White sandy beaches, hilly terrains topped with towering skyscrapers, meandering rivers and tropical expanses yonder – Penang has the whole package. A beautiful tropical island by the Malacca strait, Penang is home to a population of 1.76 million. Penang includes the capital of George Town and Sebarang Perai on the Malay peninsula – connected by Malaysia’s longest road bridges, Penang Bridge and Sultan Abdul Jalim Muadzam Shah Bridge. One of the most productive states of Malaysia, Penang is a mélange of many cultures, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasians and Siamese.
Tip: peak season in Penang is around Christmas and Chinese Ney Yea. If you’re traveling between January and February, book accommodation and flights in advance or be prepared to shell out the big bucks.
Getting to Penang:
Penang is often reached through Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport (PEN). One of the busiest airports in Malaysia, the airport is located in the southeastern region of Penang Island. Needless to say, the runway offers stunning views during descent and picking a window seat will have its advantages. Direct flights to Penang are offered in plenty from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Medan, Hong Kong, and Taipei. If you are looking for cheap flights to Penang, you can opt for Thai Smile, Scoot or AirAsia. Major international carriers that operate flights to Penang include Cathay Dragon, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, and SilkAir.
Tip: The airport has been refurbished recently to include more amenities. It has water refilling stations, and carrying refillable water bottles is recommended, especially if your travel route is long.
Getting around Penang Island:
The airport is about 16km from George Town city center. Bus routes are available from the airport that connects you to various parts of the island. You can also choose the taxi services. If you’re traveling to the Malay Peninsula area of Penang, you can opt for ferry services.
To travel within Penang, there are several options. RapidPenang, the local bus service offers frequent services to major destinations, and you can plan your journey using the GPS enabled iPhone app of the service provider. For a fun time, you can travel by trishaws, if you want to get to know local life with an informal tour guide experience. Taxis and car rentals are the more expensive options.
Tip: Although not fluent, the locals are able to communicate in broken English with tourists. Businessmen, hotel staff and other professionals would be fully fluent in English. Those who can speak Mandarin, Cantonese or Tamil will also be able to get around easily.
Penang for sightseeing:
Penang Island is a melting pot of cultures and nature reserves alike. Containing both green and grey jungles, there’s much to do in the area that can help you relax and unwind. Top destinations include
Downtown Georgetown: The heart of the city is an old area that has been declared a UNESCO heritage zone. True to its cosmopolitan nature, the zone features 19th-century colonial architecture and pockets of other global cultures like Armenian Street, Pitt Street, Little India, old mosques and even clan temples. You can easily walk around the area to take in the sights and sounds. Along Penang Street, you can even catch street art.
Penang Hil: For an exhilarating view of George town, go up Penang Hill on the rail line. You’ll reach the summit in 5 minutes and what’s more, is that its an instant relief from the hot and humid weather down below. You can also hike to the summit in 2-3 hours.
Gardens: Known as the waterfall gardens colloquially, the Penang Botanic gardens offer a small respite from city life. You can also visit the Tropical Spice Garden, an 8-acre valley along the shores that features plants from around the world.
Farm visits: As a tropical island, fruit farms are aplenty. If you want to rehydrate yourself in the hot weather, the best thing to do is visit a fruit farm and take in the samples. Carry your favorites back to the hotel, if you please. There are also durian farms for those who are willing to embark on a gastronomic adventure.
Temples: Penang’s temples are the best storytellers of the city’s history. Some landmark sites include Wen Chang Temple, Lecheng Temple, Penang Martyr’s Shrine, Confucius Temple and Li Ancestral Shrine.
Tip: It is recommended that you take the hop-on-hop-off tour bus tour so that you get to know your favorite spots right away.
Penang stays in a gist:
Here’s everything you need to know to make your stay in Penang perfectly suited to you.
Eat: Penang is most famous for its Chinese Bakeries. Seek out old bakeries and take pastries as souvenirs! Local delicacies include Char Kway Teow, Penang Laksa, and Nasi Kandar. Food stalls all across the island offer these staples on their menu. Talk to the locals to find out the hot favorite spot when you visit. The dessert spread in Penang includes kaya, coconut tart, and Cendol. Most importantly though, get a healthy dose of the tropical fruits the island offers.
Sleep: Downtown Georgetown is the area to find accommodation that fits all budgets – including backpackers’ inns and luxury hotel chains. For the ultimate vacay, you will have to go with the beachfront resorts. Batu Ferrenghi is the main tourist beach, and again, all kinds of accommodations are available along the coastal stretch. If you’re there for a business visit, choose the Bayan Lapas area as it is conveniently located close to both the industrial area and the airport.
Rave: For the nocturnal creatures, Upper Penang Road is where you’ll find the most happening scene. But great lounges are spread across town including plenty of beachfront bars. Apart from the nightlife, you can also indulge in shopping at outdoor markets including fleas. For haute couture, plenty of large malls offer a world-class experience. For the outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies, Penang offers a labyrinth of adventures in the arms of mother nature. Apart from hiking beaches, you can also arrange for Jungle Trekking and Camping in Penang National Park.
Tip: Watersports and snorkeling should make your to-do list even if you want to step out of your comfort zone. Parasailing and snorkeling are highly recommended.
Ensure that you book your flights to Penang along with hotel reservations to avail great deals. Given that Penang has so much to offer for tourists, it is recommended that you use Trip.com’s personal itinerary planner. The site and app can both help you make good use of precious vacation time. You can also avail the 24-hour customer service feature to ensure a hassle-free experience.
For the perfect mix of beach, nature, food and urban pleasures, visit Penang with Trip.com.