Last May, I joined a Penang familiarization tour hosted by Philippine AirAsia and Penang Global Tourism. We were there a total of 4 days, but only had 2 full days visiting the top attractions in Penang. Despite the short time, we traveled many miles, walked many streets and got to experience many things Penang has to offer. I’ll definitely be back in the future to explore each tourist attractions; especially more street food, and more street art.
Penang Island in Malaysia has been getting a lot of buzz as favorite destination by many travel sites. It’s been described as one of the best places in the world to experience art, culture, food, and nature. Its capital, George Town was inscribed into UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. The city is well preserved and attractions are easily explored by food, bike, or trikshaw. I’ve been dying to visit Penang for the longest time, but because of the non-existence of direct flight from Manila, I’ve been putting it off. Mainly because I often visit neighboring countries on a shorter period of time, I rather not spend my time on the actual travel. This summer though, Philippines AirAsia started offering Fly-Thru routes from Manila to many destinations in Asia and the Pacific. And one of the city is Penang. Fly-thru is really the next best thing to direct flights. Even if you have stop-overs, you don’t need to go through the hassle claiming baggage, only to check-in again for the next leg of your journey.
Top Attractions in Penang
We actually arrived the night before and checked-in to Sunway Hotel George Town, and so we had a bright and early start on the first of our 2-day full-on tour. Here’s a list of the top attractions in Penang that we got to visit with some photos and short description. Of course FOOD is a top attraction in Penang but I will have it another post just dedicated to eating.
8. Entopia – Penang Butterfly Farm
Entopia is like entering a magical world of butterflies and other insects. This huge biodome exhibits many species of butterflies and other interesting insects, like that metallic green beetle bug. Entopia is designed for learning and it was especially designed to make children interested in nature and ecosystem. You go through a set path so that you don’t miss a single exhibit. I’ve been to a few butterfly farms in the world, this is definitely the most high tech of them all. Check out their website for schedules and ticket prices.
7. ESCAPE Adventure Play
ESCAPE is an eco-adventure playground for kids and adults. It has activities simulating being in a jungle, but controlled and safe. You can climb, swing, jump, and zip-line. It also reminds me of the show American Ninja Warrior. It aims to take us offline and enjoy physical activities, sweat it out. ESCAPE is designed for family or group of friends to have fun without the aid of electronics. It is also popular for company team building. Tickets are available for half day, whole day, or even 2-3 days. It has a camping (glamping) ground for staying overnight. We didn’t have a lot of time in here and weren’t exactly outfitted for sports, but I got to do the Jungle Swinger. Check out their website for other fun attractions.
6. Penang Hill & The Habitat
Penang Hill refers to a group of hills in Penang located just 6km from George Town. The highest peak is at 833km above sea level. It was developed to be used as a summer retreat during the British colonial period. The climate there is a bit cooler because of the elevation. Today it’s one of the most popular destination in Penang. The top of the hill is accessible via the Penang Hill Railway from its base station at Air Itam. The Habitat is Penang Hill’s latest eco-attraction set amidst a backdrop of a lush green rainforest. It’s a super tranquil place perfect to connect with nature. The 1.6km nature trail is an easy walk and offers a lot of sitting nook. Due to our limited time, we only able to walk half of the trail with our expert guide, Shakira, who pointed our interesting flora and fauna, one of which is the tiny green snake in the photo. It will soon offer eco-activities such as canopy walk and the treetop walk. I am looking forward to go back to experience them when they open.
5. Kek Lok Si
Kek Lok Si (极乐寺) is a famous Buddhist temple in Penang and the largest in Malaysia. It is an important pilgrimage center for Buddhist in Southeasat Asia. The 2 main draws of this temple is the 99ft bronze statue of KuanYin (Goddess of Mercy) and the striking 7 storey Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas that bears 3 different architectural styles. The base was Chinese, middle section was Thai, and the top tier is Burmese. Regular operating time of Kek Lok Si is from 9:00am – 6:00pm so we actually did not get to go inside the temple complex, I only have that picture form the outside. But I was curious so I searched flickr and found some (cc) photos to give me visuals to the descriptions.
4. Walk the Street of Harmony
Georgetown is one of the most interesting city in Malaysia. Penang boasts of its multicultural population where the Chinese, Indian, and Malay live and c0-exist in perfect harmony. Talking a walk along Street of Harmony lets you experience different cultures within a few meters, as showcased by the different houses of worship lined in one street (as in photo gallery) Take a free Georgetown Walkabout Tour every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Meeting place is at the Tourist Information Center at the Whiteaways Arcade along Lebuh Pantai.
3. Street Art Hunting
I love street art and is often a major consideration visiting a place, well, that and scuba diving. There are about 70 documented street arts scattered around Georgetown center and buffer zone is definitely one of the top attractions in Penang. On this short trip, we got to see a couple of it including the famous Boy on Chair and Kids on Bicycle. I would really go back to Penang just to spend a whole day hunting them all. Grab one of this Marking George Town brochure as it mapped all the street arts around the city.
2. Pinang Peranakan Mansion
This mansion is a recreated home of a typical rich and acculturated Peranakan family. Peranakan are basically descendants of rich Chinese immigrants who intermarry with Muslins in Penang, Malacca, and Singapore and the mix produced a unique culture. I honestly never knew of Paranakans! But I find it very interesting! It’s one of the top attractions in Penang and other Malacca region.
1. Chew Clan Jetties
These jetty clan houses were built by laborer 100 years ago because they could not afford to live on land. So they built houses on stilts and paid the government occupational fees. As more immigrant families arrives, the settlement grew. This unique community caught a lot of interests and is now one of the top attractions in Penang. We visited the Chew Clan Jetties and I’m really impressed how clean the community is. The water they occupy is so clean, unlike the settlement houses I’m familiar with around Metro Manila.
About Penang Malaysia
Penang is a state of Malaysia located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Strait of Malacca. It has two parts — Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. Philippine Passport holders can visit Malaysia for 30days without visa. There is no direct flight from the Philippines to Penang, but can be reached via Philippine AirAsia Fly-thru Route 7 days a week.
Check this suggested itinerary in Penang by another Filipino traveler.
Where to Stay in Penang
When in Penang, I would suggest to stay at a Hotel in Georgetown to have better access to all attractions.