accessories, lovely porcelain pieces, furniture, works of art brought in from China and Europe as well as artifacts related to the history and colorful lifestyle of the Baba Nyonya people of Penang.
St. George’s Church
The church is one of the oldest landmarks in the city and was named after the patron saint of England. It features a memorial canopy dedicated to Captain Francis Light.
Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram
A unique Buddhist temple with Thai, Myanmarese and Chinese architecture, it houses a 33-metre gold-plated reclining Buddha said to be one of the longest in the world. The niches behind the statue house urns contain the ashes of devotees.
P. Ramlee’s House
Originally built in 1926 to commemorate the late P. Ramlee, Malaysia’s foremost entertainer, the house features the life history of the late singer, actor, composer and film director. The various exhibits include his personal memorabilia and also items belonging to his family.
Penang National Park
The park offers excellent hiking trails which lead to secluded beaches at Teluk Duyung, Muka Head and Pantai Kerachut. It also has a turtle nesting site as well as a unique meromictic lake.
Tropical Spice Garden
Visitors can get a feel of plants, birds and insects in a tropical environment at this eight-acre garden which has over 500 exotic varieties of plants.
Tropical Fruit Farm
Spread over 25 acres of hilly terrain, the farm produces over 200 tropical and subtropical fruits including durians, lychees, mangoes, guavas and several lesser known varieties.
Penang Butterfly Farm
The farm spans 0.8ha and is home to 3,000 living specimens from over 50 species of colorful butterflies, frogs, scorpions and other insects.
Penang Bird Park
The park spans 5 acres and houses some 800 birds from all over the world. It is beautifully landscaped and features a walk-in aviary, ponds and ornamental plants.
Penang Shopping Malls, Dining and Entertainment
Penang is a shoppers’ paradise for goods old and new at bargain prices. There is a wide choice of electronic and electrical goods, cameras, clothing, batik, souvenirs and antiques. The island also boasts some of the best food in the country. An exciting choice of entertainment including concerts, dramas, cultural performances as well as sports and recreational activities are available throughout the state.
Location, Driving Direction and Map for Getting Around Penang Island or Pulau Pinang: