Penang, for me has one major reason why I love coming here, but there is a whole lot of other ones that keep me interested. Many people I talk with about Penang tend to treat it as a place to get their Thai visa organized, spend the couple days here as a necessity and move north across the border or to Langkawi. It is a beautiful island with picturesque colonial Georgetown that on more than one occasion has kept me busy for 5 days and if it wasn’t for limited time, I could have easily stuck around.
Day 1 – Take a self-guided walking tour through the streets and check out the obligatory street art. This is the one thing I think everybody does while here as it is a must. Not only do you orientate yourself with the streets and city, the art pasted all over is fascinating. The 3D aspects mixed with the 2D realistic paintings is amazing. This will take you across most of Georgetown, where the art is not the only thing worth a picture. Just taking a stroll anywhere here provides a photographic moment whether it be the old decaying colonial buildings, Chew Jetty along the waterfront or some random art not posted on walking tours. Combine this with a walk through Fort Cornwallis and you’ll see an afternoon disappear before you.
Day 2 – Jumping on the city bus (which is the easiest and cheapest way to get around), take a ride to the other side of the Georgetown to the Kek Lok Si Temple. Bus 203 (2 MYR from the intersection at Love Lane/Lebuh Chulia, 45 – 60 min) will drop you off close by. A short walk along a market place (which is a good place for lunch before exploring for the afternoon), you’ll see the temple looming over head to find your way to the entrance. This is the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia, its grandeur being nothing short of magnificent. There is no fee to walk around inside, but to get to the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the 30.2 meter tall statue of Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy, there is a small fee. A whole afternoon could easily be spent wandering the halls and rooms here.
Day 3 – When people think of Penang, most just think of Georgetown, but this only encompasses a chunk of the island. Catch bus 101 (3.40 MYR from Love Lane/Lebuh Chulia) to the opposite side of the island and check out the quiet beach, Batu Ferringi. Langkawi in the distance, the long stretch of sand has numerous restaurants along with tubing, jet skiing and parasailing on offer. A great way to escape the bustle of the city for a day. For even more seclusion, stay on the bus a bit longer and hike a little over an hour the rest of the way to Monkey Beach (or charter a boat).
Day 4 – Spend the afternoon walking around the botanical gardens and from here you can walk up to Penang Hill. About a five kilometer hike, the view overlooking the city as the sun sinks below the horizon is worth it. For those less inclined to walk there and back, there is a train to and from costing 30 MYR for a return ticket.
Day 5 – In the culinary capital of the country a day is justified to simply gorge on all the amazing eats this city has to offer. While this should be done at every meal, a day should be spent scouring the city for those last few morsels of food you have yet to consume. I could personally spend a week here just being glutinous, wobbling home from the hawker centers. A few places to definitely grab a bite at are Penang Road Famous Laksa, Penang Road Famous Cendul, Nasi Kandar – Line Clear, Gurney Drive Hawker Center and Red Garden Hawker Center.