How often do we find a place that has everything from lip-smacking food, thrilling nightlife to religious havens and glorious landscapes and an enriching history as well? What if we tell you there does exist a place where you could have not only these but more activities that could possibly help you tick most items off your bucket list? Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the marvelous island of Penang.
Located in the northwestern coast of Malaysia, Penang might be the smallest Malaysian state, but is home to the most wonderful destinations in Malaysia, and unsurprisingly receives the maximum number of tourists in the entire Malaysian coast.
With an enriching history spanning decades, Penang has seen a wide and diverse influx of settlers from around the globe, which has attributed to its present cultural heterogeneity. Here is a list of some things to do at Penang you do not want to miss on your trip to the island.
Ideal Time to Visit
Although the island state sees an influx of tourists from November to January, December is when all the action takes place in Penang.
Places To Visit in Penang
1. Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill
Location: 1000-L, Tingkat Lembah Ria 1, 11500 Air Itam
Amongst the magnificent and well-known structures of Malaysia is Kek Lok Si Temple, which is the most revered Buddhist temple in the world. While its name translates to ‘Temple of Pure Bliss’, the entire architecture of the temple is a sight to behold.
Not to miss: Amalgamating three architectural styles viz. Thai, Burmese, and Chinese in one structure is the pagoda of Rama, also known as the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, for it houses 10,000 splendid statues of Buddha in different poses. Moreover, paying an additional 3 RM would take you on an inclined lift to witness the Guan Yin (God of Mercy) statue. Be ready to crane your neck because the statue is HUGE at a height of 98 feet.
Opening Hours: Daily: 0700 hours- 1730 hours. Spending 2 hours of your time here will be worthwhile.
How To Reach: Catch a bus or train from Georgetown to Penang Hill station.
Cost: 2 Malaysian Ringgit (1 RM= 17.24 INR approx.) to enter the Pagoda.
Special: If one wishes to watch the Temple in its full glory, the best time to visit Kek Lok Si Temple would be during the Chinese New Year, which generally falls between January 20 and February 21, when a 30-day celebration is held at the Temple and it is decorated with lights and lamps through the night, making it look nothing less than what its name suggests: Temple of Paradise.
Tip: There is quite some walking involved in exploring the temple, hence sturdy shoes could be your best bet.
2. Khoo Kongsi, Georgetown
Location: 18, Cannon Square, 10450 George Town
Since Penang is habituated by a large Chinese population, one can expect to find some of the most culturally significant structures adorning the streets of Penang. One such unique place of Penang is the Khoo Kongsi which is a clanhouse for the Chinese clan ‘Khoo’, an early immigrant clan from Southern China who came and settled in Penang in the late 1800s. An architectural marvel, Khoo Kongsi was once a glorious complex where functions and activities akin to the Khoo clan would be held but is now reduced to a historic tourist attraction.
Not to miss: The complex’s main hall is home to some elaborate carvings depicting Chinese artistry, along with the clan temple which houses important clan deities.
Opening Hours: Temple is open from 0900 hours to 1700 hours. Spend 1.5-2 hours exploring and admiring the intricacy of the temple and surrounding structures.
How to Reach: Walking through Cannon Street is the most suitable means to reach Khoo Kongsi.
Cost: RM 10 to enter.
Special: ‘Evening of Lights’, a cultural event held at Khoo Kongsi, is an unforgettable experience. One day of every month (usually the last Saturday) the clan house is brightly lit-up in the evening from 6.00pm onwards. Chinese cultural events, including Chinese classical music, traditional handicrafts shops and the best street foods of Penang are arranged for the people to enjoy, with the beautifully lit temple as the backdrop, with no additional charges! Tip: Carry your camera! The temple, clanhouse, and interiors are wonders in themselves and you would not like to miss out on capturing any of them.
3. Tropical Spice Garden, Teluk Bahang
Being the only spice garden in South East Asia, the Tropical Spice Garden is an impressive collection of over 500 species of flora and fauna found across the length and breadth of Malaysia. Beautiful walking-trails welcome guests to spend a lovely evening away from the clutter of tourists at other spots and enjoy a retreat in the midst of widespread greenery.
Not to miss: Take a guided tour followed by a one-of-its-kind cooking class at the Tropical Spice Garden. Tour starts at 0900 hours, followed at two more, at 1100 hours and 1330 hours respectively.
Cost: RM 45 for live-guided tours (adults), RM 29 for audio guided tours (adults).
Opening hours: Since it is basically a horticultural garden, every season has the best to offer the place and visitors are welcome to it anytime. The Garden stays open every day, from 0900 hours to 1800 hours and requires 1.5 hours to explore it.
How to Reach: Take Bus 101 or bus 102 or drive to the location.
Special: The garden is a warehouse of the rarest and most valuable spices of Malaysia and hence offers the best herbal tea one could ever taste. There are a variety of spices’ combination to choose from and you can spend some time, basking in the sun in the midst of all that greenery while you sip your cup of freshly-brewed tea, and if that keeps you wanting for more, the Gift Shop on your way out of the Garden has all the spices of the garden up for sale, so now you can taste them anytime, anywhere you want! Additionally, the Tree Monkey Restaurant in the area is famous for its delicious Thai preparations.
Tip: Carry a mosquito repellent, water bottle and wear comfortable shoes.