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


Acheen Street Mosque, priceless legacy of the Penang Muslim community

Acheen Street Mosque © Adrian Cheah

The history of the Acheen Street mosque (also known as the Malay mosque), began in 1792, which marked the arrival of its founder Tengku Syed Hussain Al-Aidid who had come from Acheh to settle in Penang. A member of the royal family of Acheh, Sumatra and descendant of a sovereign Arab family, Hussain became a hugely successful entrepreneur and one of the wealthiest merchants and landowners in Penang.

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The Han Jiang Ancestral Temple of the Penang Teochew Association – linking past and present

Teochew Temple © Adrian Cheah

You cannot miss the building. Nestled among rows of old Indian Muslim carpet stores, jewellers and eateries, the ancestral temple of the Teochew Chinese stands out with its pronounced Chinese architecture and imposing doors featuring twin larger-than-life Chinese warriors in full regalia. This silent and formidable pair with their red faces and weapons, frightening to foes yet welcoming to members and visitors, have been standing guard to the temple's peaceful interior for more than a century. Their presence recalls to mind a rather popular Chinese tercet: "Like the spring rain to a lotus blossom, thou art welcome; come, rest within".

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Kek Lok Si Temple, the monastery on Crane Hill

Kek Lok Si Temple © Adrian Cheah

In Chinese iconography, the Crane holds special significance. It is an auspicious symbol denoting longevity, and wisdom that comes with age. The Crane is said to manifest a peculiar interest in human affairs and is also often associated with good luck, high-mindedness, purity and freedom.

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Sri Mariamman, the temple of an ancient goddess

Sri Mariamman © Adrian Cheah

Penang has a large community of Indians, broadly divided into those from the North (Bengalis, Sindhis, Gujerati, etc.) and the South (Tamils). It is not surprising then that the Penang landscape is dotted with Hindu temples, from the large and ornate to the unostentatious makeshift huts and lean-to's.

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