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Penang

Things to see and do

Temples

  • Han Jiang Teochew Ancestral Temple
    3.5 stars

    Originally known as Teochew Kongsi, the Han Jiang Teochew Ancestral Temple dates back to 1870 and has seen several restoration projects, one in 1936 then again in the 1980s. The most recent one, costing 1.5m ringgit, won a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Conservation award. The immaculately restored ... read more

  • Khoo Kongsi
    4 stars

    This clan house is the pride of Penang. In 2000, 4.2 million ringgit was spent on a restoration project and today it sits resplendent with its gold leaf and tile shard work. The original building was truly opulent and took some eight years to build. It was made from wood and just three weeks after ... read more

  • Goddess of Mercy Temple
    3.5 stars

    As one of Penang’s oldest and most celebrated buildings, the Goddess of Mercy Temple is also one of the island’s most historically revealing. It was the Brits, of course, who laid claim to having ‘discovered’ Penang when Captain Francis Light founded Georgetown on behalf of the East India ... read more

  • Hock Tiek Cheng Sin Kongsi
    3.5 stars

    This beautiful clan temple was built in 1892 in honour of the god of prosperity and the devotees are nearly all seeking good or better business. This kongsi operates under the supervision of the Penang Chinese trader association and, while tiny compared to the Khoo clan temple, the atmosphere ... read more

  • Hainanese Temple
    3 stars

    It's impossible to be unimpressed by this building on an aesthetic level but armed with some history, this temple is even more intriguing. Spend any amount of time in Penang, and you will discover that the island’s Chinese heritage is as diverse as it is fascinating. During the 19th century, ... read more

  • Cheah Si Hock Haw Kong Kongsi
    3.5 stars

    It's a mouthful of a name, but the Cheah Si Hock Haw Kong Kongsi (most refer to it as Cheah Kongsi) on Lebuh Armenian enjoys a very active clan association, which was originally formed in 1820. This makes it the oldest of the Straits Chinese clan associations. Once you pass its red painted ... read more

  • Ciji Temple
    3 stars

    Located beside the Yap Kongsi and across the road from the Hock Tiek Cheng Sin Kongsi means you'll struggle for an excuse not to pop in here. Built in 1924, it's a Taoist temple and in good condition. ... read more

  • Kek Lok Si
    3.5 stars

    This Buddhist temple is the largest in Malaysia and sprawls up the hill dominating the town of Air Itam. To access the complex you have to weave your way through an ascending corridor of souvenir shops, after which you'll arrive at Liberation Pond, where you can pay 2 ringgit to feed the turtles ... read more

  • Dhammakarama Burmese Temple and Wat Chaiya Mangalaram Temple
    3.5 stars

    These two temples on Lorong Burma lie across the street from each other. The lane and Burmese temple date back to the early 19th century when there was a Burmese village in the area. Wat Chaiya Mangalaram is a Thai temple, constructed much later, with a 33-metre reclining Buddha inside, one of ... read more

  • Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
    3.5 stars

    This Hindu temple is beautifully ornate and intricately decorated. The temple remains in use today, but is quiet. It is worth taking your shoes off to go and wander around the colourful walls and sculptures. There is no visitor information at all but the temple is South Indian style and was built ... read more

  • Snake Temple
    2 stars

    This temple seems like a bit of a gimmick. The snakes are most likely doped and not lulled by the incense as the story goes, yet they do adorn the temple like plastic replicas from a Christmas cracker. The main business revolves around getting your photograph taken with a large python or paying to ... read more

Museums

  • Penang State Museum
    4 stars

    This quiet museum is housed in a white building opposite another set of white buildings belonging to the Penang Magistrate's Court. It's a great escape from the heat and hustle and bustle of Penang and will give you an excellent overview of the sights, culture and rich history of the island. ... read more

  • The Camera Museum
    4 stars

    The Camera Museum is concisely contained within five rooms that concertina back like compartments in a vintage camera. On the wall by the Muntri Street main entrance for The Camera Museum you will find printed: “Short cut to Chulia Street”. A cunning ploy, for who could possibly edge around the ... read more

  • Pinaon Time Tunnel
    3.5 stars

    The Time Tunnel is a great way to put into context the culture and architecture of Penang today and if you have enjoyed wandering around the old streets, this adds a new dimension to your experience of the island. For a settlement that has existed less than 250 years, Penang has had its fair share ... read more

  • Made in Penang Interactive Museum
    3 stars

    One of Penang’s newest museums, this interactive extravaganza is fun with kids in tow but otherwise we'd head for the island's real stuff. As one of Penang’s newest museums, opening at the end of 2013, this interactive, multi-media extravaganza urges you to “Rediscover Penang” and has the ... read more

  • War Museum
    3 stars

    The museum lies on top of the hill on the site of a British coastal defence against the Japanese. Built in the 1930s, it's comprised of underground military tunnels that used to house intelligence and logistics as well as POWs and possible torture sites. The complex was largely forgotten by ... read more

Interesting buildings

  • The changing face of Georgetown
    3.5 stars

    The old traveller mantra, ‘Go and see it before it gets spoiled!’ has been used so many times that it’s almost become a cliche. Unfortunately, like all the best (or worst) cliches, it is also enduringly true and for some places it is already too late. ... read more

  • Fort Cornwallis
    4 stars

    Despite its history, Fort Cornwallis is curiously devoid of any belligerence and might indeed qualify as one of the most peaceful, breeziest spots in all Penang. ... read more

  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
    4 stars

    Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, otherwise known as the Blue Mansion, has retained every inch of its original glory, and you can still get a glimpse of what life must have been like for Georgetown’s mercantile millionaires at the turn of the 20th century. The original owner of the house, Cheong Fatt ... read more

  • Peranakan Mansion
    3.5 stars

    Many cultures and traditions have shaped the development of Georgetown, but one of the most remarkable is that of the 19th and early 20th-century Peranakan Chinese, whose affluent and opulent lifestyles are celebrated at the Peranakan Mansion. Built by tin magnate Chung Keng Quee in the late 1800s, ... read more

  • Suffolk House
    3.5 stars

    Suffolk House lets you get a real feel for the British colonial architecture and lifestyle; stop by for a self-guided tour and high tea. Most aspects of colonialism are, no doubt, best resigned to the past, but some of the buildings that the British left behind are worthy of praise. Suffolk ... read more

  • Eastern & Oriental Hotel
    3.5 stars

    If you are close by, it's worth taking a few minutes to marvel at this restored bit of history. The hotel was owned and operated by the Sarkies brothers, who were also responsible for Raffles in Singapore. Originally built in 1884, the hotel attracted the rich and famous and you can see their ... read more

  • Syed Alatas Mansion
    2.5 stars

    Originally belonging to Syed Mohamad Alatas, a spice trader and the leader of the Acheen Street Mosque community during the Penang riots of 1867, it's believed this house was used as a base for the Acehnese leaders during their war against the Dutch. It's speculated that Syed Mohamad Alatas ... read more

Natural Attraction - General

  • The best views in Penang
    4 stars

    Whether it’s urban perspectives, pastoral panoramas or seducing seascapes that float your camera lens’ boat, Penang offers plenty of great vistas. Here are some of our favourite places. Penang is a photogenic island, and whether it’s urban perspectives, pastoral panoramas or seducing ... read more

  • Penang National Park
    3.5 stars

    As one of the Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations, Penang lays claim to a number of ‘best-in-the-country’ accolades, including tastiest food, most beautiful clan houses and largest Buddhist temple. It also boasts Malaysia’s smallest national park ... read more

  • Penang Botanic Gardens
    3.5 stars

    Even in the centre of Penang’s Georgetown, nature is never that far away. Just beyond the suburbs, the encroaching jungle blurs the boundary between urban and rural Penang, and if you want to experience Malaysia’s rainforests without straying too far from At the base of Penang Hill you'll find ... read more

  • Penang Hill
    3.5 stars

    Although much of Georgetown is predominantly Chinese in character, the settlement was actually founded by the British, back in 1786. Remnants of Penang’s colonial heritage are still to be found all over town, from the Palladian splendour of St. George’s C ... read more

  • Penang Butterfly Farm
    3.5 stars

    Advertised as ‘the tropical world’s first live butterfly and insect sanctuary’, Penang Butterfly Farm is a great place to bring the kids and is also a good rainy afternoon-filler. ... read more

  • Escape theme park
    4 stars

    Now Penang is championing the green cause in a whole new way with the opening of Malaysia’s first environmentally friendly theme park, Escape. Relying on the natural environment rather than plastic fantasy and freaky life-size cartoon characters for its ambiance, this refreshing new-age amusement ... read more

  • Tropical Spice Garden
    3 stars

    If you're a budding gardener, the 500 species of plants and herbs at the tranquil Tropical Spice Garden could be worth a look. Take bus U101 along the winding coastal road between Batu Feringgi and Teluk Bahang and ask the driver to drop you off on Jalan Teluk Bahang in front of the entrance. Flag ... read more

General Activites

    Boat trips

      Hiking, walking tours and itineraries

      • Little India
        3.5 stars

        One of the joys of Georgetown is that you never quite know what to expect next. A walk down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang’s ‘Street of Harmony’, allows visitors to appreciate the wealth of different cultural and architectural influences that make up ... read more

      • Rickshaws
        4 stars

        The island of Penang may be developing rapidly, but Georgetown’s cycle rickshaws are a real throwback to years gone by and taking a ride in one evokes a sense of ‘old Asia’ that complements the well-preserved architecture of the heritage zone. This is not to say, however, that the rickshaws ... read more

      • Penang street art
        3.5 stars

        Having been declared a UNESCO heritage city in 2008, it is no surprise that Georgetown is now capitalising on this status and establishing a strong reputation for the arts. ... read more

      • Townbikes
        4 stars

        Townbikes offers an array of great pedal-powered options for showing yourself around Georgetown. Part of the joy of visiting Penang’s Georgetown is wandering its streets and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of its fascinating UNESCO-protected heritage townscape. However, getting the most ... read more

      • Penang's clan houses: A walking tour
        3.5 stars

        Without doubt, one of the most atmospheric and photogenic parts of Georgetown is the area centred around Lebuh Armenian, where the narrow streets still conjure a sense of old Penang. ... read more

      • Exploring Penang's clan jetties
        3.5 stars

        Just when you thought you had explored every last corner of Georgetown and walked all of its historical streets, you might be pleased to learn that there is, quite literally, a whole new side of town waiting to be discovered. Because they could not afford housing on the land, members of these ... read more

      • Street of Harmony: A walking tour through Penang's cultures
        3.5 stars

        Part of what makes Penang unique is its established mixture of cultures and faiths, but if you are only in Georgetown for a short time, how can you experience all of its varied customs and traditions? ... read more

      • How to spend a rainy day in Penang
        3.5 stars

        The southwest monsoon typically dumps close to 400 millimetres of water on Penang during the month of October — it’s the wettest time of the year to visit the island. If you find yourself here during October, therefore, it probably pays to have a wet-weat ... read more

      • Free things to do on Penang
        3.5 stars

        Let’s face it: budgeting while you’re travelling can become really tedious. There are times when you just want to let loose, forget about that dwindling current account or mounting credit card bill, and splurge. But what happens if an expensive diving cou ... read more

      Churches

      • St George's Church
        2.5 stars

        Sitting almost next to the Cathedral of Assumption this church with its pointy spire and columned entrance is set in a wide grassed area. It's the oldest Anglican Church in Southeast Asia, built in 1818 using convict labour. The church is currently closed until further notice for restoration. ... read more

      Shopping

      • Gerakbudaya Bookshop
        4.5 stars

        Gerakbudaya is a bookshop with a collection covering current affairs, politics, contemporary fiction and poetry, with an international and local focus, selected with passion and expertise. Before May 2014, Georgetown lacked one thing: an independent bookshop. Of course, secondhand bookshops and ... read more

      • What souvenirs should I buy in Penang?
        3.5 stars

        Shopping for souvenirs and gifts for loved ones back home when you’re travelling can be a fraught affair ... read more

      • Occupy Beach Street
        4 stars

        For a free, fun frolic to suit all tastes, look no further than Occupy Beach Street each Sunday, a government initiative to promote creativity, healthy living and social interaction within a car-free environment. You’ve fuelled up on a breakfast of eggs and kaya toast at a local kopitiam or ... read more

      • Little Penang Street Market
        3.5 stars

        Upper Penang Road is best known as Georgetown’s party street, but if your Saturday sundowner session spirals into an all-night bar crawl, you may stumble out of a club the following morning to find yourself face to face with a whole different type of stre ... read more

      • Straits Quay
        3.5 stars

        Straits Quay is a popular evening and weekend destination for locals, who come here to enjoy the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, plus the views over the Straits of Malacca to the mainland. There’s so much to see and do in Georgetown that it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a whole ... read more

      Day trips

      • Boat trips
        4 stars

        Penang offers plenty of beautiful views, vistas and vantage points but for a different perspective of the island, heading out to sea is a must. For many, a boat ride is the perfect way to while away an afternoon, so here are some of Penang’s best options. The cheapest and easiest way to see the ... read more

      • Batu Ferringhi, Penang, on the cheap
        3.5 stars

        Large resort hotels don’t have the best reputations among independent travellers in Southeast Asia. Hogging great lengths of shoreline, and unleashing hordes of package tourists on erstwhile unspoilt beaches, many would prefer to avoid these over-priced, ... read more

      • Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve
        4 stars

        Just over an hour’s drive from central Georgetown, roughly 40 kilometres south of the mainland part of Penang state, lies what must be one of the northern region’s most unexpectedly rewarding attractions: the mangrove swamps of the Matang Forest Reserve in Kuala Sepetang. Located west of ... read more

      • Batu Muang
        3 stars

        The waterside area of this fishing village is comprised of a couple of piers with fishy fishing boats moored to them, the odd derelict boat, a temple built around a giant's footprint and a large seafood restaurant and terrace. The giant's footprint is part of a rock formation where coins are tossed ... read more

      • Bukit Genting Hill
        3.5 stars

        While most of Penang’s attractions are concentrated in the narrow, built-up strip of coastal belt on the eastern and northern coasts, there is a whole other side of the island to explore. Those who dare to venture off the beaten tourist track will be rewa ... read more

      Festivals and events

      • New Year 2014 in Penang
        3.5 stars

        From family-friendly to downright debauched, Penang offers up a number of different and suitably celebratory ways in which to welcome 2014. Here are a few ideas to help you plan your New Year’s Eve. ... read more

      • Christmas 2013: Festive cheer in Penang
        3.5 stars

        Christmas in Malaysia can sometimes feel a little underwhelming if you are used to the three-month build-up of lights, decorations, festive jingles and the unbridled shopping that takes place elsewhere in the world. However, when you know where to go, you ... read more

      • Thaipusam in Penang
        3.5 stars

        Of all Penang’s culturally varied religious celebrations, none is more colourful than Thaipusam. Every January or February, on the full moon of the 10th month in the Hindu calendar, festival frenzy descends on the island, drawing hundreds of thousands of ... read more

      • The Hungry Ghost Festival in Penang
        3.5 stars

        If you’re in Penang and feel like you’re being watched as you tuck into your bowl of asam laksa or char koay teow, you might just be right. The seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar is known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, when the gates of the underw ... read more

      • Lunar New Year 2014 in Penang
        3.5 stars

        As the state with the highest proportion of Chinese in Malaysia, Penang pulls out all the stops for its Lunar New Year, when the whole island resounds to the bangs of firecrackers and the beat of the lion dancers’ drums. ... read more

      • Ramadan in Penang
        3.5 stars

        The holy month of Ramadan may not seem like the most obvious time to enjoy traditional Malay food but every evening, once the daylight hours of abstinence and spiritual reflection are over, Penang’s Muslims gather at Ramadan bazaars across the island to b ... read more

      • George Town Festival
        3.5 stars

        July 7 marks an important anniversary for Penang. On this day nearly five years ago, the island’s capital Georgetown was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, confirming its position as one of Southeast Asia’s best preserved and most culturally significa ... read more

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