If thrilling episodes of The Amazing Race Asia aren’t enough to induce wanderlust, all you need to do to push yourself (or any reluctant travel buddy) over the edge is to browse the “Street Art Penang” geotag on Instagram. From history to architecture to mouth watering food to nature to eye popping urban art, this island-state on the northwestern coast of peninsular Malaysia has loads to offer.
I went, myself, a few years ago and can’t wait to return. Here are my picks for must-do activities.
5 Things to do in Penang
Explore George Town
Walking through this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site is like stepping back into a history-book Disneyland – except everything is real. If you love architecture, you’ll feast your eyes and senses here. George Town was once an important trading hub along the Straits of Malacca. The buildings are a multicultural melange of British colonial, Chinese shop houses, and ornate mosques and temples. For a quirky experience, hop aboard a trishaw and soak up tales of local culture & history from your driver and guide.
Go graffiti hunting
One of the challenges on The Amazing Race Asia was to look for specific murals along the streets of Penang and take an interactive snapshot. You can do this, too. But first make sure you make a list of which ones you’d like to see! For your consideration, HERE‘s Culture Trip’s shortlist of the best 25 street art. And HERE‘s a map to help you along the way. Whew!
Embark on a Food Trip
Penang is Malaysia’s Food Capital and is often highlighted as one of the best food cities in the world. For this reason, eating here is not a race; it’s a marathon. Slow and steady does it! The worst thing that can happen is regret at not being able to sample all the intriguing, little morsels that caught your eye because you ate too quickly and alas, it’s now it’s time to go back home. You’ll never even need to go beyond side streets to find mouthwatering chow kway teow, Penang laksa, Hokkien mee, nasi lemak, chendol… It’s sensory overload. Say yes to everything.
Hike through Penang National Park
There’s so much you can do here… jungle trekking, bird-watching, fishing, sunbathing on golden-sand beaches. Located on the north-west corner of the island in Teluk Bahang, this national park is easily accessible from George Town or Batu Ferringhi by public transport. Don’t miss Teluk Duyung – also known as Monkey Beach because of the crab-eating macaques that live there.
Visit the Snake Temple
With elaborate mosques, ornate Buddhist temples and venerable Christian churches, it’s easy to get “temple fatigue” in Penang. But if you must see at least one, may I suggest the Snake Temple? Come here for a close encounter with a variety of pit vipers. This temple was constructed in the 1805 to honour Chor Soo Kong, a Buddhist monk who lived during the Song dynasty (960–1279) for his numerous good deeds especially in healing the sick and giving shelter to snakes. The sacred smoke of burning incense is believed to render the vipers harmless. Although the snakes have been de-venomed as a safety precaution, their fangs are still intact.
Where to stay:
Lone Pine Hotel
Established in 1948, Lone Pine is Batu Ferringhi’s only luxury boutique hotel. Its colonial spirit and idyllic charm is emblematic of Penang, itself. Most rooms are set with a plunge tub on the balcony. The property also boasts day beds that are perfect for unwinding and looking out toward the Andaman Sea. An outdoor pool, fitted hammocks, top-of-the-range spa facilities, and being mere footsteps away from the beach ensure you have a most memorable stay.
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