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fieryfox Penang - A travel report by Farizan
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Penang,  Malaysia - flag Malaysia -  Pulau Pinang
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fieryfox's travel reports

A Plethora of Asian Culture and Oriental Charm

  9 votes
Page: 1 2
Penang Island colloquially dubbed as the Pearl of the Orient has much to offer even to the most discerning tourist. Whether you’re a “penangite” or a first time visitor, you will always be pleasantly surprised by it’s unique oriental Asian charm.

Customs Building in Port Weld
Customs Building in Port Weld
Penang is located just off the north-western coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca. It is linked to the mainland peninsular Malaysia by a 13.5km bridge (once the 3rd longest in the world) from Province Wellesley (now Seberang Prai). It is connected to the North-South Expressway and is just a 4 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. Penang’s capital is its very own Georgetown.

Penang is historically significant. It is not a surprise that it is now declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Initially in the early 16th century, the island was ruled by the Kedah Sultanate. In the 17th century, British explorers led by Captain Francis Light arrived in Penang, drawn by the reputation of the Spice route of the Straits of Malacca. The Kedah Sultanate sought protection from the British against the threats of the kingdom of Siam and traded Penang in return for protection. Alas, Penang was founded by Francis Light in 1786. It became a part of the Straits settlement, along with Malacca and Singapore in 1867. Penang later became one of the Federated Malay States and gained independence from the British in 1957 and is now one of the states of Malaysia.

The word “Penang” comes from the malay word “Pinang” which refers to the Betel nut, an important ingredient in the “Sireh Pinang” a traditional delicacy deeply rooted in the Malay culture, used in Malay weddings and other important functions. The betel nut tree is included in the State Flag.

Penang certainly lives up to its reputation as a land endowed with pristine beaches, beautiful rainforests and nature, rich and diverse in culture, arts and traditional heritage, abundant with glorious and exotic food, a wellness sanctuary and a shopping haven. With so much to offer, the Penang experience is certainly priceless, to me, it is truly the Pearl of the Orient!

Favourite spots:
Oriental Carvings in the foyer of a temple.
Oriental Carvings in the foyer of a temple.
There is so much to see in Penang and it all depends on how much time you have and the activities that you like to do. Sightseeing and visiting all the tourist attractions in Penang is of course a must. Some of the places I would suggest is the Penang Peranakan Mansion. It’s the home of the early settlers from China, ie Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, who are now known as the Babas and Nyonyas, a kin to those found in Malacca as well. Stepping into this house is like going into a time tunnel, where everything is old but well preserved. Antiques and carved furniture ornamented with mother of pearl are some of the artefacts displayed in this house.

You can also visit a beautiful garden in Teluk Bahang, where you will find exotic tropical plants found only in Malaysia. The garden is tastefully landscaped and has a spectacular seaview from it’s café.

If you like arts and crafts, you may want to visit the Batik Factory in Birch Road and observe how hand drawn batik is made.

What's really great:
Feringghi beach
Feringghi beach
I enjoy the west coast beaches, the waters are shallow and ripened with corals and sea creatures. Most of all I love the white sandy beaches, where I can just walk for hours under the shadowed trees and sunny sky whilst inhaling that fresh sea breeze and suitably entertained by the crackling sounds of the waves. Batu Feringghi is everything I had just described. The beach stretches for miles and is bordered by shaded coconut trees, casuarinas and more. You may even catch a glimpse of wildlife such as the short tailed macaque in between the branches. The sandy beaches are sometimes interrupted by big boulders which you may have to climb over. Bring your fishing gear if you like the sport. I have seen many people sitting on these rocks and fishing for their lunch returning with buckets of fresh fish.

I also enjoyed shopping in Chowrasta. I went there specifically to buy pickled fruits. They make them so well here, it’s sweet and fresh and you can really taste the difference.

Church Street Pier in Port Weld
Church Street Pier in Port Weld
The Penang Lighthouse is worth a visit. It is located on a 785 foot cliff in the northwestern cape of the island. If you are spending a day at the National Park, you should include the lighthouse as part of your itinerary. Capture the beautiful sunset and enjoy the spectacular view.

Penang Hill is also a great attraction in Penang. The local name is Bukit Bendera (Flag hill) You can go there by taking the train in Ayer Itam, in Georgetown and it takes about half an hour to reach the top of the hill. There are restaurants and a small garden atop Penang Hill and of course the sight is just awesome. You can see the whole Georgetown and the sea amass.

If you like a unique experience with reptiles, then I would recommend a visit to the old Snake temple. It is home to many snakes and reptiles and are said to have healing powers. Take home with you a snapshot with these friendly green snakes.

I would also recommend a walkabout around Port Weld, there are many historical buildings to see.

Hydro-Majestic Hotel
Hydro-Majestic Hotel
There are no shortage of hotels in Penang and there is one to suit every budget. You can settle with a simple B&B anywhere in Georgetown or opt for the higher end resorts in Batu Feringghi, Tanjung Bungah, Teluk Bahang and many more. I would recommend something affordable and reasonably near the beach so you can always take a walk in the mornings and evenings by the beach or even sunbathe all day.

The Hydro Majestic Resort, Batu Feringghi is one such hotel. The rates are reasonable and its just a few minutes walk to the beach. The rooms are tastefully decorated and offers a scenic view of the seaside. It has full amenities from mini bar, satellite tv, spa, gym, swimming pool and much more. As for me, I prefer to explore rather than spend all day in the room or at the hotel. I find this hotel to be perfect in location and price.

Buffet at Hydro Majestic
Buffet at Hydro Majestic
Penang is the epicentre of nightlife in the nortern region of Malaysia. It is home to many cabarets, discos, KTV executive lounge and bars. You just need to ask the hotel reception for details and take a cab there. Don’t waste time looking at the map and driving around looking for the nightspots, you’re not likely to find it on your own and think of the aftermath of the party, you may not be able to drive back! LOL. So take a cab.

Some of the highly recommended night spots are in Georgetown. I was told that Slippery Senoritas is quite popular and the bar on 20th Leith Street is also quite “happening”.

A word of caution though! Penangites are very sensitive about rude behaviour in nightspots and rumble and tumbles between tourists that behave rudely towards local girls and the local regulars happen often enough. So please beware!

Apart from Nightlife, businesses still thrive throughout Georgetown until about mid-night. You can visit many night markets for that last minute shopping.

Shopping in Little India
Shopping in Little India
Island Plaza is the place to be, if you want all shopping, pampering, dining and other indulgences to be under one roof. Savour great coffee and fine cuisine and tantalise your tastebuds with that authentic baba nyonya cuisine unique only to Penang. Do not miss the Penang Char Kuay Teow (rice noodles fried with a mix of seafood and vegetables) delicious blend of flavours. Get that haircut that you want, tone, highlight and extend in any of the salons found there or just sit back and enjoy the scene while sipping coffee at Starbucks. Better still, why not pamper yourself in one of the spas with foot reflexology or a massage. Similar one-stop shopping havens are the Queensbay Mall and the New World Park just off Burma Road.

My favourite indoor activity is pampering myself in a spa. There are many wellness sanctuaries in Georgetown and Batu Feringghi. I was told that the Danai Spa is superb. They offer many treatments from simple facials to whole body massage and treatments. If you could afford the time, spend a few hours to pamper yourself and enjoy. You will feel rejuvenated!

Ananda Bhagwan in Little India
Ananda Bhagwan in Little India
Dining in Penang is the highlight of my trip and you may wonder why a local Malaysian like me would be so excited about dining in Penang. The reason is that, the food here is just out of this world. What is even more exciting is that Malaysian food is so diverse, you can get traditional Malay food, Indian Food, Chinese Food, localised Baba Nyonya food and also western food. You can find Penang-style food in KL or Malacca but it will never taste the same like in Penang. It’s weird and I can’t explain it. The Penang Char Kuay Teow must be sampled in Penang! .. but that’s the thing.. there is so much to sample but there is so little time.

Ok, moving on.. Seafood Restaurants is the place to start. Most of these dishes are prepared Chinese-styled but are delicious nonetheless. I would recommend dinner a short drive to Teluk Bahang to the End of the World Seafood restaurant, order a Crab dish, Chilli Tiger prawns and also Fried or Steamed fish. You will never forget the taste.

Other recommendations:
Rocky Beach
Rocky Beach
My report really does not do justice to all the attractions in Penang but it is my attempt to interest you in visiting this island on your next trip to Malaysia. A few more places of interest are outlined below:

The Penang Bird Park – an aviary with nice landscaped gardens and a home to more than 3000 birds from over 300 species. It also has a small zoo attached to it exhibiting crocodiles, deer and other animals.

The Butterfly Farm – one of the first butterfly farms established in Malaysia that exhibit tropical butterflies and insects in it’s natural habitat.

Agro Tourism is also a popular attraction in Malaysia. Learn about Malaysian tropical fruits and farming techniques at the Tropical Fruit farm in Teluk Bahang. Spend some time visiting orchards and sample exotic tropical fruits such as the “durian” (a thorny fruit with a distinctively strong smell and referred by the locals as the “|king of fruits”), mangosteen, dukong, rambutan and much more.

Published on Tuesday October 7th, 2008

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Tue, Oct 06 2009 - 05:17 PM rating by catzy2309

I like your report, is very interesting

Thu, Nov 13 2008 - 03:54 AM rating by gloriajames

Its going to be extremely useful for me, as i shall be in penang in mid nov.
excellent report! 5*

Thu, Nov 06 2008 - 03:56 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent colonial stuff!

Sun, Oct 12 2008 - 04:47 AM rating by marianne

Very interesting to read, and I now feel sorry we skipped penang when we were in malaysia.

Sat, Oct 11 2008 - 11:29 PM rating by robynallen

Interesting report. Malaysia sounds and looks so beautiful. Great to know where the name Penang came from. Well done

Wed, Oct 08 2008 - 11:16 PM rating by krisek

Farizan, really nicely written - I have never planned to go to Malaysia, but I heard about Penang. Now, I am closer to put it on my wishlist... :)

Wed, Oct 08 2008 - 06:11 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Surprisingly interesting report

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