Before getting to Penang, I´ve read many things about it, good and not so… but as I counted on
some free days, why not giving it a chance?
It will be a massive change for the travellers coming from Kuala Lumpur, far from the metropolis Penang is a tiny island north of Malaysia, close to Thailand border. Its capital city, Georgetown is mostly where tourists make base to travel around the island: purely a bohemian place with streets full of art, picturesque little homes and packed food stands/restaurants are the main pieces in its landscape.
Penang wasn´t my favourite place in Asia (not even close), it´s extremely hot without much interesting things to do.
If you need a break out of the heat, you can find the holy A/C in the Komtar Malls Complex, with eastern fast food chains, some well-known clothing brands and many second hand Chinese stores.
From Komtar ground floor you will be able to find public transportation to different touristic spots around the island, such as Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang National Park.
Penang has a vast culture, that´s why to food is well varied: malsian, hindu, Chinese, british hipster… dishes for every taste!
Curry is in the air! Little India is a main stop in the Heritage Area (UNESCO), similar to every Little India in every asian country you have already visited; if you haven´t visited India yet, this will be the closest: of course without the garbage, cows, smell, chasing touts, etc etc… But with its typical music, street food and colorful environment.
What to do?
UNESCO heritage area (Colonial Penang) with its famous Street Art
Colonial Penang is a mixture between British style buildings and picturesque asian lifestyle, with the streets are full of art… you will find different works of art mainly by chance, they are everywhere! That´s why you should walk paying attention… perhaps in a wall, roof, alley… eyes wide open!
Many works of art by the artist Ernest Zacharevic are nowadays remarkable landmarks, for example Girl in Blue, Children on a Bicycle and Boy on a Bike.
In order to visit all of them you will need a map! There´s a Tourist Info Stand in Lebuh Pantai by the way…
Don´t forget the Tang Mun Kian iron works of art, where he shows Penang lifestyle and history in 24 different crafts; after watching all of them you will feel like you just had your own city tour.
Kek Lok si Temple
It´s the biggest bubdhist temple in Malaysa, even in Southeast Asia! Locals call it the The Temple of Supreme Bliss; located in Crane Hill and surrounded by a circuit of souvenir stands and restaurants… which lowers its charm a little bit in my opinion.
In order to get to the temple you will need to walk trhough this never ending “tunnel” with packed stands all the way up, with the heat over 40º C, the people and the lack of fresh air, the trail to the gates is a truly pain in the neck. Get a bottle of water, don´t forget it!
There´s a solution (I wish I knew about it), you can avoid this corridor as can go up by the Temple sides, it will be longer but way less suffocating.
There´s no entrance fee, however you have to donate 2 RM to access the Pagoda and the cable car.
The rocking star is the Pagoda without a doubt! It´s a seven storey one with thousands of status of Buddha, symbolizing armony between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. You will get to the pagoda after a sharp stairway, but it´s totally worth it! The panomaric view is impressive!
Buses 201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and U502 will take you there! Jalan Pasar stop, remember.
This hill is the highest spot in the island, you can escape from the heat and get here to enjoy a few less degrees. There is a train which takes you to the top, avoid weekends as it gets full of tourists! I recommend going during week day mornings.
If the weather helps you will be able to see the whole city, the view is pretty enough! You can walk around, visit a small Hindu temple, the mosque, food stands, children playground, also a cool restaurant to have some drinks while enjoying the view.
Penang National Park
If you love nature and trekking, this Park a must! It´s a great opportunity to enjoy the day walking around and enjoying the landscape. There are two different trails, the left one will take you to Turtle Beach and the other one, to the Monkey Beach.
Pssst! The second one is easier!
None of the is flat, however they are easy enough for an amateur with shade most of the time. Don´t forget your mosquito repellent!
As many other places where you will be face to face with monkeys, they may jump on you to get your food or shiny objects… so be careful! Don´t leave your backpacks unattended or wide open! Also pay attention to your camera, phone, sunglasses, etc. There are some picnic tables at the beach to grab a sandwich! Once there, you can relax!