Home of the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, Penang Island is serenely located by the Strait of Malacca, on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia and is a fusion of old world charm and modernity. Popularly known as the culinary paradise of Malaysia, Penang's rich multicultural history is reflected throughout. Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences are seen across every aspect of the island. Penang is also my hometown as well as one of my favourite destinations to explore. Here are 5 of the things I enjoy doing in my beautiful, exotic, multi-cultural melting pot.
I’m starting this off with the obvious – Penang Food. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, Penang’s multiracial cuisine will inevitably be one of the top things to do in the Pearl of the Orient.
I grew up eating glorious local hawker food such as the Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Koay Kak (Stir Fried Radish Cake), Dim Sum, Nasi Kandar, Roti Jala (Net Bread) and Pasembur that are easily available at any corner of the island. There are also several heritage restaurants and hipster cafes where I can be caught dining in too.
For authentic home cooked Chinese-style dishes, I usually visit De Tai Tong Dim Sum Restaurant. The outlet serves fresh, steamy Dim Sums for breakfast and dinner and in the afternoon they offer hot and flavoursome noodles and dishes to go with your bowl of rice.
For a laid back meet up session with friends, Pik Nik, Brown Pocket, Haven Harbour and recently, Urban Daybreak are some of my favourite cafes to visit. These modern-day coffee shops serves a fusion of innovative Western and local delicacies in a cosy ambience!
Cycling on Sundays
Project Occupy Beach Street is basically a Car Free Day in George Town where areas around Beach Street are closed for the public on Sundays from 7am to 1pm. This is the best day to cycle about town and explore the UNESCO Heritage Sites, bounded by Penang Street Art, and quaint pre-war houses. Stop by local pop up stalls for refreshing drinks, souvenirs, handmade arts and crafts.
Pedal your way to the Weld Quay for a spontaneous trip to look at the historic waterfront homes of the various Chinese clans, widely known as Penang’s Clan Jetties.
You can opt to rent a bicycle for an entire day at RM10 from shops within the UNESCO site or check out the newly launched LinkBike system where bicycles are available at various dock stations within George Town for only RM2 per day.
Shop Till You Drop
The least talked about attraction in Penang is the local malls. Being a Penangite, a typical weekend for me includes hitting the malls with friends or family. There are over 10 malls in Penang and my top 4 favourites are in town, namely - 1st Avenue Mall, Prangin Mall, Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon. Luckily for me, 1st Avenue Mall and Prangin Mall are conveniently adjacent to The Wembley, Penang where I work, whilst Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon are about a 15-minute drive from the hotel.
These are your one-stop malls with top fashion brands, abundance of food outlets and onsite entertainment from movie theatres, karaoke centres to laser tag. What’s better than being inside an indoor air-conditioned complex? Nothing!
I love taking short drives to the northern coast of the island whenever I crave a short escape from the bustling city life. Batu Ferringhi is a hot tourists spot for a tranquil beach staycation, we locals also love lounging by the seaside and watch the sea waves crash onto the shore while sipping on a cold brew at Starbucks or watch the sunset as we munch on a hot slice of pizza in Bora Bora.
While in Batu Ferringhi, explore the Night Market, Tropical Fruit Farm, Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm, Tropical Spice Garden or try some watersports along the beach.
ESCAPE for Some Monkey Business
You’ve probably heard of Penang’s ESCAPE Adventure Play, a fun theme park nestled in Teluk Bahang, amongst trees and well, nature! Being a muscular endurance "enthusiast", I wasn’t eager to try out the challenging games.
As you may have guessed, I was wrong. Upon given the opportunity to visit the place, I was excited to try out the multiple inventive and exhilarating attractions like the famous Monkey Business, Kite Flyer, Jungle Swinger, Jumping Jack. They have a Base Camp for you and your friends to camp under the stars too!
However, given that I was there for work, I only tried the Flying Lemur, which immediately got me hooked and wished I had the guts to try out more of the fun activities. ESCAPE is highly recommended for adrenaline junkies and if you’re looking to break free from your shell and put your courage and strength to the test, this is the perfect place. I will be returning and I hope to see you there!
Alverna Yong is the Communications Officer at The Wembley - A St Giles Hotel in Penang. When not at work, you can find her on snapchat, exploring and capturing life in Penang, or relaxing at home, curating her photographs, while standing firmly with the Pineapple on Pizza squad as she is a Hawaiian Pizza lover!