Things to do in Penang
Penang is a cool city and one you should definitely spend time in if you are visiting Malaysia. There are two parts: Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. Most tourists visit the former. Here is my list of things to do in Penang:
Visit Batu Ferringhi
Batu Ferringhi is a 30 minute drive from George Town which is around £5 with a Grab Taxi (SE Asia’s Uber equivalent). It is the main ‘beach resort’ in Penang, although offers much more than the stereotypical European beach resort! Our lovely hotel was based in this area.
It is home to a number of excellent restaurants ranging from street food to higher end dining. The Batu Ferringhi Night Market sells clothes, shoes, souvenir and local produce and features a fun food court / hawker centre.
There are also many water sport activities including jet-skiing, parasailing and windsurfing.
Visit George Town
George Town is the capital of Penang and is where many tourists base themselves. One of the best things to do in Penang is to visit the street art that surrounds George Town. Some of the murals are even interactive including a motorcycle you can hop on! You can read more about the street art here.
The Clan Jetties, a community of homes built on stilts, are also worth a peak in George Town. They are named after different Chinese clans and are over a hundred years old! The families don’t pay tax as they do not technically live on land! We visited the Tan Jetty on the recommendation of Where Goes Rose which was less touristy and therefore much quieter. You don’t need long here and make sure you visit the Jetty Food Court nearby.
George Town is home to the Kapitan Keling Mosque (Islamic), the Sri Mahamariamman Temple – Goddess of Mercy Temple (Hindu) and St George’s Anglican Church (Christian) all within moments of one another!
Just wandering around George Town is fun. You come across so many cute houses and doorways, street art, local shops, hawker stalls and more. Make sure you visit Love Lane for some happy hour drinks too. Ideally, you should spend 2 days in Georgetown to take it all in.
Visit Penang Hill
Combine your trip to Penang Hill with Kek Lok Si Temple (see below) as they are only 30 minutes walk apart or a £1 GRAB taxi. Get your taxi to Penang Hill Lower Station where you ride on the steep funicular to the top for £5/6 return.
Penang Hill is the oldest and only hill station with a funicular railway in Malaysia. It was completed in 1923 and was the first of its kind in South East Asia with the steepest tunnel in the world! The funicular uses the technology of an elevator (a cable pulling a car up) and of a railroad (a car on a track). It takes just 5 minutes to get to the top, as opposed to a one hour+ steep sweaty climb!
The ride up on the funicular was fun, particularity given how steep it is! It is a popular spot so you may not get a seat as the carriages get pretty full. We found it quite empty on the way there but very packed on the way back! As you would expect, the views of the city are great. It was a little confusing at the top regard what was chargeable. There seemed to be certain sections immediately after the exit from the funicular that were blocked off with an entrance fee.
We visited the Penang Hill Mosque and Hindu temple and walked around the nearby area with the ‘Love’ padlocks. A new attraction which looked pretty awesome was The Habitat Penang Hill which is a rainforest walk (10 entry). Sadly we did not have time as the loop takes over a hour but one for next time!!
Visti Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and is one of the most beautiful temples I have ever visited. The complex is divided into three zones:
- temple grounds comprise the hill entrance, souvenir, food and drinks stalls and the turtle liberation pond.
- the mid section of the temple includes temples, gardens, the pagoda and the four heavenly kings pavilion.
- the hilltop features an enormous statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin and more gardens and temples.
As with so many temples, there is no entrance fee as it is a place of worship. There are donation boxes throughout the complex and where you can light incense. I felt it was only right to donate a few MYR (less than a pound).
Kek Lok Si is a Theravada Buddhist temple featuring thin, ‘awakened’ Buddha statues rather than the chubby, smiley ones you find at other temples.
Climbing the padoga and the inclining lift
There are two sections that there is a very small entrance fee for. First, you can visit the impressive pagoda of Rama VI where you can climb the seven storey 30 metre high Ban Po Tar (the Ten Thousand Buddhas) white pagoda (2MYR/40p).
There are some signs ‘to the pagoda’ and look out for the gift shop and bear right to a little ticket booth. The views of Air Itam and the city are beautiful from the top of Ban Po Tar. Take time to admire each floor which has its own small temples and beautifully crafted windows. We were also lucky to visit during Chinese New Year so there were hundreds of Chinese lanterns surrounding the temple.
We also travelled on the inclined lift for 3 MYR (60p) to visit the 36.5 metre -high bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. There are also other shrines and pagodas to visit at the top.
East London Girl: Things to do in Penang
You may also be interested in the following blog posts on Penang: