Penang is always a good bet for a short escape within the region. It has everything you want and need–historical buildings, street art, awesome food round-the-clock, quirky museums and a vivid street life. There’s enough of adventure on the island for intrepid explorers and a dollop of style and sass for the urbanites. So if you have three days to spend in Penang, here’s how you can do it.
Walk down memory lane
Heritage buildings in Georgetown is probably one of the reasons why Penang has catapulted to fame in the past decade. Listed under UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008, dozens of tourists have flocked to the island state to check out the architecturally impressive buildings that have been restored to its former glory since its British heydays. Take a stroll from Beach Street to Lebuh Light to check out the colonial monuments. These days, the buildings house banks, offices, warehouses and shophouses that offer all sorts of items for sale.
Also, pay attention to the five-foot walkways as you make your way around. You’ll find that the walkways are paved with intricate tile patterns that are not just distinctive but also very Instagram-worthy.
Visit a Clan Temple
There are five major clans (kongsi) in Penang and each of these clans have their own buildings where clan communities worship, hold court or reside. One of such buildings is the grand Khoo Kongsi temple on Cannon Square. The building is over a century old but its presence still dominate the streets. Standing proud with its grand and ornate architecture, the temple consists also of an association building, a traditional theatre and ancient residences for clan members. The best time to visit the temple is during the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 7th lunar month where you’ll get to watch Chinese operas on the old theatre’s stage.
Tour Historical Mansions
Learn more about 18th and 19th-century Chinese architecture by touring the grounds of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Built on Feng Shui principles, this mansion is also a boutique hotel and a museum today.
Glean insights to the old way of life and culture of the Peranakans in the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. This stately house was once the residence of a wealthy 19th century Baba merchant and showcases more than 1,000 magnificent antiques, furniture pieces and quirky paraphernalia. If these walls could talk, could you imagine the stories they’d tell?
Pay Harmony Street A Visit
Formerly known as Pitt Street, Jalan Kapitan Keling today is a an exemplary street of harmony and peace. Four major religions and their places of worship are lined up neatly here on a street that stretches out for at least 2km. On your walk you’ll discover a Chinese Temple (Yap Temple), a Hindu Temple (Sri Mahamariamman Temple), the notable Muslim mosque (Masjid Kapitan Keling) another Chinese temple (Kuan Yin Temple) and St. George Church.
Cycle around Balik Pulau
When the queues get too long and the crowds too large in Georgetown, hit the pause button and escape to Balik Pulau instead. Easily accessible by bus or car (or a motorcycle if you’re adventurous!) this southwest part of Penang island is covered with paddy fields and rolling landscapes. Here you’ll find respite from city life. Join a bicycle tour and explore the mangrove swamps, farms and verdant fields.
Bedak Sejuk (cooling powder) is also manufactured right here in a little housing area near the jetty. Tour Lean Seng Bedak Sejuk and watch how 75-year old Mr. Yeoh makes his magical cooling powder by using rice pulp and the aroma from pandan leaves.
Hike to Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam
If you’re looking for the largest Buddhist temple complex in Malaysia, you’ll find it perched on the hills of Air Itam. The entire complex of temples was built over a period from 1890 to 1930, filled with landscaped gardens and sacred pagodas in between. If you make it to the very top, you’ll find a majestic bronze Kuan Yin statue, towering at 120-feet in height. The view from above is equally impressive.
Don’t forget to sample the famous Assam Laksa found on the foothills of Kek Lok Si or Sister’s Curry Mee along the main Jalan Air Itam road.
Catch the sunset at Batu Ferringhi
Get to Batu Ferringhi and catch the sun’s last rays of the day. What can be more refreshing than listening to the sound of waves crashing against the shore while admiring a fiery display in the horizon? As twilight sets in, visit the Batu Ferringhi night market for seafood and souvenirs. Scattered around the area are also bars and clubs if you’re looking to party after dark.
Hunt down street art
Take it easy on your last day. That’s why we don’t recommend you to go far. Hang around the Heritage Enclave of Georgetown instead and see if you could find all the playful artwork that have been left by artists like Ernest Zacharevic, Desmond Yeo, Artists for Stray Animals and Sculpture At Work.
The artworks are iconic and add an enjoyable twist of the new and cheeky to Penang’s historical streets. There’s a map of the street art trail available in most hotels and guesthouses. Make sure you pick up one if you don’t want to miss anything out.
Old kopitiams no longer dominate the coffee scene in Penang. In the recent years, we’ve witnessed a steady sprout of cafes popping up everywhere on the island, most of them offering espresso-based drinks, fusion food and sweet treats in restored colonial shophouses.
Some of them have gorgeous courtyards and a cozy ambiance. Try Awesome Canteen at Sekeping Victoria at Lebuh Victoria for their gourmet burgers and Paleo Menu, and Narrow Marrow Cafe on Lebuh Carnavon for a Coffee Lemongrab in a retro-like ambience.
Ready for your quick escape to Penang? Book your flight or hotel on Traveloka today!