Penang Travel Guide
An island of rich Chinese heritage, Penang has an array of mosques, ruins, museums, preserved forests, and beautiful beaches that make a trip here more than worthwhile. This island is said to be the country’s unofficial food capital, and its a must-visit if you are visiting Malaysia. From the water’s edge at the Clan Jetties to the brilliant blue sheen of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang is fairly impressive.
Tropical Spice Garden - Set just up the road from the Teluk Bahang junction, Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden is an eight-acre collection of secondary jungle with some 500 species of flora and fauna. Southeast Asia’s only tropical spice garden is a good place to spend the afternoon with your kids – the nature conservation complex features three garden trails that take you on 20-45 minute journeys past stream crossings, waterfalls and structures made of recycled organic materials.
Tropical Fruit Farm - Tropical Fruit Farm is a 25-acre organic orchard in Penang with more than 250 types of tropical and subtropical fruit trees and is located approximately two km down the road from Teluk Bahang. The garden was developed in 1993 in an effort to conserve rare and exotic fruit trees. The fruit farm’s collection of trees include species from far-flung corners of the world including Central and South America, Central Africa, India, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. This eco-tourism venture only utilizes organic fertilisers.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion - The mansion was built by Cheong Fatt Tze whose journey is a ‘rags to riches’ story. Named after the Chinese businessman referred to by westerners as the Rockefeller of the East, this beautifully restored mansion mixes Chinese architectural elements with British styles that were all the rage in Georgetown when it was built in the 1880s. Brilliant blue paint graces its exterior, that's why it is also called The Blue Mansion.
Within, you’ll find Art Nouveau-style stained glass windows, cast iron works made and shipped in from Glasgow, and exquisite floor tiles created in Stoke-on-Trent. Take your time to appreciate the beauty of this architecture.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion - If you do not have enough time to go to several mansions, then this is the mansion to choose. One of the must visit Museum in Georgetown to take a sneak peek at the Peranakan lifestyle - Baba (Chinese Male) and Nyonya (Malay Muslim Female) life in Penang. Peranakan means Chinese immigrants that settled in Malaysia and adopt a culture that is a mix of Chinese and Malay. They have guided tours happening here. It is great if you get to join in one of them because there’s so much you will learn and theses tours are so much fun.
Penang Hill - If finding the best view of the city is what you want then make sure head up to Habitat on Penang Hill to see Penang from the highest vantage point in the city. Whilst there you can take a guided tour through the nature trail to learn about the rainforest, swing on the giant swings and go on the newly built canopy walk.
Penang Butterfly Farm - Opened in 1986, the Penang Butterfly Farm – located in Teluk Bahang – is one of Penang’s best known and most popular tourist attractions. The eight-hectare butterfly sanctuary houses an impressively varied collection of butterfly species as well as an assortment of other insects.
Penang Bird Park - Penang Bird Park is the first and largest bird park in Malaysia. Established in 1988, the RM1.2 million complex is home to over 300 species of birds (150 of which are of local origin) ranging from kingfishers and tiny exotic sunbirds to vulturine guineafowl and huge, gigantic eight ft-tall ostriches. Located in Seberang Jaya, within the beautifully- landscaped, five-acre Penang Bird Park are two walk-in aviaries and two geodesic-domed enclosures, resembling the birds’ natural habitat. This allows for free roaming pelicans, flamingos, swans, storks mandarin ducks and other kinds of birds.
Batu Ferringhi Beach -Just a 15-minute drive from the centre of Georgetown, Batu Ferringhi’s beach is one of Penang Island’s most stunning bodies of water – think powder white sands spilling out onto turquoise blue waters, that stretch all the way up the northern peninsula.
Penang Botanical Garden - Penang Botanical Gardens are usually simply called the Botanic Gardens by Penang islanders. Also known as the Waterfalls Gardens, the gardens are located in a valley along Jalan Kebun Bunga. It is a well landscaped place that contains a huge variety of indigenous and exotic plant species. Set up by the British in 1884 by Charles Curtis of the Gardens & Forests Departments Straits Settlements, it used to be an old quarry site and is divided into 12 sections: the Formal Garden, Lily Pond, Perdana Plant House, Tropical Rainforest Jungle Track, Fern House, Fern Rockery, Aroid Walkaway, Cactus House, Orchidarium, Horticulture Centre, Nursery and Quarry Recreational Park.
Penang Floating Mosque - Masjid Terapung or the Floating Mosque was built in 2004 in a bid to replace an older mosque which was damaged in the year’s major tsunami disaster. Situated along Tanjung Bungah’s stretch of beach, the mosque is an architectural wonder with its Moorish design, seven-storey-high towering minarets and 360-degree panoramic view of the sea. It’s the first mosque in the country to be built on the sea, with pillars and stilts supporting its majestic structure. Covering an area of 1,295sqm, it can accommodate up to 1500 people during prayer times.
Penang Toy Museum - Penang Toy Museum bills itself as the world’s largest toy museum. It is home to over 100,000 dolls, trains and other collectibles and has earned a spot in the Malaysian Book of Records as the country’s first toy museum, with the largest toy and figurine collection. Walking through the front doors is like stepping back into childhood and you are sure to see some old friends in the collection, from My Little Ponies and Care Bears to Doraemon and Gundam collectibles. A kitschy yet fun place to visit, it is a worthwhile and entertaining place to visit for both adults and kids.
Penang National Park - Penang National Park is the world’s smallest national park. Within the park are well-marked trails that lead into the jungle and to the bays around; it contains about 410 species of flora and 143 species of fauna ranging from snakes, macaques and leaf monkeys to otters, hawksbill turtles and dolphins.
Penang Batik Factory - Penang Batik Factory is one of the pioneers of batik manufacturing on the island. Established in 1973 by Craft Batik Sdn Bhd, it is set in Teluk Bahang, a short walk away from the Penang Botanic Gardens. The complex is divided into three sections: an art gallery, boutique and workshop. Surrounded by lots of tropical greenery, it is one of Penang’s well known sightseeing spots and offers a wide variety of quality batik, from block prints batiks to hand-drawn pieces. At the Penang Batik Factory, unlike the usual one-sided print, each piece features patterns and colours on both sides of the fabric: the complex provides free, guided daily tours.
Street Art Exploration - Just walking through the streets of Georgetown can be pretty fascinating. With quirky cafes, street vendors, wall art, there’s so much to see and do on every street. Some of the streets you shouldn’t miss exploring are Armenian Street, Cannon Street, Campbell Street, Penang Street.
Clan Jetties - Penang is home to “floating” villages called jetties where Chinese clans have lived for generations. There are six in total: One each for the Chew, Lee, Lim, Tan, and Yeoh families, and Chap Seh Keo, which is home for families with different last names. The jetty homes are actually perched above the water on concrete stilts, and are connected by wooden piers. A visit to these UNESCO world heritage sites is a must when visiting Penang.
Kapitan Keling Mosque - The Kapitan Keling Mosque (GPS: 5.41666, 100.33758) along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (formerly Pitt Street), is one of the best known mosque in Penang. Before the construction of the Penang State Mosque, the Kapitan Keling Mosque was used as the state mosque of Penang, since it is the largest historic mosque in George Town. The Kapitan Keling Mosque was named after Caudeer Mohuddeen, the head of the Indian Muslim community credited to have built it around 1800. The Kapitan Keling was the first Superintendent of the mosque. He brought in the builders and stones from India for the project. The original mosque structure was a single-storey rectangular building with a sloping roof on all sides and surrounded by a stone bench. It was surrounded by shophouses, with access through a narrow gateway.
Hameediya - Have Nasi Kandar at Hameediya. Nasi Kandar is a mix of rice and dish from a buffet selection and you only need to pay from what you selected. Typical options are assorted curries, fried chicken/fish/egg, curried vegetables and stir fly vegetables.
How to get there
If you live in Doha, Qatar Airways flies straight to Penang from Doha 4 times a week.
If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur, there are daily flights you can take to Penang.
You can also drive to Penang if you have a car.
Penang is also reachable by train
There’s so much to do in this city, and you can easily spend a week immersing into the many things the city offers. Malaysia is a place really close to my heart, and I hope you feel the same way when you go around as well.