Georgetown is situated on Penang island in the north-west of Peninsular Malaysia and its a mix of many cultures. Listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site its an exotic melange of old and new. Penang’s colonial past is visible everywhere. Most people don’t choose Penang Island for a holiday destination or it just never comes to mind, as obvious destination for a break. I have to agree with that. For me it was more of a cultural experience. The paradise for those who love to explore and eat well. When I arrived I had a good intention of staying one or two days. I stayed 5. There are so many wonderful and interesting places to visit. I spent most days wandering around Georgetown and still didn’t see everything it had to offer. You will need at lest 4-5 days or more for sure. Georgetown is an architectural gem in Southeast Asia and has a fantastic mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay people. Every few feet I discovered new temple, church, mosque, cafe shop, food stall, or bazaar. And I have to mention how much I loved food in Penang. The city is full of hawker food stalls.
WHAT TO SEE:
1. Blue Mansion
Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion ) was built in the 1880s. Located at 14 Leith Street, the structure was erected in the 1880s when Hakka merchant, Cheong Fatt Tze commissioned its construction. Take a step back into the past and Discover the architectural gem of Georgetown . Mansion embodies a confluence of Hakka and Teochew styles along with intrinsic Southern Chinese typologies and materials. http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/
2. All The Temples
- Khoo Kongsi (Kek Lok Si Temple) is the most beautifully carved Chinese temple and most interesting attraction . Erected 650 years ago, the Penang Khoo Kongsi is a part of the ‘Goh Tai Seh’ (five big clans) that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in old days of Penang. the temple is located on a hill in Air Itam with a commanding and breathtaking view of the sea.
- Then you have the oldest temple Kuan Yin Teng temple, Goddess of Mercy Temple, is one of the busiest is a Taoist and Buddhist Chinese temples. It features classic Chinese architecture with carvings of dragons around the stone.
- If you are looking for a change, check out Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple. It is a South Indian Hindu temple set beside the Penang Bird Park.
- Beautiful Dharmikarama Burmese Temple only Burmese Buddhist temple outside Myanmar. It stands opposite Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple, with a pair of large stone elephants flanking the front gates. Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram is a Thai Buddhist temple with Reclining Buddha statue. The statue is the 3rd largest of its kind.
- Next you can go and visit Kapitan Keling Mosque. It is a monumental structure surrounded by low walls and crowned with copper domes.
3. Street Wall Art
Want to interact with an artwork for free? What I loved the most about the city was street art. It makes the town even more interesting and impossible to forget. There are about 9 murals in total done by the Lithuanian artist. Look for Ernest Zacharevic’s murals and other street paintings scattered all over the city. Walking around trying to find the street art in Georgetown is an amazing free activity. I recommend renting a bike and going on a art hunting tour by yourself or with friends. Hurry up! Some of them are already fading and soon they might disappear. I highly recommend you picking up the Marking Georgetown map by Penang’s tourism board from the airport as a hard copy guide to Penang’s street art
4. Iron structures
You can also find 52 iron structures around the town, they present anecdotes about the history of the streets. Sculptures tell the story of Penang’s heritage in a funny yet informative way. You can pick up free Marking George Town map to see all the location. There are many ways to see the paintings. You can follow the map and walk around on your own or take organized tour with a guide. There is as well the CAT bus, which is free and stops near many of the murals.
ChinaHouse is a local institution in Penang that all visitors are recommended to go to. China House is more than just a café. You you want to experience amazing art gallery and delicious cake selections in one this is a place for you! China House has three eateries with separate menus. Located between Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Victoria Street (Lebuh Victoria), China House is the longest café in Penang, measuring approximately 400 feet. Three buildings are linked together by a central courtyard. The floor plan is resembling a labyrinth for sure. On weekends, there is also additional performance and comedy night is held on the first Thursday of each month. Website: China House is owned by Bon Ton, the same company which also operates Bon Ton Resort and Temple Tree in Langkawi. http://www.chinahouse.com.my
Drink cheap coffee from a plastic bag. I saw a lot of local people walking around with their iced coffee in a bag. Being a coffee addict, it became my goal to try it. I was not disappointed.
Tambun Biscuit A trip to Penang is not complete without tasting some tambun biscuit! is a type of layered pastry, shaped into bite size ball, filled with mung bean paste and is a signature produce in Penang. Before I tried Tambun Biscuit in penang, never did I know that tau sar piah is suppose to be crispy.
Best Must Eat Street Foods. Penang’s local hawker food stalls comes alive at night and it is an unmissable sight to behold. Look for them along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Gurney Drive and Georgetown’s New lane in the evenings till late.
- Penang Assam Laksa. Signature dish of Penang. Its a fish-based soup noodle broth of tamarind juice, chilli paste, lemongrass, prawn paste and mackerel or sardine flakes.
- Penang Rojak (or Rujak). Salad of bean curds, with fresh cucumber, crunchy jicama, fritters , bean sprouts, cuttlefish and assortment of fruits covered in a thick peanut sauce.
- Penang Teochew Chendul (Chendol). Famous dessert of Penang. Bowl of Shaved ice filled with red beans, fresh coconut milk , gula melaka syrup and chewy green rice flour jelly. (Try it at Joo Hooi Cafe)
- Char Koay Teow ( “stir-fried ricecake strips”). It is made from flat rice noodles, stir-fried, small quantity of belachan, whole prawns, deshelled blood cockles, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives. These simple combination of ingredients result in an explosive and delicious treat to the taste buds.
- Koay Teow Th’ng. Slices of pork, fish/eel balls, fish cake and a tasty broth with flat rice noodles.
- Lor Bak. A variety of deep-fried various meats and vegetables and other ingredients, such as a sausage-esque roll consisting of minced pork and prawn
- If you have more time to spend in Penang check out Botanic Gardens . 29 hectares of green land filled with all sorts of plants from hundreds of species.
- Penang Bird Park. The first of its kind in Malaysia, the Penang Bird Park houses over 300 different species of birds from all over the world, more then a half are unique to Malaysia
If you have any additions or corrections, do drop me a comment or an email please! I created this guide based on my own experiences and research.
Are you on Pinterest? Pin me!