Five things to do in Penang
Chock-full of trishaws, hawker food and colonial architecture, Penang stole our hearts the moment we stepped through the car exhaust smoke and down its narrow lanes. We spent four nights in Malaysia’s food capital, and could have stayed for much longer if we hadn’t already booked our flight to Kota Kinabalu. Here are our top five things to do in Penang.
Nº 1 - EAT
It is no secret that the food is a major draw card for this island. A combination of Indian, Malaysian and Chinese cuisines have created an explosive array of culinary offerings across Georgetown. There are a number of restaurants we tried and highly recommend: Restoran Kapitan, Tek Sen, and the Red Garden Night Market.
Nº 2 - TOUR THE STREET ART
In 2012, artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to create murals for the George Town Festival. One year later, the installation 101 Lost Kittens (Rachel nearly fainted with delight) was completed for the 2013 Festival. We picked a free map from the festival’s office and toured this spectacular collection of street art.
Nº 3 - HIKE IN PENANG NATIONAL PARK
At Teluk Bahang, further round the coast from Batu Ferringhi, there is a jungle that you may be lucky enough to find devoid of people. On our visit in September, we saw gibbons, metre-long lizards, brightly-coloured snakes and a beach full of monkeys. It's easy to take the public bus from Georgetown to the entrance of the park.
Admission is free, but the canopy walk costs RM7 / £1.35 / $1.75.
Nº 4 - TAKE A COOKING CLASS
Tropical Spice Garden's eight-acres of exotic herbs and spices is divine. We took a full tour as part of our cooking school experience learning a lot about the health benefits and flavour variations of each species. The most memorable quote from the experience was ‘only in moderation’, after hearing stories of men who ate too much ginger and their skin turned yellow… is that true? Who knows.
The cooking school itself was brilliant; we learnt how to make street food-style spring rolls, nyonya style main courses and a sago pudding dessert. Pearly Kee was our head chef and teacher at the time, she now has her own cooking school which you can find details of here.
For a full day cooking class, expect to pay around RM240 / £45 / $60 per person.
Nº 5 - VISIT KEK LOK SI TEMPLE & PENANG HILL
It is the biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and sits on a hilltop at Air Itam. Pass the souvenir stalls until you reach the thirty-metre high, seven-tier pagoda of ten thousand buddhas. The tranquil gardens and sacred ponds are lovely.
Always fans of funicular railways, we took the steep ride up the hill for a panoramic view of Penang, which cost RM30 / £5.75 / $7.35 per person.