Penang – the hidden jewel of Malaysia (completely coined by me, mind). But I say this with all honesty, I absolutely loved Penang – with its artistic street murals adorning the UNESCO Heritage town to the mouth-watering culinary delights, Penang was the perfect place to get away from the big city and just chill for a weekend
Before going to Penang, people kept raving on and on about this city, giving me lots of tips on where to go, what to eat, and the list goes on and on! To ensure this list doesn’t go to waste, I’m sharing them with you – for your future travels, and hope you enjoy Penang as much (or even more than) I did!
How to get to Penang
Lots of airlines fly directly into Penang (both international and domestic) In our case, we flew in from Kuala Lumpur using AirAsia. We took the earliest morning flight out on Saturday (7:15 AM) and the latest flight back on Sunday (11:20 PM). Therefore, what I’ll be chronicling throughout this blog is completely doable within two days – because we managed to do it!
If you and your friends fancy a road trip, you can take the North-South Highway to get to Butterworth (travel time ranges between 4 to 5 hours, and the roads are nicely paved). Once you’re in Butterworth, you can either cross the Penang Bridge or transport your vehicle via the ferry for a fee
Several bus operators travel from KL to Penang daily (departing from either Pudu Sentral or KTM Old Railway Station). Travel time is around ~4 hours, and standard fares can range from RM 40 to RM 100 (depending on the extra services you may want included, e.g. WiFi). Once they reach Penang, you’ll be dropped off at Penang Sungai Nibong bus terminal, which is ~20 mins from Georgetown. From there, either grab a taxi / Uber to take you to Georgetown
There’s a KTMB train that travels daily from KL to Butterworth, however travel time is quite long (~6 hrs) owing to the multiple stops it makes along the way. Once you’re in Butterworth, proceed to the ferry terminal
How to get around Penang
Best way to do so is by car. Reason being the sights to see are quite far from each other + the restaurants I’ll be suggesting aren’t of walking distance
If you drove from KL to Penang, then you’re in luck (although parking is horrible). Otherwise, Uber and taxis can be found anywhere, so don’t fret. In my case, my friend had a friend who had a friend (confused yet?) who drove an Uber in Penang – so we commissioned him to bring us around for two whole days, and agreed on a fixed RM 150 fare + paid meals throughout the trip
What to do once you get to Penang
Check out the sea of clouds at Penang Hill (also known as Bukit Bendera)
Take a 5-mins funicular train ride to the top of the hill (RM 30 round trip) or choose to trek up the hill (3-hour hike) via the Botanic Gardens. Either way, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sounds of nature. At the top, you’ll be privy to a beautiful panoramic view of Penang, or a sea of clouds depending on the weather conditions of the day. After checking out the view, stroll around to see other cool things – like grand colonial mansions (now refurbished to become restaurants and guesthouses), a temple, a mosque, and a love lock bridge. I suggest you forego eating here though – as there are many more yummy restaurants waiting at the bottom of Penang!
Pay your resssspects at the Snake Temple
Three guesses why it’s called the Snake Temple? No takers?
The temple is filled venomous viperssss, but don’t worry! They’ve had their venom extracted and are pretty much harmless now, as they laze around under the sun – lulled into peacefulness by the smell of incense wafting in from the temple. Having said that, for your own peace of mind, please don’t pick up the snakes. Don’t.
For avid The Amazing Race fans, you might’ve also realized that this Buddhist temple was featured on the popular show at one point as well. Pretty cool right?
Relax and unwind at Batu Ferringhi Beach
Pristine sandy beaches, nice salty breeze, and an array of water activities can keep anyone busy here at Batu Ferringhi Beach. Chill at Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort – it’s completely free as long as you stay in the common areas – and lounge around as you watch people frolic along the sand and the sun set over the horizon. It’s the perfect way to cap off a stressful week, and put you in just the right weekend mindset
At night, this popular tourist belt then comes to life with the Batu Ferringhi night market providing curious knick-knacks of wood carvings, beautiful paintings, distinctive jewelry, and more. They also have a decent food market, where we grabbed dinner
Explore the hidden nooks and crannies of Georgetown – a definite must!!
George Town is named after King George III, and is a beautiful beautiful place brimming with culture (melting pot of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian to be exact) – there’s a reason why it’s acknowledged to be a UNESCO Heritage site after all.
Walking around the town gives you a better appreciation of Penang’s colonial architecture, but most importantly – it allows you to play hide and seek and take lots of Instagram-worthy photos with the many street murals and wrought-iron caricatures strewn around the streets of Georgetown! My friend and I legit used up the whole day just hunting down these artistic creations – we didn’t manage to cover ALL of them, but we got ~80% at least. If you want to do the same, you may want to rent a bicycle via Metrobike (RM 20/bike for 24 hours) as some of the artworks are far from the town center (we cheated and drove around, we were pooped after 3 hours of walking!). Otherwise, you can also join the guided walking tours by Penang Heritage Trust (really pricey though)
If you’re serious about catching them all (and beating my record), here’s a map of where to find all the cool artwork murals and caricatures. As you can see from the packet, the caricatures are extra awesome because it’s not just about the photo opportunity, but it actually teaches you the history of Penang in a funny, relatable way!
Step into a living reminder of the pioneer Chinese immigrants who came to seek their fortunes a lifetime ago
The Weld Quay Clan Jetties are home to five main Chinese clans – Lim, Chew, Tan, Lee and Yeoh. Check out these humble, rickety wooden jetties to see what their laidback lifestyle looks like and imagine what could’ve been a few decades ago
Pay your respects at Kek Lok Si
This is one of the largest Buddhist temple complex I’ve ever seen, and is adorned with many cultures and carvings. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got there so we didn’t get to take close-up photos of its grandeur. I’ve heard it’s extra enchanting during Chinese New Year and Wesak Day celebrations as the temple will be lit up from top to bottom with dazzling lights!
Embark on a culinary adventure your taste buds will never forget
What trip to Penang would be complete without food? Here’s a lowdown of all the restaurants and food stalls I visited, and what to order in each one!
What to order: Char Kway Tyeow (the best!), O Wa Chien (Fried oyster with egg)
Address: Kafe Kheng Huat, Lorong Selamat, Penang
What to order: Assam laksa, Curry mee, Chee chiong fun, Chendol
Address: No 5 , Lebuh Keng Kwee , off Penang Road
What to order: Bak kut teh, Hokkien mee
Location: 223 Jalan Burma, George Town
No photos as the place was closed when we drop by, so sad 😦
What to order: Nasi kendar, Roti tissue
Location: 177 Jalan Penang, Lebuh Campbell
Other Malaysia blog posts
If (like me), you’re all about eating good food – check out my “Eating my way through KL” blog post
Otherwise, if you’re headed back to KL – check out my lowdown on what to do in KL, which includes a list of day trips as well