An Unconventional Travel Guide around Penang: 3 Things to do
On my recent trip back to Penang, I had a guest with me. Before the trip, I did an extensive research on what to do, to see and to eat. One can never be starved of information on the internet.
Long story short, I found repetitive and less than desirable information – in my opinion – as a Penangite. I did some touristy things during my time there and found some gems that somewhat not so popular. This motivates me to come up with my own travel guide for my little city.
This guide contains my opinions of what I think are worth visiting.
Doors around UNESCO Georgetown Heritage site.
1. The streets and alleyway around Georgetown UNESCO Heritage site.
Namely: Chulia Street, Muntri Street,
The Georgetown UNESCO Heritage Site is one of the main highlights for Penang tourism. There are clan jetties, temples, churches, mosques (some free but mostly paid) along these routes. I won’t iliterate on this because there are plenty of information one could look up online.
What I want to recommend is the streets and alleyways away from the main road/focus area. The true heart of old Georgetown where many dilapidated and refurbished pre war houses still stands. Those worn out buildings with chipping paints and colourful floor tiles under the five-foot-way (sheltered walkway). Generations of families still live in a lot of these heritage building. These buildings had their glorious days with blooming businesses on the ground floor and family living space on the upper floors. Along these streets, you will find some old signboards still hanging proudly outside the buildings. Many buildings are turned into cafes, hotels/hostels/motels and other businesses. Some old businesses still remain but rare – as they are slowly shallowed by modernisation.
Floor tiles outside heritage buildings.
Monitor lizard basking under the sun.
2. The Penang Botanical Garden
A heritage in its own right. The 29 hectares little piece of rainforest is more than 100 years old and home of over 100,000 species of plants and some small animals. There are Orchid House, Lily Pond, Cactus Farm, Herbs Garden, Adroid Walkway, Fern House, Japanese Garden, Eco-Stream Walk and the list goes on. The scale of the trees in this garden is unimaginable and simply fascinating. I have emphasized many times that this is a must see in Penang.
Bonus: Waterfall Hill Temple. On the way to Botanical Garden, you will see an Indian temple on the hill, on your left. It’s the largest Murugan Temple outside India. To get there, you must climb 1000 stairs but the climb is worth it. If you are in Penang during Thaipusam, the festivities around this area is a sight to behold.
and a frog at the Lily Pond in Penang Botanical Garden.
Century-old tree in the Penang Botanical Garden.
Giant palm trees in the Penang Botanical Garden.
Pantai Pasir Panjang
3. Driving around the island.
Advice: It’s best to rent a car for this route.
Penang is beyond the city of Georgetown, the industrial area of Bayan Lepas and the beach area of Batu Ferringhi. I forgot how wonderful is this little island until I drove around the island twice this trip.
There is a huge difference in landscapes from the developed area of Penang (Northern to Southeast) from the back of the island (Southern towards North) as how we called it. On the back of the island is where true nature lies – pristine beaches, fruits and animal farms, fishing villages and paddy field. The village life still exists until this day.
If your starting point is from southern part of the island – what’s worth visiting are;
1) Pulau Betong Fishing Village – the village was washed away during the 2004 tsunami. Most fishermen lost their livelihood after that day. The village is now rebuilt.
2) Pantai Pasir Panjang – miles of pristine beach. You might find yourself alone there with several fishing hobbyist – it is absolutely non-touristy because of its location (far and secluded). However, I do not recommend swimming there due to undertows.
3) From Pulau Pasir Panjang, drive to a famous laksa place called Kim Laksa which made into the CNNGo’s list of the world’s 50 most delicious foods in 2011.
4) Ghee Hup Nutmeg Factory – at this factory, an uncle will greet you and he will explain to you the anatomy of a nutmeg and the medicinal values. It is a short but interesting experience. We went home with added knowledge.
6) Fruit farms – during the durian (that stinky fruit) season, vendors set up stalls on the roadside. You could buy some home or taste the fruit right there and then. I’ll let you know that bringing durians in your car is not such a clever idea. The smell will linger for days, or even weeks.
Pantai Pasir Panjang
Pulau Betong Fishing Village
At the nutmeg farm.
The view from the back of the island.
Ah, I feel a little homesick writing this article. The memories are still tingling. The last trip, I did more exploring than I did when I lived in Penang. It was delightful because I see changes, I understand and appreciate the history, the place, the people, and the experiences more than ever. It feels different. The good type of different.
I hope you will find this guide useful. If you think that I should add more information (or anything!), write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love, Frau Hallo xx