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


Little India of George Town

Little India, Penang © Adrian Cheah

Not many visitors and tourists to George Town's famous Little India enclave know that the area's name was adopted by the local authorities only nine years ago.

But whatever it is named, visitors hardly fail to sense the remarkable nostalgic charm and almost innocent simplicity of the area. And no wonder. Little India breathes a rich living history that spans over two centuries. The culture here throbs with antiquity and tradition.

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History of Little India

Little India, Penang © Adrian Cheah

This meticulously regimented network was among the earliest parts of George Town planned under the administration of Sir Francis Light, the English founder of Penang. The area is hence now referred to as the "Francis Light Grid" – a rectangular network bordered by Leith Street, Beach Street, Chulia Street and Pitt Street (now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).

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Chine Blue – an insight into Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion © Adrian Cheah

Like a fragment from a scroll painting, an exotic indigo-blue mansion, with graceful, curved windows and a peaked, tiled roof, remains in the midst of Penang's modern high-rises. This rare survivor of old Penang, constructed in a Chinese-courtyard style with Western art-nouveau features, reflects the complex personality of its builder Cheong Fatt Tze. Called the "Rockefeller of the East", he was the most flamboyant of all Penang's multimillionaire towkays during the island's heyday of wealthy magnates.

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Street Art of George Town, Penang

Take an amazing tour around the UNESCO World Heritage City of George Town, Penang to discover the unique wrought-iron caricatures with anecdotal descriptions of the street that they adorn.

Also within the heritage enclave are street art installations that have gain popularity among both visitors and locals alike. The street art all started off with a project called Mirrors George Town by George Town Festival 2012. Through this project, the talented efforts by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic has drawn much attention.

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Fort Cornwallis – the Star on the North East Coast of Penang

Fort Cornwallis © Adrian Cheah

The star-shaped Fort Cornwallis marks the point where Francis Light and crew landed on 11 August 1786 to "take possession" of the island from the Sultan of Kedah. This date was also the birth date of Prince Charles and hence Francis Light named Pulau Pinang as the Prince of Wales Island.

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Clan Jetties of Penang

Clan Jetties of Penang © Adrian Cheah

"The wooden stilts are replaced every five years or so" explained Siew Pheng as we walked around the jetty. Siew Pheng, born and raised on Chew Jetty goes on to tell us that this labor-intensive task of replacing the wooden stilts is a dying trade as only a few old hands practice the skill. Many youngsters prefer not to live at the jetty, but in apartments and houses on Penang island itself, as the maintenance of these houses is backbreaking work.

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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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An enduring staycation at Green Acres Orchard and Ecolodge in Balik Pulau

Green Acres © Adrian Cheah

Mr. Eric Chong and I have known each other since we were seven years of age, both attending La Salle School in Standard One, then St. Xavier's Institution in Form Four. This humble beginning has fostered a close relationship between us that enables me to offer my personal insights into my dear friend's passion project of becoming an orchard grower, a farmer, an organic crusader, an avid student of mother nature and above all, a man who has an unquenchable curiosity to seek and learn. He is unfettered by hard work with perseverance deeply rooted in his being. Together with wife Kim and son Adric (as well as their pet beagle, Ciku), they are the family behind Green Acres.

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The Saanen Dairy Goat Farm, a hidden gem to visit in Balik Pulau

Saanen Dairy Goat Farm © Adrian Cheah

Stories related to goats cut across cultures and geography, conjuring up myths and beliefs that have flowed through millennia right up to this present day. I find these vivid and dramatic tales utterly captivating.

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