Places to visit

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

"If we say nothing but what has been said before us, we are dull and have observed nothing. If we tell anything new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic" so wrote the English society figure Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in a letter to her husband in 1718.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

One is tempted to conjecture that had she lived in the next century and had been to Penang she might not have made such a wry comment! Simply because there is so much to tell about the places of interest you have seen. Simply because Penang is such a popular tourist destination and has been visited so many times over, it will be impossible for travellers to recount something that has not been recounted before! In short, a visit to Penang will not be complete if one does not tread a path, follow the road, get around, knock around, go places, sightsee or peregrinate for nowhere else in South East Asia will you find a more peaceful and pleasing island.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

For the fun-loving and outdoorsy tourist, there are numerous beaches, fishing villages, nature trails, recreation forests and waterfalls. If you find touristy spots like Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi too crowded, you can retreat to more remote but no less attractive beaches at Muka Head, Pantai Keracut, Monkey Beach, Pantai Acheh and Gertak Sanggul.

While in Teluk Bahang do not forget to visit Entopia and the batik factory.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

To rejuvenate jaded senses, Penang Hill beckons with the promise of fresh and cool air and an awe-inspiring view of the island. Still relatively unspoilt, Penang Hill provides a quiet break from the hectic pace of the city. Breathtaking views of the island and the Andaman Sea can also be enjoyed during the drive to and from Balik Pulau.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Reflecting the multi-cultural character of Penang are the numerous houses of worship to cater to nearly every faith – Islam, Taoism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. If you plan to visit, do remember to dress decently and remove your shoes before entering some places of prayer. When visiting a mosque, it is recommended that you do so during the hours when Muslims are not performing one of their five daily prayers. So as not to offend anyone, do not bring any meat or alcohol into houses of worship. Keep in mind that all the religions in Malaysia observe one taboo or another vis à vis food and drink.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Not to be left out of your itinerary are the Colonial Quarter, Little India, Chinatown and the historic port settlements. Heritage tours are recommended if you want to check out every nook, cranny and side street. To get a panoramic view of George Town, check out the viewing gallery on the 58th floor of KOMTAR.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah

There are also quite a few museums and art galleries in Penang that keep vigil over the city's rich heritage and art scene that are simply unique and diverse. Itineraries can wildly vary as you freely choose among the more classic venues and the many most curious and surprising museums. Explore and learn about Penang glorious past as well as her creative future.

Penang attractions © Adrian Cheah


More than just fresh oysters at a Penang oyster farm

Penang oyster farm © Adrian Cheah

My early childhood days were filled with family weekends to the beach. We would swim, dig for lala and on occasions, arm ourselves with a screwdriver and hammer to chisel out oysters from rock surfaces. Some days we would also bag a few belangkas (horseshoe crabs) and hai ciau (axe clams). Those were the good old days when the shores of Penang were teeming with life and the waters, pristine.

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Hills and Heritage of Penang – the durian experience

Flowering Frenzy

durian flowers © Adrian Cheah

After a very disappointing 2017 for seasonal fruits, 2018 has certainly started off with a bang. As if making up for last season’s low yield, most of the durian trees around the Balik Pulau area are flowering with a vengeance. Barring weather calamities, we should see a bumper crop starting – a bit earlier than usual – in mid-March 2018. The hot and dry weather the past months plus all the storing of energy from the low yield has caused this explosion of flower buds.

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Penang's very own Arcadia in the clouds – Penang Hill

Penang Hill © Adrian Cheah

Penang Hill is the state's foremost hill resort. Although it was originally called Flagstaff Hill, the locals have always affectionately referred to it as Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera. At about 830 metres (2,750 feet) from sea level, the temperature on the hilltop is considerably cooler than the nether lands. On regular weekdays, the hill is pretty quiet and can serve as a recuperative getaway, far from the madding crowd and city heat.

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Penang Hill – an uplifting experience!

Penang Hill © Adrian Cheah

A must-see in Penang is the Penang Hill Railway, Keretapi Bukit Bendera, a fascinating little cable train service that lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view and cool breezes. OK!, if you are not quick on your feet you can miss a seat, but the majority of passengers stand. Anyway, you see more and have the added fun of travelling upwards at 45 degrees to the landscape.

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Batu Ferringhi – a beach for lovers and dreamers

Batu Ferringgi © Adrian Cheah

I came to Penang for the first time only last July after spending time over the years in Hong Kong, China and India, but mostly in Indonesia. Being a lover of beaches I headed for Batu Feringgi on the north coast and settled at the Parkroyal Hotel. In Indonesia, the beaches at Kuta on Bali and Paragtritis on Java have been ones I have always returned to.

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Stop and smell the spices at Tropical Spice Garden

Tropical Spice Garden © Adrian Cheah

One of Penang's popular attractions is the Tropical Spice Garden which is located in Teluk Bahang, a few minutes drive from Batu Feringgi. For those seeking peace, tranquility and to immerse one's self in the splendour of Mother Nature, this veritable secret garden is the place to be.

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Church of the Assumption, among Penang's historical landmarks

Church of the Assumption © Adrian Cheah

George Town, located in the heart of Penang, has perhaps one of the most diverse religious communities in Malaysia. Here, almost every religion has its own distinct religious architectural abode to serve believers.

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Church of St Anne: monument to faith and enduring legacy

Church of St Anne © Adrian Cheah

The humble legacy of 19th century French missionaries have become among the greatest pilgrimage centres of the region.

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Church of the Holy Name of Jesus – a historical church in a sleepy hollow

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus © Adrian Cheah

Introduction

Old churches are fascinating buildings. Aside from their obvious roles as houses for worship and community gathering, old churches are also well known for their sublime architecture and illustrious histories. The Western continent has some of the finest and world-renowned churches, the mind immediately recalling structures like the early Gothic-styled Notre Dame in Paris (1163), St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican (349AD) and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City (19th century). Equally fascinating ones also include the Santa Maria Maggiore (430AD) and Santa Prassede (780AD) in Rome and the Saxon Brixworth and Escombe churches in England (around 670AD).

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Tow Boo Kong Temple – an epic edifice where gods descend on Earth

Tow Boo Kong Temple © Adrian Cheah

This is the most famous place of worship in Raja Uda, and indeed in the whole of Seberang Perai. The intricately designed Tow Boo Kong Temple sited on the northern end of Jalan Raja Uda was built in honour of the Nine Emperor Gods.

Originally set up as just an attap-shed shrine in the early 1970s, the temple was rebuilt to its current scale and grandeur in 2000. The majestic archway was completed in 2009.

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The Kapitan Keling – a mosque rich in history

Kapitan Keling Mosque © Adrian Cheah

The Kapitan Keling Mosque Kapitan Keling Mosque along Jalan Kapitan Keling (once Pitt Street) is a monumental structure crowned by copper domes. This is the largest historic mosque in George Town, founded around 1800.

The name of the mosque was taken from the Kapitan Kelings, people who were appointed leaders of the South Indian community by the British.

The term "keling" derived from the ancient Hindu kingdom on the Coromandel coast of South India. It was generally used to denote all those who came from there. As the Indians found it difficult to pronounce certain English words, the title "Captain" was somehow transformed into "Kapitan". From there, the Kapitan Kelings (or Captains of the Kelings) came about.

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Sanctum sanctorums of the Thai and Burmese communities

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple © Adrian Cheah

In 1845, a large endowment of land in the Pulau Tikus area was made to the Theravada Buddhists, principally Thai and Burmese, whose importance is recorded in local street names to this day. Today, the extensive lands surrounding the Thai Wat Chaiyamangalaram are home to a small and thriving kampong of about thirty families (approximately 120 persons) of Thai Chinese and Hindu Indians. (The Changing Perceptions of Waqf, as Social, Cultural and Symbolic Capital in Penang, Judith Nagata)

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