05 June 2010



Ah, what a beautiful island! Architecturally especially, and also topographically, too! One of my favourite islands I've visited in Asia, Penang is simply rewarding and a must if you're into culture, food and history. Let us start the epic journey. Under way...

The Island 
Georgetown is in the east and north-east corner of the island. To the south is Penang Bridge. Closer to Georgetown is the Ferry over to mainland and that's where Penang Bridge also leads. Another bridge further south is under construction. In the relative centre lies Penang Hill. Close enough to it is the Botanical Gardens and Kek Lok Si Pagoda Complex. North of the island lies the beach town of Batu Feringgi, whichi has many resorts. South of Georgetown, close to Snake Temple is Bayan Lepas International airport.

Useful Links 
Tourism Penang is an excellent resource. They have a great map, too. Highly recommended.

To see

Georgetown has a lot to see and we were unlucky to spend just one day here. You can experience various temples, restaurants, shops and lots more.
Khoo Kongsi's interior
Canon at Fort Cornwallis

Khoo Kongsi - In Georgetown, this is a very nicely decorated clanhouse. Go behind and you'll find various works of art. The decoration is immense. Get there early enough. We were there around 10.30 and missed the crowds. 
Fort Cornwallis - One of Penang's most famous attractions, Fort Cornwallis deserves a slot on the itinerary of just about any one's. There are canons and from there is a good sea view. There is also a 'prison' where many eager tourists take photos of their companions.

Penang Museum - One of the biggest museums in Georgetown, this has exhibits about just everything of the island including its history. Admission fees is about RM 1.

Goddess of Mercy Temple - It's a good temple, but unfortunately the crowds know that. There are nice incense sticks, big ones, and the architecture is of course Chinese. Let's add the word "bustling" and you can picture the temple. I guess, it's dedicated to the same goddess whose statue is on top of the Kek Lok Si Complex. 
Bank Street's white buildin

Bank Street - From Victoria Monument, a road with many banks and nice, whitewashed buildings lead to Bank Street. The building on the left is situated there. There are also many ATMs in the area, convenient to get quick cash.

The Chocolate Boutique - The concept is simple-: you are entitled to a free tasting round where you can sample delicious goodies and are then welcome to buy expensive and overpriced stuff. Worth it, though. Don't confuse it with Cocoa Boutique, this one is on Lebuh Leith.
In the Centre
Away from Georgetown to the west, comes a pretty lush area, in the centre of the island.

Penang Hill - Since the funicular was closed, until November 2010, I guess, the only way to get up was by jeep (apart from a long walk). And you had to wait for about 15 minutes if you arrive in the morning. These jeeps aren't "jeeps" they're more like small 4WDs and they're small because there are many turns and curves up the hill. The one we went in had no A/C but it was fine because the air was very pleasant. Up is a hotel, some villas, a viewing station that's all around, a Hindu temple and a mosque apart from some shops, eateries and cooler air. You can also walk up. The tracks commence from the same area; close to the Botanical Gardens. But when we went, it was very cloudy and misty, obstructing views. The picture below right is of the mosque there which was apparently closed.

Botanical Gardens - The entry is free of charge but a tram around the gardens costs around RM 2 if you want to take it. It's a nice tram that takes through some areas and stays on only one road. There is also an orchid garden. They're also loos there, not free and very filthy.

Mosque at Penang Hill
Kek Lok Si Pagoda Complex
Statue of Goddess of Mercy
Kek Lok Si Complex - If visiting, and I'm sure you would, keep in mind that the walk could be fairly tiring, so start fresh. You will start at a base with many shops and you'll lead on for quite a while. There are many forks but the way to the pagoda is marked while the exit back isn't so you'll need to carry a sense of direction. Once you reach the vegetarian restaurant, you can have some fine food there as there is no where else to eat. Then you finally reach a very impressive complex filled with temples. The photo above is just part of it. Soon, behind one temple you reach a large shop and then the way to the cable car, it's a short ride. At the top is the statue of the Goddess of  Mercy and some great views. There are more pictures of the complex at the end of this post.

 The Mainland
You can take the car-ferry to the mainland. Once parked, you could roam around for about 15 minutes before the ferry docked. The views were great of mainland. There are also fair washrooms. Once in the Mainland (Seberang Perai), you are in the industrial area of Butterworth. There is a Bird park there but it is very sad. Many birds are tied and the whole condition is dilapidated and unattractive. RM 20/person. We came back by Penang bridge, longest in South-East Asia. There is a RM 7 charge (toll) when entering Penang.

The Circuit
Around the circuit comes a lot to see. Here's a brief of what we saw.

Tropical Spice Garden - A very lush area, the Tropical Spice Gardens should be explored with shoes although we survived in sandals, I'll not recommend it. It's a nice place and worth a visit.
Penang Butterfly Farm- This is also a very lush place. Like the above, it's very humid, though. There are many butterflies flying around with the mix of lizards and the like. There's a nice souvenir shop and it sells many unique things- such as an orchid embedded in glass.

The Batik Store

Craft Batik - Batik is a type of design on textiles. When you come here, you'll see many people on long tables making impressions/stamps onto garments and there's a huge shop next door with them for sale from moderate-expensive prices. But, I think it's worth buying one at least to show it off back home (amongst other reasons). Not too far away from Spice Garden. The pic to the right is the shop with endless rows.

On the way to, our guide showed us some typical Malay houses in a fishing village. That area was also pretty close to the Butterfly Farm.

Cocoa Boutique - Not too far from Georgetown, we visited the Cocoa Boutique with the guide. Please do not confuse this with the Chocolate Boutique. This offers similar things but the variety (tasting, that is) is slightly lesser over here. It is, however, still worthwhile.
Sleeping Buddha
Sleeping/Reclining Buddha Temple and surrounding temples - It's called Temple of the Sleeping Buddha and Reclining Buddha often interchangeably. There are other temples surrounding, too. The Buddha is also draped in gold. It can be crowded and is best to arrive early so you check it out without your views being obstructed.

Snake Temple  was also wonderful. You can ask for snake skin, too. There are also many snakes and handlers around. There are snakes kept, too. The whole place is nice and recommended.
There's also the War Museum  which we didn't see. Close to Snake Temple.
To Do
Out of curiosity, we took a night-tri shaw ride. A tri-shaw is a pedalled-vehicle kind of thing which can accommodate up to 2 adults. When we went at night, the whole place was illuminated and was lots of fun!

Like the tower above. which is Victoria Monument.

Close to Lebanon restaurant on Batu Feringgi, there is an operator. Look for the Money exchange on the same sidewalk and you'll find it. Rates for a Toyota Avanza hover around RM 20/hour. They're bargainable.

A bed or two
We stayed in 2 hotels

Holiday Inn Resort  was a very nice hotel. I'd recommend the Beach Wing because it is closer to- you guessed it- the beach (and hence the sea) and the ambiance, staff and food are really nice. From RM 250

Cititel is in Georgetown on an unbeatable location on Jalan Penang. We had the 19th floor rooms which had amazing city views and partial sea views. Breakfast is OK. From RM 300.

Entrees to desserts
Lebanon - On Batu Feringgi Rd (Jalan Batu Feringgi), this is a very nice Lebanese restaurant. The staff is very cheery and the food is good with unlimited bread for around RM 2. Ambiance is very nice, too.

Sri Ananda Bahvan - In Georgetown .We made a mistake going to this place. Noise beyond belief, one restroom's door was broken and it fell on me. food is OK with hard paneer (cottage cheese) and the waiter forgot half the order while jotting it down, though.

Bella Italia - Close to Lebanon. Nice pizzas, if a bit too cheesy. Outdoor seating available. Good staff.

Kek Lok Si Vegetarian Restaurant - Staff is good, though their English is limited. It's on the way to Kek Lok Si complex. Food ranges from OK-good but pricing is reasonable.

Pastamania - In Gurney Plaza, this is a nice fast-food restaurant. Pasta is good, and so is pizza.

Passage thru India - On Lebuh Leith, this is a great small, homey place with nice and delicious food. Prices are OK, too and service is good.

Losing the wallet. 
This is about shopping.
We really enjoyed Batu Feringgi night market on the pavement. They have half a trillion watches for sale (obviously, this statement is hyperbolic...). There are other items, too. You can buy rambutan at Fruit Valley. I, too, bargained here, my first bit!

Komtar- cheap clthing available (such as t-shirts for RM 10)
Gurney Plaza- My favourite mall in Penang.
Gurney Place- As good and very near to the above. Lovely gelataria outside.

- Many times, there are no pedestrian lights. Just walk when there's a break in traffic. Truer in Georgetown, and with heavier traffic. traffic won't usually give you right of way and the heavy volumes could scare you.
Georgetown should be safe but don't walk around a desolate area at night if in doubt. Use general precautions.
We flew Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com/) from Chennai direct although it seems that route has now stopped. From other info, we believe there's a ferry to Langkawi.

Time in Penang.

More Pictures

Khoo Khongsi

Goddess of Mercy Temple
Temple of the Reclining Buddha and surrounding temples

Picture Gallery of Kek Lok Si Pagoda

One Day
With just one day, you should focus on the capital Georgetown seeing its classic attractions such as Khoo Kongsi, Fort Cornwallis, Goddess of Mercy Temple and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and surrounding temples. If you have time left in the evening, visit the Kek Lok Si Pagoda and take a night tri-shaw ride in Georgetown if you have time left and aren't feeling tired.

Two Days
Just visit Georgetown and do the tri-shaw ride on the first day. On the second day, visit the Kek Lok Si Pagoda, Penang Hill and the Botanical Gardens. Spend the evening in the beach area of Batu Feringgi and visit the night market.

Three Days
Follow the above for the first two days. On the third day, take a whole circuit of Penang, visiting for example the Batik, Spice Garden, Butterfly Farm, Snake Temple etc. If you have time left in the evening, visit some of the malls along Gurney Drive.

Last visit- May 2010
No of visits:1

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