Penang

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Georgetown is the capital of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with fellow former Straits Settlement, Malacca.

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Points of Interest in Penang

See Penang for attractions located throughout the rest of the island; this covers only sights located within Georgetown.

Thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing and strict zoning laws of Georgetown, a combination of historical buildings and gently crumbling, but largely intact, shophouses offer a glimpse into the town's past. Restoration works are slowly progressing.

Historical buildings

It may be worthwhile engaging a walking tour guide, for example from the Penang Heritage Trust, (26 Church St, ☎ +60 4 264-2631. Fax+60 4 262-8421) as they are trained to give in-depth details on the history and culture of heritage sites. There are several themed walking guides to choose from and each typically takes 3h. Book ahead.

  •    Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Leith Street. Built in the 1890s, and restored in the 1990's (earning it an UNESCO award in 2000), this indigo-blue Chinese Courtyard House in George Town was the main residence of Cheong Fatt Tze, known as the 'Rockefeller of the East' and 'J.P. Morgan of China'. Cheong was a prominent, successful Hakka Chinese merchant who demonstrated his business ability after marrying into a wealthy family, founding the Chang Yu Winery and ending the segregation of Chinese from Europeans on passenger ships. The mansion was built according to feng shui principles by master craftsmen brought in from southern, who used their skills to fashion a sprawling mansion with 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases, and 220 windows. The mansion features in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning Indochine. Tours: 11:00, 13.30 and 15:00 sharp (RM12, 60-90min, no indoor photography, consider booking in advance). Lodging also available, see the sleep section.
  • Municipal Council of Pulau Pinang Hall (formerly City Hall), The Esplanade (Jalan Syed Sheikh Barakbah), is a well-preserved colonial building from the heyday of the British Empire since 1903, at a cost of 100,000 Straits dollars.
  •    Fort Cornwallis, Light St. The fort, named for Charles Cornwallis is built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, first landed on August 11, 1786. It was first built in 1793. But this site was an unlikely spot to defend the city from invasion. In 1810 it was rebuilt in an attempt to make up for initial strategic planning errors. In the shape of a star, the only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine, and a small Christian chapel. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort. RM2 for adults.
  •    Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi (龙山堂邱氏宗祠), 18 Cannon St. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Built in 1850 by the forefathers of Khoo family who emigrated from South China, as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family. In 1836, construction of a new temple began and was completed 8 years later. Fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, it was allegedly struck by lightning. Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and made of the finest wood. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck. RM10.
  • Penang Islamic Museum, 128 Armenian Street,  +60 4 262-0172, fax: +60 4 264-4692. W-M 09:30-18:00 (09:30-16:00 during Ramadan). Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, a century-old mansion named after its owner, a spice trader from Aceh. RM3, children (under 12) RM1.
  • Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Church St (Lebuh Gereja). ☎+60 4 264-2929, (Fax:+60 4 264-1929), rmhbaba@streamyx.com. Originally the home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, leader of Penang and Perak Hai San groups in the Larut Wars from 1860-1884. The mansion is a typical representation of the Straits eclectic style of architecture highly favoured by rich Peranakan families of old. Affectionately called Hai Kee Chan or Sea Remembrance Store, it served as his residence and office. Mo-Sa 09:00-17:00. Daily conducted tour 11:30–15:30. Admission fee is RM10 for adults), free for children below 12.
  • Queen Victoria Clock Tower, (At the Intersection of Light Street, Beach Street, Fort Road and King Edward Place). The 60 ft high clock tower was presented to Penang by local millionaire Cheah Chen Eok in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Religious sites

Georgetown has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.

  •    Church of the Assumption (Formerly Cathedral of the Assumption), 3 Lebuh Farquhar. The first permanent Catholic Church to be built on Penang Island, established by a group of Eurasian immigrants who accompanied Penang's founder, Sir Francis Light, to the island. It is also one of the few churches in Malaysia with church bells that were cast way back during British rule. It also houses one of the last remaining and oldest European-made air organs in Malaysia.
  •    Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, 24 Lorong Burma (Opposite Wat Chaiyamangalaram),  +60 4 226-9575. 05:00-18:00. A Burmese Buddhist temple founded in 1803. At the entrance a pair of white elephants, which are sacred in Buddhism, guard the temple while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
  •    Kapitan Keling Mosque, Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling,  +60 4 229-3048. Built in the early 19th century and named after Caudeer Mohudeen, an Indian Muslim merchant who was also the Kapitan Keling, or leader of the Keling community. This historic mosque features a dome-shaped minaret that reflects Moorish Islamic influence and has been a prominent place of worship for local Indian Muslims for over 200 years. Free tours operate during non-prayer times. Shoes must be removed prior to entering the mosque and women are provided with heavy robes to wear. Men who are not appropriately dressed will also be supplied robes.
  •    Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple), Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling,  +60 4 634-0285. Built in 1801 by early Chinese settler, Kuan Yin Teng is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. This temple is flocked to by pilgrims year round, particularly on the 1st and 15th days of each lunar month. The building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which guard the temple. Puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged in the Temple's square on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community.
  •    St. George's Church, 1 Lebuh Farquhar. 09:00–17:00. Boasting the title of the oldest Anglican Church in South-east Asia, St George's was completed in 1818 by convict labour. The church was designed by Capt. Robert Smith, a military engineer who is known for his oil paintings of early Penang that are located in the Penang State Museum. A memorial dedicated to Capt. Francis Light, in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab, stands in the grounds of the Church.
  •    Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Lorong Burma (Opposite Dhammikarama Burmese Temple),  +60 4 226-8503. 06:00–17:30. Founded in 1845, this Thai-style Buddhist temple that is famous for its 33m reclining Buddha, one of the world's longest. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to 4 women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.

Other

  •    Penang State Museum, Lebuh Farquhar, Pulau Pinang. Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Formerly the Penang Free School which was built in two separate stages in 1896 and 1906. The museum is an interesting starting point to discover the multi-ethnic background of Georgetown. 2 floors display the history of the immigrant community that participated in the creation of the present city. The museum also exhibits the paintings of Captain Robert Smith and the lovely engravings of William Daniell. Other exhibits include a former Penang Hill railway carriage, a handwritten Qur`an and old Malay weapons donated by the family of the late Dato' Haji Fathil Basheer. RM1.
  • KOMTAR Scenic View, Level 60, KOMTAR Tower, fax: +60 4 262-2222, e-mail: komtartower@gmail.com. Mo-F 09:00-17:00. It's the tallest building in Penang, and provides 360⁰ views. A classic tourist trap, complete with a mediocre Halal restaurant and a souvenir shop. RM5, children RM3.
  • Clan Jetties (姓氏桥), Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld), Numerous and located along the shorelines of George Town. They are worth walking to and looking at, as they provide an insight to the way locals live in traditional huts built on the sea on stilts. Be cautious while walking in this area.
  • Chew Thean Yeang (周天央) (CTY Aquarium), 82 Burmah Rd,  +60 4 226-8797, fax: +60 4 229-4049, e-mail: sales@cty-fish.com.my. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia, but the workers are mostly rude and impatient.
  • Protestant Cemetery, The burial site of Captain Francis Light, Thomas Leonowens and more. Filled with crumbling, vegetation-covered tombs, it bears witness to a century of colonisation. There are around 500 burial sites here, a quarter of which no longer bear readable inscriptions. Accessible through a gate in the rear wall is the Roman Catholic Cemetery, most of whose graves are so old the inscriptions are no longer readable.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Kapitan Keling Mosque

St. George\'s Church

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Penang State Museum

Prangin Mall

Fort Cornwallis

Penang City Hall

Sri Mariamman Temple

KOMTAR

Penang Islamic Museum

Queen Victoria Clock Tower

Kuan Yin Teng

New World Park

Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal

1st Avenue Mall

Chew Thean Yeang (CTY Aquarium)

Acheen Street Mosque

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

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Popular events in Penang in the near future

Date: Category: The event list provided by Eventful
The event list provided by Eventful

About Penang

Climate

With Georgetown being fairly close to the equator you can expect a typical tropical climate. Temperatures are generally constant year round, with daily highs of around 30-32°C (86-90°F) and nightly lows around 22-24°C (71-75°F). Humidity is also usually high so do not be surprised of occasional stinking hot days.

Along with the glaring sun and humidity, rainfall is almost guaranteed daily and the occasional deafening thunderstorm from the Strait of Malacca will drench the city, especially during the wet season. Annual rainfall averages around 2,500 mm, with the wettest months being around September to November. The driest months of the year run from December to February, although rainfall is still frequent.

Activities

Besides enjoying excellent food, walking tours and sightseeing the beautiful old city, Georgetown itself does not offer that much to the adventurous tourist.

If you, tired of walking, want to kill a couple of hours there is the possibility of catching a movie at Cathay Cineplex on the 5th floor of the Komtar shopping-complex. Other opportunities are Golden Screen Cinemas in Gurney plaza.

On 4th floor of Komtar you also have the opportunity to shoot a game of snooker. RM9 for 1 hr.

Red Inn (on Love Ln) offers bike rentals for Rm10/day. Although bike paths exist around the city center, walking or renting a motorcycle may be an easier/safer decision.

If you're looking for something to do at night, there's always Upper Penang Road, where clubs, pubs and bars are always flooded with young people. UPR is located just opposite the famed Eastern And Oriental Hotel and beside the City Bayview Hotel.

  • One Indoor Archery Sport, Komtar Walkway, 1st Floor (not ground floor) Penang Road 10000 (Next to GeorgeTown White Coffee),  04-261-3133. till midnight. 11 targets set up for archery. Bows provided. The staff are happy to give advice and you can watch locals come in to shoot and discuss craft. 8 RM for 1 dozen arrows.

Food

Penang is widely considered to be the food capital of Malaysia, and Georgetown is the best place in Penang to eat. (See Penang for listings of local dishes.)

Gurney Drive may be the main location where tourists go to have their food, but that does not necessarily mean that the best food can be found there. In fact, most locals consider it to be overrated and expensive. It's best to ask the locals to point you toward the best locations for food, though walking into any "coffee shop" or stall would almost certainly guarantee a worthwhile experience for your taste buds. Knowing some Malay or Hokkien will be useful, but most vendors speak enough English to communicate the basics.

Budget

  • Amelie Cafe, Lebuh Armenian. A small cafe decorated with hand-made bags and paintings. A peaceful place where you can taste home-made cakes, salads, soups, pasta and juices. RM4-12.
  • Soul Kitchen, trattoria, Lebuh Muntri (A few steps from the Red Garden Cafe). An Italian style restaurant sometimes with a lunch menu for RM25 that includes a soup, a pasta main course (very good carbonara), a juice and a dessert. RM25.
  • New World Park Foodcourt, Lorong Swatow, (Off Jl. Burma). Local specialities including curry mee, prawn mee, laksa, chee cheong and fun. For dessert try the ais kacang special with ice cream on top.
  • Red Garden Cafe, 20, Lebuh Leith, (Not far away from the backpacker area around Chuliah St). Local food. This one is open from the early evening until late at night. Satay, roasted and BBQ'd chicken, duck and pork variations with noodles or rice (Chinese stall in the right corner). Also Thai, Filipino, western and fusion food.
Indian food
  • Sri Ananda Bahwan, 55 Penang St. 53 & in the Indian quarter, offers great Indian food for a very good price. They have branches all over Malaysia.
  • Jaya Indian restaurant open 24 hr and tourist friendly. Wide variety of fresh Indian food, including chicken masala, fresh garlic naan, roti prata, roti cani, tandoori chicken, and curry puffs. The prices are cheap and the food is fast and fresh.
  •    Kapitan's, 93 Lebuh Chulia,  +604 264 1191. 24 hours. No matter what time of the day this mamak restaurant serves up great Indian food at a decent price. They are well known for their biryani, tandoori chicken and butter chicken. Also consider trying a drink called Badam milk, unless it has already sold out.
  • Krsna Restaurant, (In the heart of Little India), Used to be known as Krishna Vilas. Cheap banana leaf style food but now served on paper. Loads of rice with dal and condiments.
Dim Sum
  •    Tai Tong, 45 Lebuh Cintra. Well priced dim sum breakfasts from 6AM-noon, served in the traditional way on carts wheeled among the tables. Get there earlier for more variety.

Mid-range

  • No Eyed Deer Restaurant, Tanjung Tokong (Above the 7-Eleven store in the Prima Tanjung complex opposite Island Plaza),  +60 4 899-0488, fax: +60 4 899-3488. Favourite haunt among the locals & expatriates living in Penang. Western and Asian cuisine, famous for its Laotian laksa, chicken parmigiana and steaks. Popular dishes include its chicken Kapitan Bryani, chili lime sea bass, grilled lamb chops, mutton rogen josh, and spaghetti marinara. They are also reputed to serve one of the best fish & chips in town. The weekends are normally pretty busy, thus it is advisable to get there early.
  • Cherry Sweet Spicy Thai Food, 8 Clove Hall Road.,  +60 4 227 6758, +60 4 229 2561. Daily, except on Wed,12 noon-3PM, 6-10PM. Pork-free.
  • eGate (Next to Tesco hypermarket along Jelutong Expressway). Restaurants such as Tao Japanese and formulaic outlets such as Starbucks, Old Town Kopitiam, Subway, Oasis.
  • Illyana's, Teluk Kumbar. A Malay style eatery with a popular Thai cook. Notable dishes include lala fried with olive oil, satay and the clay pot fish head curry. Seafood is always fresh, you pick what you want from the fresh seafood laid out and the chef cooks it for you in whatever style you fancy.
  • Salsas, Upper Penang Rd (At the junction of Penang Rd and Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah). Good western food at reasonable prices.
  • Yellow Light Thai Food, 1-C Fettes Rd.,  +60 4 899 1471. Closed on Monday.
  • Sri Lankan - Top Secret, 98 Jalan Mutri,  +60 1 64912177. 4pm .... Serving Sri Lankan and western food. Also home to the Penang Hash House Harriers chapter. In the later-earlier hours it becomes a bar and place where the regulars and travelers hang out. 15 rm.

Splurge

  • Eden Seafood Village +60 4 881-1852. 69A Batu Ferringhi. Daily 6PM-11PM.
  • Ocean Green Seafood, (Hotel Paramount), Jl Sultan Ahmad Shah. Used to be a popular seafood place for Penangites but of late, other seafood places have become popular. Commendable dishes include mantis prawns fried with salted egg yolk batter, fried sharksfin with eggs, and prawns.
  • Oriental Seafood Restaurant +60 4 226-0969. Macalister Rd. (A sister outlet of the Oriental Seafood at Gurney Drive). This outlet at Macalister Rd is less pricey and it's for the locals who crave crabs and prawns, however unlike the one at Gurney Drive it lacks a view. Service is quick and you can order other side eats such as fried noodles. Crabs go by the kg so prices fluctuate. Ask first before ordering. They accept credit cards and cash.
  • Seoul Garden Korean Restaurant, Sunrise Tower, 1st Floor, 190-192 Gurney Drive, ☎ +60 4 229-8705. The food here is not bad except that the kimchi can be quite different each time you eat here. Long established venue that attracts Korean expatriates during lunch and dinner. Nice views.

Bakeries

  • Ghee Hiang. (义香), 95 Beach St, ☎ +60 4 262-0635, Fax:+60 4 263-5158. 216 Macalister Rd, ☎ +60 4 227-2222, Fax:+60 4 227-2522 info@ghee-hiang.com The oldest bakery in Penang, established since 1856; other well-known product includes sesame seed oil.
  • Him Heang (馨香), 162-A Burma Rd ☎ +60 4 228-6129, +60 4 228-6130. Arguably the most famous Chinese bakery in Penang, popular among locals and Singaporean tourists. Its most famous products are Tambun Pneah and Beh Teh Sor. Go early in the morning or order through phone first due to limited daily production.
  • Ng Kee Cake Shop +60 4 261-2229. (伍记), 61 Cintra Street. The shop produces and sells Cantonese traditional biscuits including wedding biscuits. One of the famous biscuits is pepper biscuit (咸切酥, Ham Chit Soo).
  • Sin Hock Seng +60 4 263-2667. (新福成), 316, Penang Rd. The shop sells more than one hundred different types of biscuit. Basically, you can find any kind of traditional biscuit there.

Drinks

  • The Garage, Upper Penang Rd.
  • Cocos +60 4 263-8003. Upper Penang Rd. Daily 5PM-3AM. Local delights available.
  • Slippery Senoritas +60 4 263-6868, e-mail: feedback@slipperysenoritas.com. Salsa Club & Restaurant. Upper Penang Road, (Located in the garage). . Open 11AM - 3AM. (Lunch, dinner, music) 1/2 price drinks until 9PM. Live music/D.J's from 9.30PM. "Ladies Nights" Wed and Fri. Large club of 2 stories. Has another club called "Fame" connected to it in the courtyard. Get bottle service upstairs. Cover is less than US$10 but just go into the courtyard, buy a beer, and they will stamp you for free.
  • GLO Dance Club, A8 The Garage, 2 Penang Rd.
  • Shamrock Irish Pub, Ground floor, MWE Plaza, Faquhar St.
  • Soho Freehouse, 50 Penang Rd. ☎ +60 4 263-3331, +60 4 262-8331, (Fax:+60 4 263-5146). Selection of continental food and beer. Good place for pre-gaming with pool tables and foosball.
  • The Meeting Point, Lebuh Chulia next door to Banana Guest House. Chilled out reggae bar with most seats outside offering beers from RM8 (Jazz) and some snack food. Open 5PM-4AM.

Other

  • Church Street Cafe, 12 Church St (Lebuh Gereja),  +60 4 263-9422.
  • 20th Leith Street Pub Wine Bar & Bistro, 20 Leith St.
  • Hong Kong Bar, Chulia Street, famous and historically significant bar, home to many Commonwealth soldiers in Penang, particularly Australian forces based across the water at Butterworth. Run by the ever friendly Jenny. Fantastic atmosphere.
  • Rock World, China Town (Walk down Lebuh Campbell). Seems to be visited mostly by Chinese Malaysians, and is fairly empty on weekdays.

Shopping

Street markets remain a daily way of life in Penang, and locals often go to them to buy cheap accessories and fresh food. Bargain hard to get a good price and preferably get a local to accompany you.

Markets

  • Little India, junctions of Market Street (Lebuh Pasar) with King Street and Queen Street, is where many traditional Indian traders selling all sorts of Indian traditional wares such as saris, garlands, trinkets, sculptures, Indian music, handicrafts, Punjabi suits, Singhalese silverwares, stainless steel housewares and accessories since 18th century. Spicy Indian food likes roti canai or thosai are available along the streets either at coffee shop, restaurant or road-side hawker stalls.
  •    Little Penang Street Market, Upper Penang Rd. Last Sunday each month, 10:00-17:00. A local flea market set up to promote creativity, entrepreneurship and street revitalisation in the community. The project aims to upgrade local arts, crafts and culture by providing design and marketing support to local artists, artisans and cultural entrepreneurs. Visitors can find many different types of merchandise there including silverware, clogs, henna art, seashell art, hand-paint clothes, hand-made jewellery, calligraphy, batik, portraits and there is also live music, a children's corner and other interesting activities.

Shopping malls

  •    1st Avenue, 182 Jl Magazine,  +6 04 261 1121. 10:00-22:00. Next to Komtar and Prangin Mall. It is a stylish city mall like Gurney Plaza. It has Aeon Big (Formerly Carrefour) Hypermarket, a cinema and some entertainment centers .
  •    Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney,  +6 04 222 8111. 10:00-22:00. One of Penang's premier shopping malls with lots of good food, plenty of stuff to shop, Parkson as its anchor tenant, RedBox Karaoke and 12 cineplexes. Currently the 2nd largest mall in Penang and largest in Georgetown.
  • Island Plaza. Jalan Tanjung Tokong. Anchor tenant: Metrojaya Stores. Restaurants, food court, and more than 150 specialty shops.
  • KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak). Penang's first skyscraper and a bit of an eyesore, it is a useful navigational landmark but not so good for shopping anymore.
  • One-Stop Midlands Park, Jalan Burma. A huge mall with lots of small shops inside. One Stop used to be "The Mall" to go to in Penang but has since given up the crown to Queensbay and Gurney. However, shops still abound in this mall and real bargains can still be had here. It is beside The Georgetown City Hotel .
  • Penang Plaza, Jalan Burma. Has the supermarket chain Giant, a bookstore, and an assortment of small shops. Behind it is the famed Nagore place.
  •    Prangin Mall, 33 Jl Dr Lim Chwee Leong,  +6 04 262 2233. 10:00-22:00. Located next to KOMTAR, has stolen much of its neighbor's buzz and offers a convenient yet sanitized shopping experience. It offers five floors of shopping, dining and entertainment. It is often crowded here as people can't get enough of the mall.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Georgetown (Malaysia) on Wikivoyage.

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