The unique way in which cultures have melded in Penang may be best represented in the food. Frequently voted among Asia’s top locations to eat street food, the blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European culinary traditions makes for an unforgettable banquet of taste sensations. Stop at a food cart and take your pick from aromatic dishes like nasi kandar, char kway teow or laksa.
Penang refers to the island off the northwestern coast of Malaysia, and also a state in that country. For a predominantly Asian place, Penang has an abundance of classical Victorian architecture, particularly in the capital city, Georgetown. History buffs and architecture lovers in particular will appreciate the colonial-era Penang City Hall, Fort Cornwallis and the Penang State Museum.
Part of Penang’s charm is that within minutes of admiring colonial architecture you can be wandering among the colorful statues of the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple or admiring the peaceful geometric patterns of the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Don’t miss the superb Pinang Peranakan Mansion, where the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy Chinese Straits families has been recreated with antique furnishings from all over the world.
If you enjoy getting back to nature, take a hike or camp overnight in the Penang National Park. The nesting green turtles are just one of many wildlife highlights. Visit the nearby Penang Butterfly Farm for a colorful adventure the entire family will enjoy. And don’t miss the Tropical Spice Garden, one of Malaysia’s premier eco-tourism attractions with more 100 herbs and spices growing wild.
Most visitors base themselves in central Georgetown and the city is easy enough to cover on foot. The Rapid Penang bus routes are a convenient way to see the city and travel further afield. In Georgetown, make use of the free Central Area Transit (CAT) shuttle bus, which stops at major attractions in the area.
Penang’s tropical climate makes it an attractive year-round destination. The fusion of cultures also means that your visit has a good chance of coinciding with a festival of some variety. Particularly spectacular are the Chinese New Year celebrations in the Kek Lok Si Temple, and Deepavali, the five-day Hindu “Festival of Lights,” held between October and November.