The Best Things to See and Do in Penang, Malaysia in 48 Hours
Every corner has a surprise.
(SPOT.ph) Penang Island, which was discovered and founded in the 15th century, is home to various ethnicities—the Chinese, Malays, Indians, Siamese, and Eurasian among others. This is why its capital city, George Town, was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008 for its significance in the trading and cultural exchanges between the east and west in Malacca Strait for over 500 years. Now an exotic holiday destination, Penang is worth visiting for its beautiful street art, rich history, and diverse selection of street food influenced by various cultures.
Going around via bus or Grab is easy. But to get the full experience, you can rent a bike, go for a morning run, or just walk around.
WHERE TO GO
George Town Street Art
George Town's street art trend started in 2010 when the local government commissioned the studio Sculpture at Work to create a series of cartoon steel art pieces in the capital. More works were added in during the 2012 George Town Fetival when Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic filled up more walls. The result is a rendition of Penang's heritage combined with the city's urbanity—such as a girl and a boy riding a bicycle (a popular mode of transportation), a girl practicing her kung fu, and a fisherman getting ready for the day's catch.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
29 Church Street, George Town, Penang
Fee: 20 Malaysian ringgit (roughly P265)
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion reflects a typical home of the Peranakans—descendants of the Chinese immigrants that settled down in the Malay archipelago in the 15th century. It was built at the end of the 19th century to serve as the residence and office of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee who was not really of the Straits Chinese descent but appreciative of Penang's early architecture. The mansion houses over 1,000 pieces of antiques, showcasing the opulent lifestyle of the island's early settlers.
Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Air Itam, Penang
Fee: 80 Malaysian ringgit (roughly P1,050)
Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Young or old, anyone would be fascinated by the the railway system that traverses Penang Hill, especially if it’s your first time! On top, you can get a 180-degree view of George Town and have a multi-sensory experience from all the various activities the place offers: The Earthquake and Typhoon Pavilion which simulates earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons; and the Love Lock which is reminiscent of Paris' Pont des Arts. Don't forget to buy from the famous Penang Hill Kacang Putih, a stall that sells steamed chick peas, steamed peanuts, and other snacks.
Kek Lok Si
Air Itam, Penang
Fee: 5 Malaysian ringgit (for elevator lift and entrance to the pagoda)
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
One of Southeast Asia’s largest and finest temples is the Kek Lok Si Temple, just a few kilometers away from the center of George Town. Its key features are the seven-tier Ban Po Thar pagoda and the statue of Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy. The best time to visit is during the Chinese New Year celebrations, when the temple is transformed into a kaleidoscope world full of neon lights and Chinese lanterns.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
Batu Ferringhi, Penang
Batu Ferringhi is just a 15- to 20-minute drive from George Town. You can lounge around the seaside strip or try out water sports like windsurfing or canoeing. It also has a night market so you may want to stay until sundown.
WHERE TO EAT
Jalan Transfer Road, George Town, Penang
Open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and on weekends from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
This street market’s assembly line is interesting to see—at any given time, someone’s slow-cooking chicken, another is putting roti, chicken, and curry on a plate, and someone else is cleaning up the tables. Overwhelming as it may sound, their roti dishes are the best in town, especially the roti canai or roti telur. Don't forget to order an ice cold glass of teh tarik or milk tea.
Kimberley Junction hawker stalls
Junction of Kimberley Street and Cintra Street, George Town, Penang
Open daily from 6 p.m. onwards
There’s only one rule at this street market: If people are lining up or there’s a huge crowd, you definitely have to eat there. Kimberley Junction houses many stalls that sell a variety of food choices (ranging from 5 Malaysian ringgit to 10 Malaysian ringgit). Remember to try the famous char kway teow, assam laksa, fried oysters, and popiah.
Lebuh Campbell, George Town, Penang
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Hameediyah is the oldest restaurant in Penang, which offers nasi kandar, a well-loved dish made up of flavored rice accompanied by a variety of curry-based meat dishes and vegetables. Customize your own plate and choose between bread and rice with chicken, beef, goat, or seafood. We recommend getting biryani with shrimp and goat meat plus add some curry sauce. Cheese roti is a top choice for dessert.
WHERE TO STAY
The Frame Guesthouse
168 Chulia Street, George Town, Penang
Rate starts at 45 Malaysian Ringgit (roughly P600)
The Frame Guesthouse is located along Lebuh Chulia, which is popular for its hostels and delicious hawker food. Its industrial design gives the place a clean and refreshing vibe. You can also walk to Armenia Street, the core of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Penang, and explore the city's historic places such as the Penang Islamic Museum and Sun Yat-sen Museum.
33 New Lane, George Town, Penang
Rates start at 215 Malaysian Ringgit (roughly P2,800)
The Sunway Hotel combines modern and minimalist designs in their rooms and other amenities. You’ll enjoy their outdoor swimming pool and the Sun Café, their in-house restaurant, which serves a variety of Asian and Western cuisine. The hotel's strategic location gives you easy access to hawker centers and shopping malls, too.