Penang, Malaysia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Penang, the "Pearl of the Orient", is a state in the Northern Region of the Peninsular Malaysia. It has a total area of 1,031 square kilometers with a population of about 1.66 million. Penang is one of the most developed and highly urbanized states of the country. Having a good number of attractive beaches and a mix of old and new atmosphere and east and west ambiance makes it a very popular tourist destination. The state has two parts: the Penang Island, where George Town, the state's capital city, is located, and the Seberang Perai, the mainland. The capital and the historic heart, George Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts its cultural and historical attractions. Batu Ferringhi is also one of the most visited parts of Penang Island. Other places that are worth the visit in Penang Island are Tanjung Bungah and Bayan Lepas. The Penang Island is connected via a 13 kilometer bridge to the mainland, the Seberang Perai.
George Town is the multicultural capital of the state of Penang. Walking down the streets of George Town is like walking through the paths of history with its ancient British colonial buildings. With its preserved cultural and historical heritage, the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the prominent attractions not only in George Town, but in the whole state of Penang, is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. It was rescued from ruin and was beautifully restored and converted into a boutique heritage hotel in the 1990s. The mansion features 38 rooms with art nouveau stained glass, Straits Chinese floor tiles, timber-frame windows, seven staircases, and five granite-paved courtyards.
The Fort Cornwallis is one of Penang's most well-known landmarks with an area of 4490 square feet. It is the largest standing fort in Malaysia that was named after Marquis Charles Cornwallis.
The Khoo Kongsi is one of the most prominent Chinese heritage site in Malaysia that was built 650 years ago. It is also known as one of the most alluring attractions in the Southeast Asia. Konsi means "clan house" where the Chinese families of the same surname gather to worship their ancestors.
Being known as a city of cultural and historical heritage, the city is housing some museums to showcase Penang's culture and history. Some of the museums are the Penang State Museum & Art Gallery and the Penang Islamic Museum.
Some of the religious sites that are located here are the mosques. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is the first mosque in Penang that was built in the 19th century. Being the largest mosque in town, it is surrounded by low walls and topped with Mohgul-style copper domes. It was named after Cauder Mydin Merican, the Keling's "kapitan", a leader of the South Indian community. Aside from the mosques, temples are abundant in George Town because of the Chinese community that settled in the city. The Kek Lok Si Temple is the largest Buddha temple complex in Southeast Asia. It was built more than a hundred years ago by the year 1890. It is housing a 36.5 meter high bronze statue of Kuan Yin; the Goddess of Mercy.
Other attractions in George Town are the Penang Street Art and the Penang Wonderfood Museum.
Batu Ferringhi is the second most popular destination after George Town. It is the home of Penang's one of the most stunning bodies of water, the Batu Ferringhi Beach. Most of this strip are owned by several luxury hotels including Shangri La Rasa Sayang and Hard Rock Hotel. However, there are few public beaches like the one beside Shangri La. Several water sports enjoyed here are kayaking, banana boat rides, and jet ski. The Moonlight Bay's Wet World Wild is a great place to enjoy the waters. It features 10 giant inflatable rafts that is safe for adults and kids to run, climb, and jump. A ticket costs 40 RM for adult and 30 RM for children.
The beach is along the road named Jalan Batu Ferringhi that is filled with hotels, bars, and restaurants. It is popular for its night market where stalls are set up along this stretch offering goods from Class A designer bags to classic souvenirs. Bargaining is the key to have a net worthy shopping in the night market. Usually, there are stalls with the same item, so find the best deal and bargain for the best rate and you'll get the item for almost half the quoted price.
A popular attraction is the Penang Batik Factory, one of the pioneers of batik manufacturing in the island that was established in 1973. It has three sections: the art gallery, the boutique, and the workshop. This is located in Teluk Bahang. In a short distance, the Penang Butterfly Farm is situated. It is one of the best known tourist attractions in Penang. It is a safe haven for more than 4,000 butterflies including various exotic butterfly species like the Rajah Brooke and the endangered Yellow Birdwing butterfly. Aside from the butterflies, it is also housing several other insects and more than 300 plant species. Located within its vicinity is the Tropical Fruit Farm that houses more than 250 types of fruits including durians and West Indian cherries.
Other attractions are also located in Teluk Bahang such as the Penang National Park, the world's smallest national park, and the Penang's Tropical Spice Garden, Southeast Asia's only tropical spice garden.
Its name literally means "Flower Cape". It is a coastal area between George Town and Batu Ferringhi. Tanjung Bungah was a simple fishing village that is now turned into a tourist destination. Although not as bustling as George Town and Batu Ferringhi, it is the home of Penang Water Sports Center that hosts several water sporting events such as the Dragon Boat Festival. The best things to do in this seaside town are water sports and water-based activities. The private water sports center is a hub of these activities including kayaking, canoeing, and sailing.
Its main attractions are quite unique and interesting. Masjid Terapung, also known as the Penang Floating Mosque, was built in 2004 to replace an old mosque damaged by a tsunami. It is the first mosque in the country that was built on the sea. Its architecture has a Moorish-inspired design with seven storey high minaret and 360 degree panoramic view of the sea. It has an area of 1,295 square meters that can accommodate 1,500 people. The mosque is closed during the praying hours every Friday at 12 nn to 2:30 pm.
Another interesting place to visit is the Penang Toy Museum. It is the first toy museum in the country housing over 100,000 toys, action figures and collectibles. Divided into sections, the Chamber of Horror and the Hall of Beauties are the most remarkable areas that contains most of the owner's rare limited editions acquired from his travel. Another twist in this museum are the effects like sound and motion to make the dolls more realistic.
Bayan Lepas is the main industrial hub of the Penang Island housing the Free Industrial Zone. However, there are other charms and attractions that the city offers. For historical attractions, the War Museum is a place to learn about the nation's bloody past. It exhibits well-preserved fortress and historical relics. A place of worship is an architecture that is always a place to see. The Snake Temple at Sungai Kluang is a unique temple. To observe nature's beauty and wildlife, a visit to the Penang Aquarium and Bukit Jambul Orchid & Hibiscus Garden feeds tourists' eyes with its amazing species of aquatic wildlife, flora, and fauna.
Almost 54% of Penang's population live at the mainland, Seberang Perai. It was once called Province Wellesley by the British. From a sleepy town, major developments had come across making it as Penang's catalyst of growth. Commercial and residential projects have been sprouting in the mainland. Butterworth is the chief town and the main gateway to the mainland. It is also the home of several attractions including temples. Other towns in Seberang Perai include Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Jaya, Sungai Puyu, Prai, Nibong Tebal and Kepala Batas.
The Nine Emperor God's Temple located in Butterworth is one of the largest temples. It is dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods of Taoist mores that are believed to be the sons of Father Emperor Zhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun and Mother of the Big Dipper Dou Mu Yuan Jun, the Queen of Heaven. The history of the temple's construction started in 1971 until it was completed in 2000 at a cost of 7 million RM. Devotees still visit the temple to pay homage.
In Seberang Jaya, a 2.3 million RM temple is located. The Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple, a South Indian Hindu temple, is a popular attraction. It has the tallest and the largest rajagopuram or main sculpture tower that measures at 72 feet. Set beside it is the Penang Bird Park. It is a 5 acre park resembling a natural bird habitat worth 1.2 million RM. There are over 300 species of birds that the park houses.
Bukit Mertajam is also housing important architectures of Penang. The St. Anne's Church is the center of the yearly St. Anne's Feast in the country. July of every year, the church draws the Roman Catholics of the whole Peninsular Malaysia to the sleepy town of Bukit Mertajam. The town is also housing the only dam in Seberang Perai, the Mengkuang Dam. It features a scenic landscape of nature with jogging trails. This is the largest dam in Penang that could hold up to 23.6 billion liters of water.