You might know that Malaysia consists of several states. However, do you know that of all those states, Penang is one of the most popular travel destination in Malaysia?

Penang is known as a favorite state to visit for foreign tourists who are planning their visit to Malaysia. So, if you are planning on taking a holiday trip to Malaysia, why not visit Penang as well?

There are many reasons why Penang is so intriguing to visit. If you have never set foot in Penang, or maybe you had never even heard of Penang before this, let’s get to know this gorgeous state better!

Penang as viewed from the higher ground
Penang as viewed from the higher ground, via Nicolas Lannuzel/wikimedia commons

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A. 5 General Facts about Penang

  • Penang is located on the Northwest part of Malaysia, bordering with the Malaka Strait. This is where Penang is located on the map of Malaysia:
The location of Penang on the Malaysian map
The location of Penang on the Malaysian map, via Kawaputra/wikimedia commons

Based on the map, you can see that Penang is closer to Thailand compared to Singapore. The access to Thailand (from Penang) is relatively easy, as you can take the train or the bus to reach the border of Malaysia-Thailand. You can even fly directly from Penang Airport to Bangkok. In other words, Penang is the perfect destination for those who are planning to explore Thailand as well.

  • Penang consists of 2 areas: Penang Island and Seberang Perai. Penang Island is located apart from the mainland, while Seberang Perai is located in the mainland of Malaysia. There is a bridge connecting Penang Island and Seberang Perai.
Penang Island and Seberang Perai
Penang Island and Seberang Perai, via James Chenery/wikimedia commons
  • The capital of Penang, Georgetown, is located on Penang Island. By the way, Georgetown is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’d like to know why, check out part B of this article!
Georgetown as seen from higher grounds
Georgetown as seen from higher grounds, via Albreeze/wikimedia commons
  • The citizens of Penang are known as the Penangites, and most Penangites are multilingual. Generally, their spoken words are Malay, English, Tamil, Chinese and Indonesian.
  • Foreign travelers usually get along well in Penang, because there is a mix of culture there. The main point is, Penang is a great place to visit for everyone, no matter which country they are from.

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B. 5 Reasons to Visit Penang

Well, there are actually tons of reasons to visit Penang. There are so many interesting things in this state! Despite that, the following five things might give you a preview on the charm of Penang.

  • The capital of Penang, Georgetown, is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Georgetown is a very interesting city that becomes a laboratory for the development of Penang’s history. If you love the authentic and unique feel of a city that combines the best of the best from both the Eastern and Western culture, then you will for sure fall in love with Georgetown!
A part of Georgetown
A part of Georgetown, via Clay Gilliland/wikimedia commons
  • In Penang, you will be pampered with a unique view of the city. The architecture in Penang is influenced by many elements, starting from the Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Indian, to Colonial style. Penang has a distinct architectural style known as the Peranakan architecture. In Penang, you will find an old-school building side by side with modern ones. No wonder Penang harbors such a rich ambience that will never get your bored.
Penang City Hall
Penang City Hall, via Jorge Cancela/wikimedia commons
  • Penang, especially Georgetown, is filled with awesome street art. Some of them are even iconic. Love to hunt unique photographs and share them on your Instagram? Then Penang is a haven for you.
An iconic street art in Georgetown
An iconic street art in Georgetown, via Azreey/wikimedia commons
  • Penang is a culinary heaven, and the best thing is, there are a plethora of authentic dishes you can try along the streets of Penang. In general, Penang cuisine is not far different from Malaysian food, which is influenced by the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay, India, Thai culture, and many more. However, for Malaysians themselves, the food in Penang has a stronger flavor profile that suits everyone’s palate. Therefore, no wonder Penang is also known as “the capital of food” by locals.
A food court in Penang
A food court in Penang, via Phalinn Ooi/flickr/creative commons
  • You should visit Penang because everything is available there. Beach trip? Trekking the highest hill to enjoy the view from above? Exploring unique museum? Visiting various cool temples? Nature walk followed by a trip to a modern theme park? Or perhaps shopping and culinary adventures? You can do all of that in Penang. Seriously!
Penang Escape Adventure Park
Penang Escape Adventure Park, via Cmglee/wikimedia commons

So, do you still wonder why you should visit Penang?

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C. 5 Popular Travel Destinations in Penang

There are plenty of travel destinations in Penang. However, if you’re have limited time to visit Penang, at least try to visit one of these five popular spots:

1. Penang Hill

Located 821 meter from sea level, Penang Hill is the best place in Penang to enjoy cool, fresh air, free of polution. You can also enjoy a gorgeous view from the hill. The road to the top is quite cool as well, as you can ride a special train that will take you to the top within minutes.

Train to Penang Hills
Train to Penang Hills, via Ac101/wikimedia commons

2. Clan Jetties

This is a Chinese residential area that has existed since the 19th century. There are 8 different clans living here (other sources may cite 6 clans), all of which are designated based on their family names. The area is scattered with wooden houses on stilts with their distinct designs. As this is an actual site of residence, don’t forget to ask for a permission before you take any pictures!

Clan Jetties
Clan Jetties, via marufish/flickr/creative commons

3. Kek Lok Si Temple

Thailand may be well known for their majestic Buddhist temples. However, the record for the largest Buddhist temple complex in Southeast Asia is hold by Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang. This temple complex was built hundreds of years ago and it carries a 7-story pagoda called The Pagoda of 100 Buddhas, as well as many other amazing Buddhist statues.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si Temple, via Balou46/wikimedia commons

4. Batu Ferringhi Beach

This is popular beach recreation spot in Penang Island. Batu Feringghi is similar to Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand. At the beach, other than the soft sand, you can also enjoy a variety of water sports, such as parasailing, banana boat riding and many more.

There are plenty of cool post-sunset entertainment around the beach. Many luxurious resorts may also be seen around Batu Ferringhi Beach.

Sunset at Batu Ferringhi
Sunset at Batu Ferringhi, via kamsky/flickr/creative commons

5. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

This is a mansion owned by a Chinese industrialist in the 1890s. As the residence of someone important, the mansion depicts the best of Chinese architecture in the 18th and 19th century. Each detail of the mansion was designed as precise as possible, and it took 7 years to complete such a tasteful structure.

Rumors said that the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is one of the three traditional Chinese mansion built out of China. No wonder it becomes a must-see spot among all places in Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze
Cheong Fatt Tze, via Mahen Bala/wikimedia commons

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D. 5 Penang-style Dishes You Have to Try

Believe us, it is so difficult to pick only 5 dishes to try in Penang. Penang is known as a culinary heaven! However, people say your culinary trip in Penang is incomplete before you have tried these dishes:

1. Assam Laksa

Assam Laksa is a typical dish from Penang. Heavily influenced by the Peranakan (Straits-Chinese) culture, this dish is made of noodles served in thick spicy noodles containing chicken broth, macarels, tamarind paste, lemongrass, chili, shrimp paste and many more.

Assam Laksa
Assam Laksa, via garysoup/flickr/creative commons

2. Hokkien Mee

Hokkien Mee ala Penang
Hokkien Mee ala Penang, via avlxyz/flickr/creative commons

There are many versions of Hokkien Mee in Malaysia. In Penang, Hokkien Mee is a noodle soup that contains shrimp, chicken, cuttlefish and fishcake. Other versions may contain pork, vegetables, onion, lime and chili paste.

3. Nasi Kandar

This dish is influenced by the Moslem-Indian culture, and it is a typical dish from Penang. It is basically a plate of rice and curry, served with vegetables. In a glimpse, it looks like our Nasi Rames!

Nasi Kandar
Nasi Kandar, via goodiesfirst/flickr/creative commons

4. Char Kuay Teow

There are many varieties of Char Kuay Teow throughout Malaysia, but the Penang style is one of the most popular and known internationally. The dish is made of pan-fried rice noodles seasoned with soy sauce, chili, shrimp, eggs and many more. The Penang version even include crab meat toping!

Char Kuay Teow ala Penang
Char Kuay Teow ala Penang, via avlxyz/flickr/creative commons

5. Es Kacang

Is the weather in Penang too hot for you? Time for Es Kacang or Ice Kacang! This dish is made of shaved ice and sweetened red bean, often mixed with unusual toppings such as sweet corn, jello, grass jelly, and topped off with coconut milk. Hmm, so fresh!

Es Kacang
Es Kacang, via avlxyz/flickr/creative commons

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E. 5 Hotels with “Perfectly Penang” Ambience and Budget-Friendly Rates

Don’t you want to explore Penang to the max? Let’s find a place to stay here! In Penang, there are many choices of hotel for the various range of budget. However, you if you are bored with international hotel franchise that are available everywhere, and you prefer an accommodation with a “Perfectly Penang” ambience without having to dig deep into your pocket, check out these hotels.

1. Vince Villa. Rates start from MYR64 or USD15.85 per night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult)

Vince Villa
Vince Villa, via Vince Villa/facebook

Bukit Mertajam is a popular travelling spot in Penang. Here, you may find many things to do, starting from architectural sight-seeing to nature-related activities. If you are looking for a “Perfectly Penang” hotel in Bukit Mertajam area, Vince Villa is ready to pamper you.

The garden at Vince Villa
The garden at Vince Villa, via Vince Villa/facebook

Vince Villa is an accommodation that is an equivalent to a 2-star hotel, located not far from Penang Island. You only need to take a 20-minute ride to reach Penang Island.

So, you can easily explore both Bukit Mertajam and Penang Island if you stay in this hotel. Mind you, you might get too comfortable with this hotel because of its unique, classical interior that reminds you of home.

The interior of Vince Villa
The interior of Vince Villa, via Vince Villa/facebook
The interior
The interior, via Vince Villa/facebook

Vince Villa has 16 rooms with 4 different types: Romance Suite, Deluxe Royal Suite, Luxury Penthouse and Single Suite. These are what the rooms look like:

Romance Suite
Romance Suite, via Vince Villa/facebook
Royal Suite
Royal Suite, via Vince Villa/facebook
Luxury Penthouse
Luxury Penthouse, via Vince Villa/facebook
Single Suite
Single Suite, via Vince Villa/facebook

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2. The Sovereign Hotel. Rates start from MYR85 or USD20.74 thousand/night (weekdays, low season).

The Sovereign Hotel
The Sovereign Hotel, via The Sovereign/facebook

Moving on to Georgetown, The Sovereign Hotel offers a budget accommodation with a unique atmosphere. It is located in a Penang-style old-school, classic building. The ambience of the hotel mirrors the uniquely classic feel of Penang.

The Sovereign
The Sovereign, via The Sovereign/facebook

The Sovereign offers several types of room: Twin Single, Double, Deluxe and Family Room. The rooms offer you a classic, homey nuance that is guaranteed to offer comfort as well as make you miss it once you have checked-out from the hotel.

There are rooms with Cina Peranakan style, and there are also rooms with classic tropical style – equipped with a mosquito net surrounding the bed. These are what they look like:

Inside the room
Inside the room, via The Sovereign/facebook
Inside the room
Inside the room, via The Sovereign/facebook
Inside the room
Inside the room, via The Sovereign/facebook
Inside the room
Inside the room, via The Sovereign/facebook

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3. Armenian Suite Hotel. Rates start from RM112 or USD27.48/night (weekdays, low season).

The interior of Armenian Suite
The interior of Armenian Suite, via armeniansuite

Georgetown is filled with budget hotels that offer Penang-style unique ambience. Another one you may find is the Armenian Suite Hotel, located at Armenian Street, Georgetown. This hotel is located at the heart of Georgetown and close to various popular murals in the city, and that’s why it is perfect for those who wish to explore Georgetown.

Outside the hotel
Outside the hotel, via armeniansuite

The ambience of Armenian Suite Hotel is also pleasant and it might remind you of tropical houses in Indonesia. No wonder, Indonesia and Malaysia originated from the same root of culture, so you might feel like you’re at home during your stay in the hotel.

Nevertheless, the tropical feel here is also accentuated with old-school and classical nuances, fitting like a glove with the whole old-school atmosphere of Georgetown

The interior
The interior, via armeniansuite

This hotel offers 12 rooms designed for various types of travellers, starting from solo travelers, couples, to families. The Quadruple rooms are perfect for families, the Superior for solo travelers, and the deluxe rooms for those who travel as a couple.

The design of the rooms also gives you a classic and antique feel, which is definitely unique compared to other modern minimalist hotels. Here’s a sneak preview of the rooms:

Quadruple room
Quadruple room, via armeniansuite
Superior room
Superior room, via armeniansuite
Deluxe room
Deluxe room, via armeniansuite
Other view of the room
Other view of the room, via armeniansuite

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4. Cintra Heritage House. Rates start from MYR104 or USD27.48/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult).

Cintra Heritage House
Cintra Heritage House, via booking

Another cool accommodation with a “Perfectly Penang” nuance in Georgetown is the Cintra Heritage House. This hotel occupies an eclectic Southern Chinese style building that was built around the 1840-1900.

No wonder you will find a prominent mix of Chinese, European and a little hint of Indian cultural elements once you step foot in this hotel. The exterior is not the only part that gives that old-school vice. The interior of this hotel is also filled with antique furnitures with retro style, starting from the chairs, benches, to the cupboards.

Location wise, this hotel is quite conveniently-located. It’s only a 10-minute walk to Komtar. If you’re planning to check out the Clan Jetty, you’ll only need to take a 10-minute car ride.

The hotel interior
The hotel interior, via booking

To reach the Penang International Airport and Batu Ferringhi, it only takes more or less 30 minutes by car. If you would like to explore the area surrounding this hotel, you can rent a bicycle from the hotel. Once you’re done, don’t forget to try the variety of culinary delights offered by Cintra Café.

Ambience of the hotel
Ambience of the hotel, via booking
Ambience of the hotel
Ambience of the hotel, via booking

And this is how the rooms look like at Cintra Heritage House:

Hotel room
Hotel room, via agoda
Hotel room
Hotel room, via agoda
Hotel room
Hotel room, via agoda

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5. Carnarvon House. Rates start from MYR108 or USD27.48 thousand/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult).

The entrance to Carnarvon House
The entrance to Carnarvon House, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook

Are you still looking for a “Perfectly Penang”-style accomodation? Carnarvon House is located at Carnarvon Alley. This hotel occupies an old building that has been around since the post-war era, in which the old-school feel is prominent. That’s why the hotel is filled with a nostalgic atmosphere.

Lobby and reception area
Lobby and reception area, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook

As a budget hotel, Carnarvon House offers pretty great amenities. Other than the common lounge, this hotel also has a library. You can chill with a cup of coffee at a coffee shop located in the hotel. Relaxing at the mini garden inside the hotel is also a great idea.

Café
Café, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook
Mini garden
Mini garden, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook

This is how the rooms looks like at Carnarvon House:

Inside the hotel room
Inside the hotel room, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook
Inside the hotel room
Inside the hotel room, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook
Inside the hotel room
Inside the hotel room, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook
Inside the hotel room
Inside the hotel room, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook
Inside the hotel room
Inside the hotel room, via Carnarvon House 康乐轩/facebook

 

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