Top 20 of things to do on your first trip in Penang (part 1)
Ah, Penang, the Pearl of the Orient. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the last few years, chances are you’ve already heard of this magnificent city in Malaysia. In fact, in recent times, it has been ranked as one of the best travel destinations not only in the country or in the region, but all over the world! From mouth-watering street food to artistic murals that color the streets, Penang is always different with each visit. That said, I decided to make a list of things to do during a visit to Penang and at the end, trying to limit myself, focus and concentrate on the many things to see, I came to pull down two Top 10! Amazing! Here is my first Top 10 of things to do on your first trip in Penang. Or second. Or third. In fact, no matter how many times you have visited Penang, these activities always seem to fascinate the traveler’s mind at every visit.
1. Street of Harmony
Masjid Kapitan Keling
Penang’s Street of Harmony is located along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and is by far one of the places that best reflect the multicultural uniqueness of Malaysia. The road is full of many places of worship that appeal to different faithful and it is not uncommon to see devotees pouring into a weekend or a religious holiday. Among the most important buildings are the Masjid Kapitan Keling, The Temple of Kuan Yin, the Church of St. George and the Temple of Sri Mahamariamman. The famous Khoo Kongsi building is also situated here.
2. Murals of Penang
I think it was around early 2010, when I found the first posts about the creative murals along the streets of Penang. It has not been too long since the trend of tracing these works of art became a thing to do during a visit to Penang, even for the locals! The streets of Georgetown are literally full of these works of art and is one of the main reasons why there are so many bikes on the road now that about 10 years ago. Considering the large number of artistic murals in the city, get a bicycle to see the most number possible murals is the ideal choice. Trust me!
3. Culinary Marathon
Char Kway Teow
Having talked about street art, I think it’s right to start talking about Street Food on Penang Street. Penang is constantly classified as one of the best food havens in the world and it would take courage to say otherwise. From street food such as Char Kway Teow to delicious broths like Penang Laksa, passing through delicious dishes such as Rojak, Penang has it all. So much so that “Penang” has become a sort of brand in the culinary field of Malaysia. You’ll find good street food everywhere, but a good place to start would be along Gurney Drive.
4. Bar Hopping
Being a bustling port city, Penang has no shortage of cozy concept cafes, classy bars and club parties all over the island. One of the best things in Penang during your first visit is to do a long bar hopping. Among the café that I strongly suggest , there are the Mug Shot Café and the Tavern in the Park. If you’re looking for a fun evening with drinks, head over to Straits Quay which is something like Clarke Quay in Singapore. It has a wide selection of pubs and bars with an incredible night view. There’s also a stunning marina! For something a bit more cool, you can’t miss the Gravity and Tree Bar of G Hotels. The Gravity, rooftop bar is perched on the 24th floor of G Hotel Kelawai and boasts a spellbinding skyline view with 360-degree panoramic view of the island, covering lush greenery of the hill to George Town, and stretching all the way to the iconic Penang Bridge with a mesmerizing sunset scenery to boot. The Tree Bar at G Hotel Gurney is not just a tree but a hangout spot with yummy bites and the best beer in town. Hip and trendy, ever ready, making Happy Hours aplenty. What more could you ask for?
5. The Habitat on Penang Hill
This is a new attraction of Penang with well-constructed paths and activities carried out within the island’s marvelous flora and fauna, perfect for all those who love nature. With its extraordinary facilities, the wonders of nature and the perseverance to conserve the environment, The Habitat on Penang Hill is an exciting and educational experience on the rainforest of Malaysia. This is also the first example of ecotourism in Malaysia. The Habitat Penang Hill is more than a walk in nature, in fact there are many activities available including the Treetop Walk. It is a 13 meter high observation platform located on the plateau just above the Rest Area and the Mid-Point Museum. Designed to accommodate up to 120 people at a time, it offers magnificent views of the island, including the lovely Georgetown, and it is used as a public viewing point on Penang. On a clear day you can see the islands of Langkawi and also the Bel Retiro (the villa of the Governor of Penang), both in the distance. However, a walk in nature can give you a feeling of wild nature that will help you refresh your spirit. Take a couple of hours and get away from the busy city life, nature walks are a great way to relax your mind.
6. Seeking a Trishaw
Well, in Penang, in addition to cars and buses, there are bicycles and trishaws. Although it has become a little more difficult to find these three-wheeled vehicles than ever before, it is still possible to find a number of trishaw peddlers around the Georgetown area and some near the pier. It’s a pleasant and traditional way to get around town or just for a tour around Georgetown. Oh I forgot, it’s a great way to beat the crazy traffic in Penang.
7. Kek Lok Si Temple
The Kek Lok Si Temple is one of the most beautiful and largest temples in the region. Adorned with many sculptures and images of the Buddha, the temple is an essential aspect of Buddhism and Chinese cultural rites in Penang. The temple architecture, with its numerous pagodas and arches, is even more enchanting during the Chinese New Year and Wesak Day celebrations, as the temple is covered with over 10,000 dazzling lights. It is also the period when the temple is more crowded, usually by the faithful but also by tourists who want to immerse themselves in the atmosphere.
8. Climbing 500 Steps
Let’s move now from a temple dedicated to Buddhism to one dedicated to Hinduism, the Temple Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani, one of the oldest Hindu temples on the island. It is built in dedication to the divinity of Murugan and to get to the top, you will have to climb 500 steps. Do it and you will be rewarded with a spectacular 180 degree view of the area near Gurney and Mount Erskine.
9. Reclined Buddha Statue
In case you had not noticed, we went from a Chinese Buddhist temple to a Hindu temple, and now we have arrived at the Siamese Buddhist temple Wat Chayamangkalaram. The temple was commissioned in 1845 by Queen Victoria and houses a reclining gold-plated Buddha statue, one of the largest in the world. The temple is located on Jalan Burma and is a stone’s throw away from Bangkok Lane and is truly a sight not to be missed.
10. Snake Temple
I promise you, this is the last temple on the list. Penang has deep cultural roots and is obviously rich in temples. However, the snake temple is essentially a Buddhist temple. The temple is full of snakes and even if they are poisonous vipers, these have been extracted their poison and for the most part they are limited to lazing in peace, apparently lulled in a sense of nirvana, from the smell of incense that is lavished in temple. But in any case, visitors are still invited not to take selfies with snakes, because one never knows.
Where to stay
Ideally located in Georgetown is the G Hotel Gurney. This 312-room property is situated between two renowned shopping centers, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon, right next to the famous restaurants of Gurney Drive. From inside the G Hotel Gurney, you will not have the feeling of being in a city but rather in a metropolis.
The atmosphere is cosmopolitan and the style is contemporary, the rooms are modern and are certainly more than comfortable. The third floor of G Hotel Gurney is the place of the outdoor pool deck, which takes up a good part of guests’ stay, as well as the gym and SPA.
Add 4 bars and restaurants, an executive lounge, a hair salon and a new conference center and you will get an extraordinarily complete package, an exceptional starting point to enjoy Georgetown. Thanks to its location you will have exclusive access to its best restaurants and shops as well as to the city’s financial district.