Penang? Where do I begin? Why do I love this city so much? What is about this place, anyway? Is it the architecture? Is it about the warmth of the people? Is it about the food that you crave long after your vacation?
There’s not a lot to do here in Penang. In fact, two or three days would be more than enough to scratch the touristy part of the city. But why do people linger? Why do they come back? The answer is I don’t know. It’s just this yearning to go back. The yearning to do it all over again and discover something new. It stays with you. That’s why you come back. Yes, that must be it. Because in all honesty, it feels like home whenever I visit. Plus how can pass up a bowl of Assam Laksa?!!!
If ever you decide to visit Penang which you would be crazy not to, here are my top things to do here. Not necessarily my favorite things but if it’s your first time, you can start here.
1. Penang Hill
Visit Penang Hill by riding the train going up. It’s best to sit at the utmost back (your right upon entering) for the best view and thrill as the train goes high up the hill.
Attractions: Viewing deck, Owl Museum, Temple, Mosque and Flora & Fauna.
Best to do this in the morning before noon when it’s cooler and not as sunny compared to when you visit in the afternoon.
2. Gurney Drive Hawker Center
Gurney Drive Hawker Center
Gurney Drive is one of the most popular places in Penang. It’s home to the Gurney Drive Hawker Center which houses the widest range of hawker food from Assam Laksa, Char Koay Teow, Lorbak, Mee Goreng, Hokkien Mee, Rojak, Satay and so many more.
My advice is to go there early as it’s harder to find a table late in the evening. A warning though and it tends to be true. It’s hawker food so it also follows that food is relatively cheap but it’s not necessarily the case here. Being the most popular among the hawker centers in Penang, it attracts more tourists than locals. So the prices are jacked up a bit.
But it’s still worth the visit. Just think that you’re also paying big bucks for the experience.
3. Pinang Peranakan Museum
Who are the Peranakans? I don’t know. There is much to be straightened out about their heritage as some say they are the Straits Chinese and others say they are of Malay heritage. Whatever the case, their houses and everything in them are beautiful. Look! In Singapore, Peranakan heritage is very evident in the houses and architecture around Katong.
Most of the people that work here are Filipinos.
4. Explore Georgetown
Georgetown is the capital of Penang. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. That accounts for something, right? Best to explore the city at dusk as it gets very hot and very bright during the day. It’s a beautiful town of old and new. I love how Penang has maintained its traditional and historical architecture amidst progress and economic growth.
5. Penang Street Art
A visit to Penang will never be complete without seeing the street art scattered all over the city and the best way to do it is via a trishaw ride. This is a must do when in Penang. You can opt to walk but the art is scattered far apart from one another that being on foot is literally not a walk in the park. Plus you would be crazy not to ride on one of these!!!
If you’re swinging through Malaysia, don’t forget to visit Penang. It’s well worth your precious time.
If we had more time or an extra day in Penang, we would absolutely include the following in our itinerary:
Hainan Temple — a temple dedicated to Mar Chor Poh, the patron saint of seafarers.
Blue Mansion — the beautiful 38 room mansion was built in 1880 and was fully rescued from the ruins in the 90s. The blue shade comes from the indigo-based lime wash used on the surface.
New World Park Food Court — if street food is not your thing, then this is the place for you. The hawker stalls Swatow Lane were transferred into this pavilion for those who prefer a mall atmosphere when dining out.
Chew Jetty — consists of 75 elevated houses, a community hall and other facilities all connected by elevated wooden walkways. It’s an interesting neighborhood where locals can be seen cooking in their homes, kids playing, and elders pass the time away.
Not fond of DIY tours? You can join one of these tours, and don’t forget to compare hotels, vacation rentals, rooms, or even homes for your trip before you go. And never leave home without Travel Insurance!