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Things To See in Penang

The old part of Penang, Georgetown (named after Britain's King George) is a Unesco World Heritage City, which hopefully will protect the old parts of the City from new development. To get around the city is either on foot, by Trishaw, Taxi, or you can catch the Free CAT (City Area Transit)buses that stop at 19 stops between the KOMTAR Building ( the very high one) to the Jetty Wharf.

Georgetown is located on the north east corner of Penang Island, and this is where the main city and hotels are located. Slightly to the west of Georgetown on the north coast of the island is Batu Feringgi, which again has many hotels and high rise buildings overlooking the Sea.

Batu Feringgi Beach is where there are the beach activities and water sports happening and then there is the rest of the island which is less developed, with a few hillside resorts and smaller villages. There are roads that lead around the island, some along the coastline, but most a little way inland.

GARDENS AND PARKS -

  • In the north-western end of the island is the Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang) which covers about 23 square kilometres of land. You can get there by boat trip or by roadway along the coast from Batu Feringgi. Here you will find a few wide sandy beaches – including Turtle Beach and Monkey Beach, (yes, there are monkey's ) with the jungle coming right down to the sea itself, along with walkways through parts of the jungle. The best way to get there is probably by boat, but there is a Bus (101) that takes you to the Park Entrance too.
  • Penang Hill – MUST SEE. Penang Hill is a hilltop retreat with Bungalows, kiosk, guest house, a temple and even an Owl Museum (and Craft shop) located at Air Itam. See www.penanghill.gove.my To get to the top of the Hill to get great views over the island, you take a Funicular Train travelling over stone arch bridges through the jungle to the top of the hills. In the 1800's the British, as in India established 'Hill Stations' to get away from the heat of the tropics, and you can well imagine a English Gentleman being carried to the top of the hill in a sedan-chair, or recuperating from a bout of Malaria in the old 1803 Convalescent Bungalow that is here. The funicular train has been operational here since 1924, with the first train set up in 1903. It is nice and cool up here, and the walkways, gardens, views and ambience make this a great place to see, with the small train trip adding to the enjoyment.
  • Penang Botanic Gardens - Jalan Air Terjun. Sometimes referred to as "Waterfall Gardens" was established by the British in 1884 in a former Granite quarry- The stone probably used in constructing the bridges for the train to Penang Hill. In the 1800's collecting and recording exotic plants and animals was very much in Vogue with the British Royal Society formed and financing many voyages and expeditions into Africa, the Orient and elsewhere. This garden is a MUST SEE in Penang to see a tropical garden at its best with exotic flowers, orchids, Bamboo, a Japanese Garden, ferns, lilies, butterflies, trees and wildlife such as Black Giant Squirrels, Monkeys and the long tailed Macaque.
  • Tropical Spice Garden – Lot 595, Mukim 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang. See www.tropicalspicegarden.com . It is one thing to see spices in a packet, but quite another to see them growing. Here you can see, taste and smell the spices with 500 types here, along with a tour of the garden and even cooking lessons – Book on (604) 881 1797.
  • Tropical Fruit Farm – Batu 18, Jalan Teluk Bahang. Tel: (604) 866 5168. See www.tropicalfruitfarm.com.my Here on this 25 acre farm there are over 250 types of fruit being grown. Malaysia has many really beautiful fruits and juices to taste, including many exotic varieties. Some favourites are finger bananas, Jambu, Soursop, Rambutans, Mangosteen and there are many others.
  • Bukit Jambul Orchid and Hibiscus Garden – Persiaran Bukit Jambul, Bayan Lepas. This is a great place to see Orchids and Malaysia's National Flower, the Hibiscus (Bunga Raya). Also here you can see a deer park, parrots, an albino python and even a 100 year old tortoise.
  • Bird Park – Jalan Todak, Seberang Prai (near Sunway Hotel). Tel: (604) 399 1899. If you love birds this is the place to see them in the gardens and aviaries here. The Park covers around 5 acres and the walk-in aviaries make it feel like you are in the natural forest.
  • Penang Butterfly Park – 830 Jalan Teluk, Bahang. The Park covers around eight hectares below the Teluk Bahang Hills. There are more than 4000 butterflies to see here with their magnificent colours.
  • Penang Golf Course – 2 Jalan Bukit Jambul, Bayan Lepas. Tel: (604) 644 2255. See www.penanggolfcourse.com.my This is an 18 hole golf course right in the city.

HOUSES

To gain a feel for the diverse cultural heritage of Malacca – take a look at some of the different houses that are here -

  • Old Ramlee's House – P.Ramlee (1929-1973) was a singer and movie star, who made his name in movies produced in Singapore. Although he died at an early age, this house is a celebration of his life. It is located at Lot 2180 Jalan P.Ramlee, and provides an insight into both his life and the simple Malayan lifestyle of the times.
  • Suffolk House – is located at 250 Jalan Air Itam, next to the Air Itam River. This large imposing home was built for Captain Francis Light and provides an insight into the life and times of early British rule.
  • Pinang Peranakan Mansion – 29 Lebuh Gereja, Pulau Pinang – Tel: (604) 264 2929.This is a Baba House/Mansion (Nyonya Chinese Heritage). While Melacca is best known for its Nyonya Heritage, there is also a rich Nyonya Heritage here too in Penang. Here you can see a typical Baba Merchant's home from the late 1800's. See www.pinangperanakanmansion.com.my
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – 14 Lebuh Leith – now a Hotel and sometimes called "The Blue Mansion" due to the colour of its outside walls. There are 7 granite courtyards, 38 rooms, 22 stained glass windows and it is possible to take a tour or actually stay here too.
  • Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi – 18 Cannon Square. Tel: (604) 261 4609. See www.khookongsi.com.my MUST SEE. The Khoo Kongsi Clan can date its Fujian Chinese history back for 650 years, and here you will be able to see an amazing array of buildings, temples, roof structures, symbolic woodwork, ceramics and stone Temple Lions, the museum, murals, paintings and gallery, with the original clanhouse first built in 1851.
  • Dr Sun Yat Sen House – this is located at 120 Lubuh Armenian, and this is where Dr Sun Yat Sen met with other members of the T'ung Meng Hui group to set about planning the Canton uprising in China that led to it becoming a Republic in 1912. See www.sunyatsenpenang.com

Sun Yat Sen (1866-1925) born in Zhongshan, China was a Medical Doctor and revolutionary who became known as the 'Father of the Modern Republic of China' after a 1000 year rule by the old dynasties.

TEMPLES, CHURCHES and MOSQUES -

  • Kapitan Keling Mosque – Jalan Kapitan Keling is one of the oldest Mosques, first built in 1800 by Indian Muslims at the time of the British. There are a number of Mosques in Penang, the biggest one being the Masjid Negeri Pilau Mosque – located at Jalan Masjid Negari in Air Hitam. It was built in the 1970's. The design and artistry in the building of both of these Mosques is stunning.
  • Reclining Buddha Temple – 24 Lorong Burma. Here you can see the reclining 33 metre long Buddha lying down. Pure Gold in Colour the reclining Buddha is located in the Thai Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, and on the opposite side of the Lorong (Laneway) is a Burmese Temple –the Dharmikarama Temple.
  • Arulmigu Balathanday Uthapani Temple – also known as the 'Waterfall Hill Temple' – located near the Botanic Gardens. This Indian Hindu Temple is high on the hillside, so you need to climb up the 500 or so steps and pathway to get there. It is quite an inspiring Temple once you get there.
  • Kek Lok Si Temple – "The Temple of Supreme Bliss" located in Air Itam. Tel: 604 828 3317. This Buddhist Temple dates back to 1893 when construction began and the 7 storey Pagoda Tower "Temple of a Thousand Buddhas" dates back to 1930. The Temple is one of the biggest in Asia, and if you can take a tour you will learn more about the Temple, gardens and Buddhist life.
  • St Anne's Catholic Church – Bukit Mortajam was built by the French in 1875. Here you can see and learn about the chapel and church that was built here.
  • St Georges Anglican Church – Lebuh Farquhar was built in 1818 by the British, and it is the oldest Anglican Church in S.E Asia. There is a domed roof inside and the front of the church is made up of large Greek style columns.
  • There are also other churches of different denominations in Penang, and the fact that churches, mosques, temples are all located here is a testament to the value that Malaysians place of living in a harmonious community all be it with different religious beliefs.

WAR MUSEUM -

Batu Maung Fishing Village – is in the south end of the island, and there is a lot of high rise buildings here now with the new Penang Bridge crossing to here too. The Penang War Museum is located at Lot 1350, Mukim 12, Daerah Barat, Batu Maung (Tel: 60 4 626 5142). During World War Two Penang was not only occupied by the Japanese, but was also a base for German Sub-marines. The Fort that was built here by the British was taken by the Japanese on the 17th December, 1941, becoming infamous as a place of torture, and given the name "Bukit Hantu" (Ghost Hill). The museum covers an area of 20 acres, and has tunnels, the barracks, cook house, gun emplacements and the relics of its time under Japanese control.

OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST

  • Penang State Museum and Art Gallery – Lebuh Farquhar – See www.penangmuseum.gov.my Tel: 604 263 1942. This is where you can artefacts, relics, photos, memorabilia and paintings that showcase Penang's history and the changes that have taken place. The Museum is housed in the old 'Penang Free School' building, the school being established as the first "free" school in Penang. The School taught students here from 1821 until 1923.
  • Penang Islamic Museum – 128 Armenian Street. Tel: 604 262 0172. See www.penangislamicmuseum.net The museum is located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion building that was built in 1860.
  • Weld Quay – Jalan Pengkalan Weld. (near Chinatown). When people flee from a country to another, what we now call Refugees, they are looking for a better life, but equally when they arrive in a new country they may not be welcome. This was the case when a number of Fujian family clans arrived in Penang and were denied the right to purchase or live on land. Hardship brings with it ingenuity and so the Fujian clans build their homes over the water, and today this area of Penang still houses a number of clans with the houses on stilts over the water next to their fishing boats. Something interesting but also humbling at the same time.
  • Chinatown – Most Chinatowns in the world are rows of restaurants, but here in Penang you can also see rows of houses too – head to any of these Street areas – Lubuh Muntri, Lebuh Stewart, Lebuh Campbell, Lebuh King.
  • Goldsmith's Guild – Penang Ta Kam Hong is located at 41 Jalan Muntri and dates back to 1832 when the Chinese Goldsmiths formed a Guild, just as many other trades did at the time. Here you will find a statue of Wu Ching, a goldsmith who was put to death by a Chinese Emperor, after the Emperor thought that Wu Ching had tricked him into marrying Wu Ching's sister by covering up a scar on her face using a Gold mask. It was only after Wu Ching's death that the Emperor recognized that in killing Wu Ching that China had lost one of its best Goldsmiths.
  • Carpenter's Guild – (Lo Pan Hong) 70 Lorong Love, Georgetown. This is where you might be able to see some of the intricate woodwork used in building the Sedan Chairs of old and other wood work. Lo Pan is the Patron God of Carpenters.
  • Clock Tower, City Hall – built 1903, Town Hall, World War One Cenotaph – find these on or near the Esplanade.
  • Shopping Centres – There are a number of Shopping Malls – Look for
  • Penang Second Bridge – Penang has two bridges that link it to the mainland – the Penang Bridge (built in 1982-85) and the Second Penang Bridge which opened in March 1st, 2014. This Second Bridge is 24 kilometres long, making it the longest bridge in South-East Asia.
  • Firefly Sanctuary – 2394 Jalan Teluk Ipil, 14300 Nibong Tebal. Tel: 60 12 555 4873 See www.amazingplanner.com.my This is an early night tour on a small boat to see Fireflies in the mangroves. This is a really memorable experience. Also see fish farming and a Charcoal furnace – where they make the charcoal used as the fuel for cooking Satays.
  • Penang Port – Penang and Butterworth (on the mainland) has a large container port facility to handle cargo to and from Malaysia and also southern Thailand, and also a Passenger Terminal called the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal where Star Cruises and other cruises arrive and depart from. Ferries also head to Langkawi from here too. A Ferry Service also operates from Penang to Butterworth every half hour or so and this departs from Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal in Georgetown to the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butterworth. Butterworth is perhaps best known as an Air Force base – first by the RAF (British) who established the base in 1941 before the Japanese took it over during World War Two, then by the RAAF (Australian Air Force) between 1957 and 1988 and from then on by the RMAF (Malaysian Air Force) since then. The Ferry service also takes cars, and also bikes, motorbikes and must be the only Ferry Service in the world that also takes Trishaws.

Penang with its tropical climate, beaches, hotels, food, heritage, different cultures and city attractions has become a popular destination for tourists from around the world. There is quite a lot to see, and you're bound to enjoy your time here.

I hope you have a great time in Penang.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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