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Penang

Photo © JimmyHill

Travel Guide Asia Malaysia Penang

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Introduction

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple

© All Rights Reserved Degolasse

Penang (Malay: Pulau Pinang) is the second smallest of the 13 states of Malaysia, and George Town on Penang Island is its capital. Penang might refer to the city, the island or the state.

Penang state population has more than 1.5 million, nearly half residing on Penang Island. There are a considerably large population of ethnic Chinese, consisting of over two-fifths of the population - about the same proportion as the ethnic Malay. Expatriates consist of over five per cent of the population in the state due to the large number of multinational companies operating here such as AMD, Bosch, Dell, Hitachi, Intel, Motorola and Osram.

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Geography

Penang state consists of two parts, Penang Island and mainland Province Wellesley (Malay: Seberang Perai), connected by ferry from Butterworth across the 3-kilometre-wide North Channel and by the 13.5-kilometre-long Penang Bridge, the longest in Malaysia. The topography of Seberang Perai, comprising more than half of the land area of Penang, is mostly flat save for Bukit Mertajam, the name of the hillock and the eponymous town at its foot. It has a long coastline, the majority of which is lined with mangrove.

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Sights and Activities

George Town Clan Jetties

George Town Clan Jetties

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Batu Ferringhi Beach

Batu Ferringhi is a town on the northern coastline of Penang, and is located 10 kilometres west of George Town. There are several hotels located along the main road. On the beach there are possibilities for jet skiing, hang gliding and horse riding amongst other things. In the evening there is a touristic evening market. it is also the location for the Penang Hard Rock Café and Hotel.

Clan Jetties in George Town

The Clan Jetties are a couple of stilt houses, built by several Chinese families. There are several next to each other, but the most visited (and touristic) is the Chew Jetty. There are several tours visiting, and most houses are turned into shops. When visiting please remember that there are actually people living here, so respect their privacy.

Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis was build on the northeastern cape of Penang so that overlooks the northern waters, and the water crossing to Butterworth. Captain Sir Francis Light took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah and built the original fort in 1786. A statue of Captain Light, can be found near the entrance. The exhibition is being renewed at this time.

Ernest Zacharevic street art works

George Town street art

George Town street art

© All Rights Reserved Herr Bert

Young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was asked in 2012 to create a number of murals in the center of George Town for the 2012 George Town Festival. They vary from large painting covering the whole side of a house to small pieces of art. When walking around town, you will be sure to come across them. Hopefully the people of George Town take good care of these artworks.

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Other Sights and Activities

  • Botanical Gardens
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
  • Gurney Drive
  • Kapitan Keling Mosque
  • Khoo Kongsi
  • Kek Lok Si Temple
  • Kew Leong Tong Temple
  • Night markets
  • Northern beaches
  • Penang Butterfly Farm
  • Penang Ferry
  • Penang Hill Furnicular Train
  • Penang Museum
  • Penang War Museum
  • Straits Quay
  • Taman Negara National Park
  • Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram (Reclining Buddha)

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Events and Festivals

  • Penang International Dragon Boat Race - Originating in China, this famous festival has made its way to this Malaysian capital because of its high percentage of Chinese inhabitants. Visitors can watch colorful dragon boats race accompanied by the rhythmic thumping of traditional drums. This event has attracted international participants from all over the world since its inception in 1979. It was initially created as a way to celebrate the celestial dragon of the Chinese culture.
  • Wesak Day - Considered a holy day among the Buddhist community of Penang. Wesak Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddah. Celebrations are held throughout the city. Followers of Buddah can participate in a large procession that circles the entire city. The parade includes elaborate floats and decorations, along with hundreds of Buddhist monks that sprinkle holy water and offer chants and prayers. This event occurs every year in May.
  • Penang World Music Festival - During three consecutive days every spring, Penang hosts an eclectic and internationally popular music festival at its beautiful Botanical Gardens. The festival will feature world renowned musicians from Malaysia as well as other musicians from overseas who gather and participate in "a convergence of harmonic fusion". This event is sponsored by the Penang State Tourism Development and Culture Office and promises to entertain thousands with top world music performances.
  • George Town Festival - This month-long festival is celebrated in George Town every year commemorating the city's induction into UNESCO in 2008. The festival celebrates local theater, music, dance, film, art, opera, food, and fashion - with a specific focus on the city's dynamic culture and rich history. This event is held every June/July.
  • Bon Odori Festival - A high-energy event put on by the Japanese community in Penang every summer. The event is saturated in Japanese culture and cuisine. Visitors can expect to see fascinating displays of traditional dance and music performances. The celebration of "Bon Odori" comes to Penang comes from Japan, where each year, a festival is held to honor the departed spirits of Japanese ancestors. The evening of celebration culminates in a grand fireworks display. This event is held every July in Penang.
  • Nine Emperor Gods Festival - The Nine Emperor Gods Festival occurs on the 9th Month of the Chinese Lunar year and lasts for nine days. It is believed that during this time, the spirits of Nine Gods descend upon the earth by ceremonially possessing spirit mediums and putting them in a trance. During this popularly celebrated festival, processions are held throughout the city leading from religious temples to the sea or rivers. Devotees of these gods dress up in traditional white clothing, and they carry incense and candles through the streets of George Town. This religious event is held every October. Throughout the Nine day festival, witness the Preparation & Invitation, Hot Oil, Spear Skewing & Float Procession, Fire Walking and Fort Crossing Ceremonies culminating in the Sending Off Ceremony at the sea or river on an Emperor Boat. Race dates vary every year.

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Weather

Like the rest of Malaysia, Penang has a hot and humid tropical climate with daytime temperatures mostly around the 30 °C mark while nights are around or above 20 °C. Monsoon rains arrive around November and last until at least March. The climate is very much dictated by the surrounding sea and the wind system. Penang's proximity with Sumatra, Indonesia makes it susceptible to dust particles carried by wind from perennial but transient forest fires, creating a phenomenon known as the haze.

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Getting There

By Plane

Penang International Airport (PEN) has quite a few international and domestic services. AirAsia flies to/from Hong Kong, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Macau and Singapore. Other airlines serve cities like Taipei, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Langkawi, Medan, Phuket, Jakarta and Bangkok.

By Train

Butterworth station is a terminus on the northern route of the west coast railway line. KTMB operates trains to/from this station, with trains towards Kualu Lumpur and Bangkok.

By Car

Penang is connected to the mainland and the North-South Expressway by the Penang Bridge, one of the longest bridges in Asia, and by the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, commonly called the Penang Second Bridge, which is further south and even longer. There is no toll for vehicles heading to the mainland on either bridge, but vehicles headed to the island must pay a toll as follows: For the First Bridge: motorcycles: RM1.40, cars: RM7, lorries and vans with two axles and four wheels: RM12. For the Second Bridge: motorcycles: RM1.70, cars and other vehicles with two axles and three or four wheels, except buses: RM8.50, vans and other vehicles with two axles and six wheels (except for buses, which are charged RM 26.20): RM 30.50.

By Bus

Several companies offer bus services to George Town from Kuala Lumpur (5-6 hours), Johor Bahru and Singapore (both around 10 hours) and other cities and towns across the Malaysian Peninsula. There are also minivans services to places in southern Thailand with van/ferry combinations possible, even to the Perhentian Islands.

By Boat

Ferries travel between Penang and Butterworth, Langkawi and Medan on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra. It's a relatively short ride to Butterworth, about 2.5 hours to Langkawi and 6 hours to Medan.

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Getting Around

By Car

Car rentals may be a viable option, especially if you are planning to get off the beaten track and explore the western or southern coast of the island. Take note that Penang Island has quite a number of one-way streets and narrow roads. Many Penangites ride motorbikes and a minority of them have disregard for pedestrians, cars, and even their own lives, so you must be very careful when driving on the roads.

Taxis in Penang are equipped with meters and by law they are mandated to use them, but practically all drivers will refuse to turn them on. Always haggle with the taxi driver and agree on a price beforehand.

By Bus

RapidPenang, the local bus service, features new buses. All bus stations and bus stops which are serviced by the RapidPenang buses are labelled with proper signboards to ensure user-friendliness. Buses are somewhat frequent on the main artery to Batu Ferringhi. Rapid Penang bus 101 bound for Teluk Bahang goes through midtown Pulau Tikus, (northwest end of) Gurney Drive, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and terminates at the Penang National Park entrance. Avoid so-called 'minibuses' because they usually go as far as Tanjung Bungah and can be poorly maintained.

Trishaws, three-wheeled human-powered vehicles, might be the best idea for a pleasant city tour. One can stop at any point to take a photo or buy souvenirs. Many trishaw riders are also excellent 'tour guides'. Negotiate the fare first before getting on a trishaw; it is advisable to hire them by the hour for extended sightseeing.

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Eat

Travellers are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Penang with plenty of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, local seafood, street food and good old western favourites.

  • Penang Laksa
  • Penang Rojak
  • Pasembur
  • Nasi Kandar
  • Char Kuetiau (Fried Flat Noodle)
  • Hokkien Mee (Prawn Noodle)
  • Yam Rice
  • Cendol
  • Ice Kacang

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Baba Guesthouse52 Batu Ferringhi 11100Hostel82
ET Budget Guesthouse47, Batu FerringhiGuesthouse79
Hotel Mingood164 Argyll RoadHotel69
HuttonlodgeNo. 17 Jalan Hutton off Penang RoadGuesthouse84
Love Lane Inn54 Love Lane George TownGuesthouse61
Old Penang GuestHouse53, Love Lane, GeorgetownHostel85
Oriental Hotel Penang105 Penang Road PenangHotel-
YMCA International Hostel, Penang211 Jalan Macalister YMCA of PenangHostel81
Baan Talay Homestay515 P Jalan Hashim Tanjong Tokong P.PinangGuesthouse81
Vacation ApartmentJalan Sungai Emas Satu Batu FeringghiApartment-
Annie's Bed & BreakfastNo: 7, Jalan Sungai Emas 3, Batu FerringhiGUESTHOUSE84
Paramount Hotel48F, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah PenangHotel-
Eden Fairway Condo11-01-01 Eden Fairway Condo Lorong Emas Batu FeringghiAPARTMENT-
FERRINGHI INN & cafe3 Jalan Sungai Emas Eden SquareGuesthouse74
Red Inn55, Love LaneGuesthouse73
Value Inn Homestay2725 Lorong Kubur Butterworth, Pulau PinangGUESTHOUSE-
Sattcle Heritage House48, Jalan Chow Thye, George TownHostel-
Ryokan @ Muntri Street62 Jalan Muntri GeorgetownHostel87
Holiday Homestay PenangLeader Garden Condominium. Jalan Chee Seng 13. Chee Seng GardenGuesthouse-
Day & Night Guesthouse319, Chulia StreetGUESTHOUSE-
Eden Seavieweden seaview condominium jalan sungai satu batu ferringhiHostel-
Red Inn HeritageNo.15,Love Lane GeorgetownHostel78
LazyBoys TraveLodge392 Jalan Batu FerringhiGuesthouse85
Chulia Heritage HotelNo.380, Chulia Street GeorgetownHotel84
Reggae Penang Love Lane Hostel57, Love Lane, 10200 Georgetown PenangHostel84
Red Inn Penang55, Love LaneGuesthouse-
Red Inn CabanaNo.22,Lebuh Leith GeorgetownHostel77
Cocoa Mews101, King StreetHostel83
Red Inn Court35B & C , Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling Pitt StreetGUESTHOUSE82
Fastbook Hostel1228L-3, Jalan Paya Terubong In front of Desa Permata swimming poorHOSTEL-
MalabarNo. 26-28 Lebuh CintraHOSTEL85
Roommates Penang17 B, Lorong ChuliaGUESTHOUSE84
Guest Inn MuntriNo.17 Muntri Street George TownGUESTHOUSE-
Tofu Cafe Beds & Bikes484, Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), George Town,HOSTEL-
The Beach House547-I /547J Solok Wee Hein TzeHostel-
Syok @ Chulia Hostel458 Chulia StreetHOSTEL84
LYF Lodge10 Lebuh Sri Genting 1HOSTEL-
Muntri HouseNo.48, Muntri Street GeorgetownGUESTHOUSE78
Heritage Lodge39 Lorong Ceylon George TownHOSTEL-

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 5.4157
  • Longitude: 100.326012

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