Places of visit: Mainland Penang

Mainland Penang © Adrian Cheah

Connected to the island by the Penang Bridge, Prai is a thriving industrial premise on the mainland. While her island sister hogs most of the limelight, Prai has her own share of attractions.

Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest

Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest © Adrian Cheah

The Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest lies 457 metres above sea level and covers an area of 37 hectares. Some locals refer to Bukit Mertajam as Bukit Ubat (or medicinal hill) because of the therapeutic qualities attributed to it – people with minor ailments actually claim to feel relieved after a hike. One of the more popular parks on the mainland, it is usually packed with visitors during holidays. Facilities include a swimming pool, camping and picnic spots, jungle treks and comfortable accommodation.

Bukit Panchor Recreational Forest

Located 10 km from Nibong Tebal or 50 km from George Town lies the Bukit Panchor Recreational Forest – an ideal getaway for picnics, camping and jungle trekking. A perfect back-to-nature venue for the family to explore.

Penang bridges – connecting the island to the mainland

Penang bridge © Adrian Cheah

Since its inauguration on 14 September 1985, the first Penang Bridge has become an iconic part of George Town. Like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge, the Penang Bridge has contributed significantly to the rapid development of Penang.

Every year the Penang Bridge Run takes place on the first Penang Bridge itself and along the scenic coastal highway of George Town. This is the only time of the year when the bridge is closed for several hours in the wee hours of the morning. The biggest run in the country incorporates a marathon, a half-marathon and a quarter-marathon. The Run caters both to serious runners and amateurs.

The Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge or Penang Second Bridge has the length of 24 km, making it the longest in Southeast Asia. It links Batu Maung on the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland. It was officially opened to the public on 1 March 2014.

Mengkuang Dam, Bukit Mertajam

Mengkuang Dam © Adrian Cheah

The biggest dam in Penang that had been expanded with a storage capacity of 86.40 billion litres of water is located in the Mengkuang Valley north of Bukit Mertajam on the mainland. It was officially opened by the former Governor, Dr. Tun Awang Hassan in 1985.

A haven for nature lovers, the dam features a well-landscaped garden with rubber, pinang and pine trees and some wildlife. Besides using the jogging tracks and walking trails, fitness buffs hold regular sporting and recreational activities there as well. The dam at times hosts the annual Penang International Dragon Boat Festival.

The dam is accessible via the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE). Get off at the Penanti exit from the BKE and drive on for about 2 km until you reach the Mengkuang Dam.

Opens from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm daily. For more details, call the Water Authority office at 604-255 8255

Penang Bird Park, Jalan Todak

Penang Bird Park © Adrian Cheah

A must-see for bird lovers is the Penang Bird Park, located at an accessible five-minute drive from the Penang Bridge. This 2-hectare Park is home to more than 300 species of birds from all over the world, including our local breeds and some endangered species too. See huge birds of prey, pelicans, the gigantic cassowaries, emu and ostriches surrounded by their natural habitats.

The Park is also home to non-feathered animals like fishes, reptiles and mouse deer. The park also features beautifully landscaped gardens, relaxing waterfalls, lotus ponds, walk-in aviaries, a souvenir shop and restaurant.

Address: Jalan Todak, Seberang Jaya, 13700 Perai, Penang, Malaysia.
T: 604-399 1899

St. Anne’s Church, Jalan Kulim, Bukit Mertajam

St. Anne’s Church © Adrian Cheah

From a small chapel built atop a hillock by visiting priest Fr. Adolphe Couellan in 1846, the St. Anne Church grew to become a centre of pilgrimage in the region. Hence a bigger church was built next to the old one, now called the Shrine. The dedication of the new church with its multi-tiered Minangkabau roofs and Gothic architecture was held on the 26 July 2002. The church was named after St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and has a sitting capacity of 1,800. Celebrations are held on a grand scale annually in conjunction with the annual St. Anne's Feast (in the month of July) which is usually followed by two nights of candlelight procession by thousands of devotees at the church grounds.

To find out more about what the mainland of Penang has to offer, check out

Kuala Muda fishing village and whispering market

Where fisher folk keep alive a most quaint and unusual tradition of bidding

Kuala Muda whispering market © Adrian Cheah

The political boundary between the states of Penang and Kedah is partly defined by a majestic age-old gift of nature. This is the magnificent Sungai Muda river which meanders quietly but imposingly from the Ulu Muda rainforests deep in the interior of peninsular Malaysia towards the Straits of Malacca.

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Jungles that hide Penang’s forgotten colonial dams

 forgotten colonial dams © Adrian Cheah

The dams of Cherok To’ Kun and Bukit Seraya continue to stand amid encroaching forests in secret testimony to the dedication of their builders and operators from a bygone era.

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KTM Swing Bridge in Prai – a rare engineering novelty in Asia

KTM Swing Bridge © Adrian Cheah

A marvel of engineering, this “swing bridge” is built over the Prai River specifically to allow trains to cross over, connecting the Butterworth Railway Terminal on the northern side to other rail destinations further south in Malaysia. The bridge also opens up occasionally for large barges, ships and ferries that need to pass through along the river. It is operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), the national railway company.

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Penang Bird Park – a living sanctuary that houses and protects more than 300 species of birds

Penang Bird Park © Adrian Cheah

When it opened in 1988, the Penang Bird Park was the first man-made bird sanctuary of its kind in Malaysia. Comfortably nestled in a sheltered corner in urban Seberang Jaya, it features some 3,000 birds, consisting of more than 300 local and foreign species.

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The surreal vistas of Bukit Katak (Frog Hill)

Frog Hill © Adrian Cheah

Jim Richardson once noted that if you want to be a better photographer, "you should stand in front of more interesting stuff". Richardson is a renowned photographer for the National Geographic Magazine. Many would agree with Richardson and with the advent of social media, it is easy to turn an unknown location like Bukit Katak (Frog Hill) into one of Penang's much sought after Instagrammable hotspots.

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Penang Bridge – connecting the island to the mainland

Penang Bridge © Adrian Cheah

Before 1985, transportation between the island and the mainland was solely dependent on the state-owned Penang Ferry Service that plies between Butterworth and George Town. For using the ferry services in Penang, motorists need to pay toll fare while heading to the island. There is no charge for leaving the island.

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Penang ferry service

The famous heritage ride across the Penang Channel

Penang ferry © Adrian Cheah

Probably the most cherished and well-known icon of Penang, this ferry service which carries motor vehicles and foot passengers became operational in 1925, linking Butterworth on the mainland to George Town on the island. Prior to that, the ferries in the form of large boats were meant for goods and people only.

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