I love Penang! I originally went for the art and street food, but found so many more things to do there than just stuff myself silly and find art in alleyways. Which of course is way fun, but these other things are a bonus and definitely worth checking out.
GEORGE TOWN ART
I like art of all types, but I absolutely love street art. There’s something about seeing art painted on brick walls, pipes, and doorways that amazes me. There’s a certain talent that street artists have that allow them to take any shape or form and create it into something beautiful. In 2012, George Town made the street art famous when two artists, Lithuanian born Ernest Zacharevic and Penang local Louis Gan, painted wall murals for the George Town Festival. Penang’s street art became an attraction drawing in tourists every year since.
I am in love with Penang’s street food! Having traveled all around Southeast Asia, I have had plenty, but the city I keep coming back to for more is Penang. The Hawker fare is unlike any I’ve tasted. It’s not your normal street meat, but a gourmet pleather of dishes with complex flavors and spices. There’s so much to talk about that I created a whole guide on it. If you follow it, I promise you will be thoroughly stuffed by the end of your trip. It has my top 15 must eats while you’re in Penang.
Penang Hill is known for it’s stunning views no matter what time of day you’re there. You can walk or take the tram up the hill. It will cost you 30 MYR ($7) to take the train up. Going on the weekends you’ll find a line, but it moves fairly quickly. The train runs from 6.30am – 11.00pm. At the top of the hill, you’ll find a viewing deck, street vendors, a temple, a mosque and even locks of love. On Sunday’s there’s a free Zumba class from 7:30am-8:30am and gets you a free ride up the hill. Although you can grab a taxi, public transportation is easy to take. Get on Penang Rapid Bus #204 and it will drop you off right at the bottom of the hill.
This beautiful park has two trails. The most popular is the lighthouse trail, the other is Kerachut Beach. You can either walk the trails or hire a boat to take you to each. I hiked Kerachut Beach trail as a suggestion from some locals I met. The trail is long and takes about 75-90 minutes to get to the beach. It has a good amount of hills so bring plenty of water and wear appropriate shoes, don’t wear flip-flops (like I did). You’ll be much happier in sneakers, but pack the flips for when you get there. You can’t swim in the water, but you can sit on the beach and watch the stunning views. At the end of the beach is a Turtle Conservation Center which helps the two main species of turtles found here in Penang (Olive Ridley Turtle and Green Turtle).
There are three main beaches that are monitored by this group for maintaining a natural habitat for turtles to land and lay eggs. These beaches do not allow for visitors to swim (Kerachut Beach, Teluk Kampi Beach, and Teluk Katapang Kecil Beach). You can visit the center and see the hatchlings along with a couple green seas turtles and talk to them about their conservation actions. Getting here by public bus is easy and is a 40-minute ride. Take the Penang Rapid Bus #101.
OCCUPY BEACH STREET – SUNDAY MARKET
Every Sunday from 7am – 1pm Lebuh Pantai is closed off to cars and turns into a market full of vendors selling food, gifts, crafts, games, and even henna booths. You will find people dressed in costume.
According to their website Occupy Beach Street came about for the following reasons:
• To promote Penang as an eventful tourist destination
• To uplift the business growth in Georgetown area
• To create a safe platform for the public to view the Heritage area
• To popularize the idea of healthy living, emphasize the importance of social interaction
• To create further awareness on the Eco-Friendly Concept
• To introduce and promote local creation
Khoo Kongsi is a beautiful Chinese clan house that is closed to the public every night except the 3rd Saturday of the month.
If you’re lucky to be in the area during this time, it’s a must see for the Chinese Dragon and Chinese Lion dance. And the temple is beautiful at night with all the lights. It’s one of those on the list of must photograph.
KEK LOK SI
Kek Lok Si temple was built in 1891. It has a series of steps in the form of a market to get you to the temple. At the entrance of the temple is a turtle pond filled with hundreds of tortoise and you can buy food to feed them from the vendors around the pond. Things to note are although this is a temple, there is no dress code. I went covered up and saw most people including locals wearing shorts and tank tops. Once you’re done touring the temple, don’t forget to stop at Air Itam to get Penang’s famous Laksa.
Located on Weld Quay, you’ll find a bunch of houses on stilts. There are four clans (villages) that are over a century old the Lim, Chew, Tan and Yeoh. In the Chew and Tan Jetty you will find souvenir shops and food vendors. Fun fact, the houses on the jetties don’t pay land tax as they’re technically built on water.
Being a photographer, when I found out there was a camera museum, I B-lined to go check it out. So amazing there were cameras from all eras of time, starting from the 1st cameras made all the way up to present day cameras. There was also a pinhole room where you could play around with the pinhole cameras and a darkroom showing how pictures were printed back in the day. I learned how to take photos with film cameras back in 1989 which was before digital was even a thought. It was great to see a full darkroom and brought back a lot of great memories of me spending hours on the weekends in a darkroom just to print one perfect picture.
All around Penang you’ll see men waiting for passengers to ride around on their bike, called trishaws. This was Penang’s mode of transportation in the early days and is still fun to do in present time. You can hire a trishaw for around 30 MYR (~$7) for an hour to take you around town. It’s a great way to see the city and have them show you where some of the art murals are.