Penang, the second smallest state in Malaysia, is also one of the most beautiful and exotic destinations for travellers. Don’t judge a book its cover, on similar lines, don’t make a mistake of judging this exotic place Penang by its sheer size. Of late, Penang has been rated as one of the most happening travel destinations in the world, let alone Asia. Penang has been attracting millions of visitors every year, and they are growing at an unprecedented pace, which no one would have imagined a decade before. The state is divided into two parts, namely, Penang Island and Seberang Perai.
Penang is colloquially referred to as the “Food Paradise of Malaysia” with a whole range of different cuisines that you will crave for more and more with every bite. Some of the signature dishes are Assam Laksa, Mee Gorenj, Prawn Malai Curry, Nasi Lemak, and Hookien Hae Mee in the likes of numerous street hawkers and street food which serves delicious noodles and seafood. Penang cuisine is an eclectic mix of Thai, Indian, Chinese and Malay cuisine all at one place, which calls for your attention.
Did you know: Do you know that Penang is the birthplace of the world famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo.
If you are travelling and you are low on budget then Penang is your destination since Penang is a cheap island and if you find hotels here expensive then look for hostels for tourists, they are at rock bottom prices ($1.5-2 a day), for travelling in the city, Rapid Buses will charge you a very minimum amount. Thus, Penang is not a drain on your financial resources, and the returns you get on what you spend are highly handsome by every parameter. The people here are artistic as well, and the quintessential of what you call as Graffiti is what you can spot here on the walls on the roads.
Penang is home to several age-old architectures each having a rich history with a flavour of British, Chinese and Indian culture embedded in them making this multicultural place even more dynamic. There are British colonial buildings alongside Chinese shop houses, there are Chinese temples next to mosques, and it all works peacefully. Isn’t that beautiful? The architecture is so diverse here that on one end of the spectrum, there is an Old Town which happens to be the heart of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and at the other end of this spectrum are the hipster attractions like shopping malls and skyscrapers.
Tip – Check your calendar before visiting Penang, Fall is the best time as many festivals are celebrated here in that time of the year be it Chinese New Year, Muharram, Diwali, Navratri etc..
Now let’s see what all fun activities and adventures things you can do in Penang!
- Kek Lok Si Temple
- Made in Penang Museum
- Batu Ferringhi Beach
- Little India
- Penang Hill
- Twin Nightlife Wonders of Penang
1. Pray at the famous Kek Lok Si Temple
How about beginning your sojourn here in Penang by taking blessings from Lord Buddha for this life? Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and one of the largest in Asia, situated near Penang Hill at the top of the hill Air Itam. It is one of the best and the most beautiful temple you can find anywhere in Asia, trust me on that, especially under the moonlight when the lights around the temple are on. Most peaceful place on the planet is what you will tell yourself after sitting for some time here. That is why it is colloquially known as “Temple of Supreme Bliss.”
The temple has a huge statue Kek Lok Si Pagoda and Statue of Guanyin. The area is divided into three zones, temple ground has hill entrance, monasteries, turtle liberation pond, and food stalls. The middle area has temple gardens, Pagoda, and King’s pavilion and the topmost area is where the statues are located along with more temples and gardens. The statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy is made of Bronze and is 36 metres in height. In a nutshell, you will feel blissful after walking out of this temple which makes it a must inclusion in your to-do list of Penang.
- Where – Air Itam, Georgetown, Penang
- Recommendation – Visit this temple during the Chinese New Year, if that is possible for you. Also, on any given day, visit here in the evening
- Cost – 2 Malaysian Ringgit (₹32) as Entry Fee
Suggested read: Malaysia Travel Guide – Updated 2019
2. Fun in Made in Penang Museum
The Made in Penang museum speaks a lot through its 3D effigies, which is the reason as to why it is referred to as “The Interactive Museum.” The creative Graffiti you saw at the walls is just a small example of creativity if you want to get flabbergasted with more such creative 3D imagery. For instance, there this snake portrait inspired by the iconic Penang Snake Temple, which has a snake crawling out of the framework.
True fun and unique experience in itself is what this museum has with a wide range of pictures in the likes of blown battleships being blown by cannons, historical images, the famous character from horror movies, and many other such attractive wonder work. The artists have used textured contours, several different colours, and some beautiful props to create these pieces of perfection. This is one place you should watch out for, and it won’t buy much of your time and give you a lifetime experience, thus a must-do thing in Penang.
- Timings – 9 AM – 6 PM every day
- Where – Pengkalan Weld, Georgetown, Penang
- Contact – +604 262 6119
3. Take a soothing Sunbath at Batu Ferringhi Beach
You haven’t visited Penang if you haven’t been to Batu Ferringhi Beach. A sunbath on this beach with less crowd is pretty soothing. It is one of the most popular beaches of the island nation with its golden sand with not so scorching sun making it a unique experience away from the bustling city. If you want to take a break from all the cacophony of the people around you all the time. You can also swim here in the pristine blue waters or just hire a shack and relax looking at the waters sipping coconut water. It is very serene, and during the sunset hours, it is much more beautiful.
You must have framed a picture in your mind by now of that scene where you are lying under an umbrella watching the colossal ocean that too surrounded by hills right in front of you and just thinking about life or introspecting for that matter. Well, then how could you resist this wonderful experience of Penang? Do include this destination in your checklist before leaving here. This is one of the things to do for free in Penang. There are some local restaurants as well in the vicinity for you to not starve.
How about some shopping from Batu Ferringhi Night Market? Batu Ferringhi also has a lively night market, which makes a perfect place if you are looking forward to doing some shopping without putting much strain on your financial resources. You can buy some clothes, accessories or can satiate your starvation with some delicious fried rice, noodles and barbecued meat.
- Tip- You can also try beach walking under the moonlight with your partner
- Recommendation- Do try some adventure by opting for water sports (Parasailing, Banana Boats) here. It’s quite cheap on this beach
- Where- Northeast Penang Island, Georgetown
Also Read: International trips under 30k from India
4. Little India for tourist missing India
Are you feeling a sense of detachment from India when you are in Malaysia? If yes, then Penang will not disappoint you and will provide you with a typical Indian vibe here in Little India. From Indian food to Bollywood music, from Indian styled markets to congenial Indian hospitality, everything you will experience here. You will feel as if you are in India only, such is the magical ambience here. Ladies, you can shop some gorgeous and finest silk sarees (in the range of ₹700-5000 and a wide variety to choose from) and compliment it, some jewellery. And, boys can look for some fragrant perfumes and desirable incense shops.
There are plenty of places with Bollywood music that will grab your attention, also many food joints serving delectable Indian delicacies which will fill your heart more than your stomach and will make you ecstatic. Dishes and snacks like samosas, deep-fried pastries and many such delicious dishes that will make you feel as if you are dining in Delhi or Punjab. In a nutshell, there are many things to do in Penang.
- Where – Lebuh Pasar, Georgetown, Palau Pinang
- Recommendation – Do try the Teh Tarik, a native Malaysian drink and also try the thick foam head tea made from condensed milk
- Tip – Do pay a visit to NR Sweets Café here and try its Cheese Naan and Paneer items and the famous 40 types of sweets as desserts post an amazing meal
- Timings – 8 AM – 9:45 PM from Monday to Sunday
5. Catch a Tram to reach Penang Hill
This is a must visit place if you are planning to visit Penang, you will fall for the scenic beauty of this picturesque oldest British hill station. You will get to click some amazing snaps for your social media profiles here. “A surreal place to be in”, to justify in one phrase, albeit this isn’t doing much justice with this place. I am panegyric about and can go on and on in defining the beauty and flamboyance of this hill situated at an altitude of 812 metres above sea level. If you want to beat the excruciating heat of Penang, then Penang hill will come to you as a big respite.
Getting here is the most fun part with the Penang Hill Railway, one of the oldest functional systems in the world started in 1923. You will get to capture some amazing views on your way up of the lush green paradise and the hills, if you’re a professional photographer or someone fond of capturing a moment, then a must visit place for you.
If you love adventures and want to experience an adrenaline rush, then you can even trek and reach here at the top starting from the equally serene botanical gardens.
- Timings – 6:30 AM – 11 PM
- Tip – You can also hire a private Jeep from the Botanical Garden to reach the hilltop. Also, avoid the place, if it’s drizzling
- Where – Jalan Stesen, Bukit Bendara, Air Itam, Georgetown
6. Get inebriated in Twin Nightlife Wonders of Penang
Now though you have spent a slight tiring yet an amazing day exploring Penang city, time to get high as the sunset is about to happen. No better a place than these twin nightlife wonders of Penang which are Icon City and Auto City. The Auto city is just a stone’s throw away from the Icon city. These places are known for their cosy themed cafes and charming pubs. You will also find some excellent dining options offering a taste of local cuisines. Crowds gather here after the sun sets, it also happens to be a meeting point between Penang island and Penang mainland.
You will experience the most happening and vivacious clubbing culture of Penang here. A one-stop solution for boozing, dancing, eating, sightseeing, shopping and what not, all at one place.
- Restaurants to go – Hideout City Restaurant for a western meal, Kaze Japanese Restaurants, Fourspoon Dessert Café (Must try waffle), Two Seven Coffee, Thong Lor Thai Restaurant for seafood, and Gelato for lower fat and high sugar ice cream to end your supper on a higher note
- Pubs & Clubs to Target – De Moose Café and Bar, 80s Bistro, 9 Wine Icon City
- Recommendation – Do visit the Shop-in d’Park area here for a romantic evening with your spouse.
Suggested Read: Nightlife in Kuala Lumpur
So, this is what we have in store for you to decide your things to do while staying in Penang, the beautiful city of Malaysia. Though there are some other places as well to see and certain other activities to do here. But, we have zeroed it down to the best and diverse experiences which will make you scream Wow on your return journey and even when you are reflecting back on this trip while going down the memory lanes some years down the line.
Further Read: Lonely Planet’s Guide to Penang