Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

My dad was born in Penang while my mom is from Singapore. Even though I was mainly raised in Singapore, my dad made it a point to take me and my 3 brothers back to Penang once every few months to visit family and have an authentic Penang childhood experience. I never really understood why my dad put in so much effort into making countless trips to and fro both places, but I have come to appreciate my upbringing so much more as I'm older - I have enjoyed the best of both modern and competitive city life in Singapore, as well as slow-living, cultural and outdoorsy Penang. Living in Singapore's alright, but it gets very claustrophobic sometimes. It's refreshing to escape intense city life in Singapore and retreat to Penang where the sea and hills are more accessible. One of the things I love the most about Penang is its strong stance on preserving culture and heritage. This is evident in the well-restored heritage architecture which predominant in the main town area, as well as the traditional food scene manifested in individual roadside stalls to local food centres. 

I would advise you to spend at least one full day walking around the old heritage area of Georgetown. All the places of interest (places of worship, street art, cafes, museums) are within reach of one another. Be sure not to miss Penang’s famous interactive wall murals that are painted by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic. These wall murals are mostly found within the old town in random nook and crannies – you can’t miss it. 

This post is made of three parts:

Top 16 Places of Interest in Penang

Cool Streets/ Bars/ Cafes in Penang

Other Cool Stuff in Penang


Top 16 Places of Interest in Penang


1) "Kids on bicycle" Mural

2) Fort Cornwallis

3) Made In Penang Interactive Museum

4) Clan Jetties Of Penang

5) Pinang Peranakan Mansion

6) Burmese Buddhist Temple

7) Reclining Buddha Wat Chaiyamangalaram

8) Kek Lok Si

9) Gurney Drive

10) Gurney Plaza

11) Area around KOMTAR

12) Penang Hill

13) Batu Feringghi Night Market

14) Straits Quay Marina Mall

15) Monkeyy Beach

16) Precinct 10

Scroll to the bottom for the link to access my Google My Maps for my Penang Recommendations

Scroll to the bottom for the link to access my Google My Maps for my Penang Recommendations


1)    "Kids on bicycle" Mural

 

2)     Fort Cornwallis

A historical landmark marking Sir Francis Light (Founder of Penang)and his British East India Company's starting point in Penang where they took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786. The fortress walls are erected in such a way that it forms a star-shaped. You will find cannons, ammunition storage areas, prison cells and even a Christian Chapel here. 

 

3) Made In Penang Interactive Museum

Visit my dad’s museum – Made in Penang Museum (MPIM). It is an interactive museum with 3D art showcasing the heritage and history of Penang. Overall, it’s just a great destination for families who want to learn a bit more about Penang and have some fun pictures taken with the 3D art. 

 

4) Clan Jetties Of Penang

clanjetty2.jpeg

One of my favourite attractions in Penang, The Clan Jetties are located not too far from MPIM. It is a waterfront village where the first Chinese immigrants set up their wooden homes in 1882 on timber planks and stilts above sea level. The five main clans are Lim, Lee, Chew, Tan and Yeoh; the Chew Jetty being the most popular and tourist-friendly one. Try the durian cream puffs when at the Chew Jetty. There are also less populated jetties towards the ends where it’s just nice to hang out with some friends and relax by the sea.

 

5) Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Sign up for an interesting and informative Peranakan Museum tour which will take you back to the early days of the Peranakan People (Babas and Nyonyas) in Penang. This architecturally-pleasing museum also showcases beautiful Peranakan interior design and intricate artefacts.

 

6, 7, 8) Burmese Buddhist Temple, Reclining Buddha Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Kek Lok Si

These 3 places of interest are culturally significant to my family, especially Kek Lok Si Temple, and the Burmese Buddhist Temple. Both temples used to be our ‘family’ temples that we visited weekly. It’s funny how they have transformed into hot tourist destinations today! Kek Lok Si is a complex of temples nestled on a hill. The giant Kuan Yin statue is the main attraction; it sits on top of the hill overlooking Penang. Spend half a day ‘trekking’ up the hill for a nice panoramic view of Penang and visit the smaller characteristic monasteries and praying halls along the way.

Left: Burmese Buddhist Temple 

Right: The most amazing coconut icecream served with sweetcorn and atapchi on a loaf of sweet bread. Buy it from the coconut icecream pushcart stall inside the Reclining Buddha Wat Chaiyamangalaram temple ground. This is my family's favourite, it is a must-try!

 

9) Gurney Drive

Gurney Drive is the most popular seafront promenade in Penang. This coastal road is also lined with cafes, restaurants, hawker centres, and boutiques. I recommended Song River food center (found along Gurney Drive) in my Penang Food itinerary. 

 

10) Gurney Plaza

Penang’s largest shopping mall with international retailers and large departmental stores. More of a ‘local’ mall. Get your shopping done here! 

 

11) Area around Komtar

Visit the heritage shophouses and street markets around Komtar. Komtar is the tallest landmark in Penang. Other than that I don’t have much to say or recommend about the building itself.

Penang's famous Chendol is also located around the Komtar area. See my Penang Food Recommendations Itinerary for more information. 

 

12) Penang Hill

Penang Hill is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. A 10-20min tram ride, or a hike up the hill gives you great views of Georgetown.

 

13) Batu Feringghi Night Market

A long strip of night market along the main road selling local handicrafts and clothes. This is a tourist hot-spot, so be mindful of the high prices that the stall vendors will try to charge you!

 

14) Straits Quay Marina Mall

A modern mixed used development consisting of waterside restaurants/ bars and apartments, and retail boutiques. It also has a nice boat yard and good sea views. It is mostly a ‘local’ area for shopping and meet-ups with friends.    

 

15) Monkey Beach

If you have time for a beach day, be sure to include Monkey Beach in your itinerary! This is another childhood family destination of mine. We would either trek to the beach or take a quick boat ride from the entrance of Penang National Park (Northwestern part of Penang Island). At Monkey Beach, you can rent ATVs to drive through jungle paths, scoot across the sea in jet-skis, go for a swim in the warm sea water, or take a banana boat/ the big red chair (aka ‘Great Big Mable’). Both the Banana Boat and the Great Big Mable are inflatable rides: you and several other friends sit on the inflatable which is pulled by a speed boat across the water. It’s good fun! 


Cool streets/ bars/ cafes in penang

  • Lebuh Armenian
  • Lebuh Carnarvon
  • Lebuh Campbell
  • Lebuh Chulia
  • Love Lane
  • ChinaHouse
  • Wheeler's Coffee
  • Reggae Mansion Penang
  • #Selfie Coffee
  • Coffee Tea Or Me
  • D'Loovis
  • 41 Living Story
  • Mugshot cafe
  • Chulia Court
  • Reggae Club
  • Precinct 10
  • QE II

 

Penang is HUGE on café culture – each café decorated with distinctive bricolage. My favourite café in Penang is ChinaHouse on Lebuh Pantai/ Lebuh Victoria. It sits on a compound of three heritage shophouses with a communal al-fresco courtyard and art gallery on the top floors. Its interiors combine an eclectic mix of oriental and western elements, and contemporary and quirky styles. Whenever I’m back in Penang, I like to head down to ChinaHouse for Jazz music – they bring in professional musicians to play in the ‘canteen’ segment of the café/ restaurant.

ChinaHouse

ChinaHouse

As mentioned, Lebuh Armenian is the main heritage street with the famous ‘children on bicycle’ street mural and many other street murals. For something to do at night, visit Lebuh Chulia which is usually abuzz with activity. There are many cafes and bars that are open till late on Lebuh Chulia. Whenever my family is back in Penang, we often go to my dad’s alfresco dining and live music bar/restaurant, Reggae Mansion Penang. I also like Ono’s Junk, a random rustic antique store which is located a few shophouses away from Reggae Mansion. Check out our other cafe around the Lebuh Chulia area: Coffee, Tea or Me. Mugshot Café is another popular cafe where they make fresh bagels from a pizza oven. Bar Five27 and Reggae Bar are also other colourful nightlife hotspots. Further down Lebuh Chulia is Little India, where you will find many Hindu temples, Indian food stalls, and boutiques selling traditional Indian clothing and accessories.

Adjacent to Lebuh Chulia is Love Lane. This street is (ironically) called Love Lane because homeowners who wanted to earn a little bit more income in the 1950s used to lease thetop floor of their shophouses to prostitutes. Love Lane is no longer a red-light district today, rather, it is an area filled with bagpacker hostels, cafes and mini art galleries.

Visit my family café/ bars:

  • Wheeler’s Coffee: a bicycle-themed café. 
  • #SelfieCoffee: where you can get your selfie imprinted onto your coffee foam!
  • D’Loovis: The 2nd floor of this shophouse bar is a cosy live music venue. They usually have live music every night. If you’re into heavy rock music by Led Zeppelin/ Deep Purple/ Metallica etc, you HAVE to visit on a night that the band, TOUCH MAHAL, is playing.
Touch Mahal performing on the 2nd floor of D'Loovis 

Touch Mahal performing on the 2nd floor of D'Loovis 

Another shop I like on Love lane is 41 Living Story. It sells locally-produced hand-made goods like bags, artwork, and other souvenir-worthy gifts. The middle section of the shophouse is an open-air courtyard dedicated for its family-run café, Theatric Café. Try their iced nutmeg juice!

 

Lebuh Campbell hosts many wholesale fashion stores and vintage shops. An interesting café here is a moustache-themed café, Moustache Houze. For a good glimpse of local market activity, head down to Campbell Street Market – a small-sized wet market selling local produce and the fishermen’s daily catch. It is open daily from 8-11am.

 

For a proper clubbing night-out, head down to Precinct 10 - a concentration of restaurants, clubs and bars in Tanjung Tokong. The scene here is more ‘local’. The more renown clubs here are Cuvée and Nueve, which play pretty good EDM music.

 

QEII Penang is a slightly fancier waterfront alfresco restaurant-club opposite the MPIM museum which plays good dance and house music. I haven’t been there in ages, but I remember it as a great place to hang out with friends, some drinks, and plenty of fresh seabreeze!


OTHER COOL THINGS to do in Penang

1)     OCCUPY BEACH STREET (SUNDAY MARKET)

http://www.tourismpenang.net.my/index.php/Festivals/occupy-beach-street

Occupy Beach Street is a street market that happens every Sunday, 7am-1pm. It happens in conjunction with Penang Car-free Day where roads along Beach Street are closed off to allow for pedestrian activity, street performances, community activities like social dances, workshops, and children’s games. It is popular for visitors to hire a bicycle from a bicycle rental shop.

 

2)     GEORGETOWN FESTIVAL I

http://georgetownfestival.com/

I highly recommend this annual month-long festival which is held in the month of August. The city dedicates a lot of patience and resources to this event - you will find many streets closed during this period for the screening of local films, dance performances and cultural parades. 

It is an exciting time to be in Georgetown where there is always something happening in every corner of the street. What I like the most about this festival is its authenticity. A few Southeast Asian cities tend to borrow heavily from Western ideas which eventually enshrouds the local culture with a disproportionate amount of Western culture and presentation. I think Penang is truly one of the very few Southeast Asian cities that has successfully represented their local culture in a very creative and genuine way.


Access my Penang Places of Interest Google My Map which includes Top Places of Interest, Cool Streets/ Bars/ Cafes, and Food Recommendations