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Penang is the northern gateway to Malaysia and the country's oldest British settlement. To the tourist industry, Penang has been marketed for a long time as the "Pearl of the Orient"
Penang, a 111-square-mile island off the west coast of Malaysia, gets its name from the betel nut tree, called "pinang" in Malaysian. While some residents chew betel nuts, you'll probably be more interested in sinking your teeth into the astonishing variety of foods available in this culinary capital.
When the British, under Captain Francis Light, took possession of Penang in 1786, they found the island covered in dense jungle and uninhabited, except for a handful of Malay fishermen and a few pirates. The small township, named Georgetown after George III (Prince of Wales), developed around the camp by the harbour. Many immigrants were attracted by the newly declared free port status and the island quickly became a cultural melting pot with an eclectic mix of races and religions in a unique blend of east and west. By 1789, Georgetown had a population of 5,000. By the end of the next decade, the population had doubled.
olonial Penang prospered until the outbreak of World War II. When the Japanese advanced down the peninsula, Penang Island was cut off and British residents were evacuated to Singapore. The Japanese administration lasted from December 1941 to July 1945. Remarkably, Georgetown's buildings were virtually unscathed despite Allied bombing attacks. In fact today, Georgetown is noted for the largest collection of pre-war houses in all of Southeast Asia, preserved and protected under the auspices of the Penang Heritage Trust. In July 2008, the city of Georgetown, in conjunction with Malacca, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, listed under "Melaka and Georgetown, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca".
In addition to the island itself, Penang State also includes a strip of land on the mainland opposite Province Wellesley. The two entities are linked by the eight-mile-long (12.8 km) Penang Bridge and a 24-hour ferry service.
Although Penang is best known for its beaches, there is much more here than just sand and sea. The island is considered a cultural and architectural gem with Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. Penang's melting pot of cultures contributes to its fascinating food scene, as well as to its many places of worship, including Chinese clan houses, Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and colonial-era Christian churches.
Where You are Dock
Cruise ships idock at Swettenham Pier or tender boats is at the Tanjong City Marina. The Marina is located about two miles (3.2 km) from the centre of Georgetown. It is about a 200-yard walk to the tour coaches which are lined outside the Marina. Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, located on the northeast tip of George Town, within walking distance of many attractions. The building opened in 2010 and can handle the largest ships; unfortunately, it features little that's of interest for travelers.Taxis and trishaws are available. The fares should be agreed upon before setting out.
Getting Around
George Town is flat, and most streets have sidewalks -- though they may be obstructed by shop merchandise. The older parts of town have arcaded buildings that shadow the sidewalks (called gor kha lor or "five-foot ways"), but sidewalk height can go up or down, with a step or two, from building to building. If you decide to walk, there's something of interest hiding in nearly every little alley.
By Taxi: Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. If you like to tour independently and want to see attractions outside George Town, you might choose to negotiate a ride for the day. Drivers are supposed to use the meter but often refuse or say it's broken. In that case, settle on a fixed fee before you get in and they step on the gas.
By Trishaw: A few of these human-powered taxis still ply George Town, and the same rule goes as for them as for taxis -- negotiate. You'll get the best deal if you hire one for an hour or longer.
By Bus: Rapid Penang operates many buses in George Town and around the island. The company has a handy guide on its Web site listing points of interest and which bus to take to get there.
Things to See and Do
Penang Hill
Penang Hill, or Flagstaff Hill (Bukit Bendera) as it is officially known, rises 821 metres above sea level, providing a welcome break from the heat below. One of Penang’s most popular attractions, a trip up is a not-to-be-missed experience, providing visitors with breathtaking views of the whole island all the way to the top. The best way to reach the summit is to hop onboard the funicular train that travels all the way up in half an hour. Highlights at the peak include a pretty Hindu temple, church, mosque and even a snake show where you can take photos with a tame python for a fee.
Penang Hill was the first colonial hill station developed in Peninsular Malaysia. Comprising Western Hill, Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill, it is located six km away from Georgetown. The hilly and forested area is the state's primary hill resort.Set 821m above Penang’s capital, islanders call it Bukit Bendera and it is generally about five degrees cooler than Georgetown. It is the last patch of tropical rainforest in Penang so the flora and fauna here have been protected since 1960. It does not have the same prominence as Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill or Cameron Highlands but it is one of Penang’s best-known tourist attractions due to its fresher climate.
Kek Lok Si Temple
Amongst the largest Buddhist temple complex in Southeast Asia, Kek Lok Si Temple stands on top of a hill in the little town of Air Itam. Founded more than a hundred years ago, the complex is filled with beautifully-landscaped gardens and sacred temples. A striking seven-tiered pagoda called The Pagoda of 1000 Buddhas -  which combines Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles in one structure - houses a stunning collection of Buddha statues made from all sorts of precious materials. Also found within the temple complex are the statues of The Four Heavenly Kings, guarding the four points of the compass - North, South, West and East - with the statue of The Laughing Buddha in the middle.
Standing on a hilltop at Air Itam, near Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The complex is divided into three zones while the temple grounds comprise the hill entrance, souvenir, food and drinks stalls and the turtle liberation pond. The mid section of the temple houses temples, gardens, the pagoda and the four heavenly kings pavilion; meanwhile the hilltop plays host to an enormous statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin as well as more gardens and temples.
Comprising a series of monasteries, prayer halls, temples and beautifully-landscaped gardens, this national icon was built in 1890 by Beow Lean, a devout immigrant Chinese Buddhist. The ten-acre site was purchased in 1893 and the initial temple structure was built on the summit of He Shan. 20 years later, the two-decade long additional construction of this sprawling house of worship is largely funded by donations from the Penang Straits Chinese community.
The complex is a cornerstone of the Malaysian Chinese community. Also known as the ‘Temple of Supreme Bliss’, it features a maze of souvenir kiosks as well as a turtle and fish pond. The turtle pond – known as The Liberation Pond – was built because according to Chinese tradition, turtles symbolize longevity, strength and endurance and the act of capturing and freeing a turtle is a symbol of spiritual liberation.
Kek Lok Si is both carved into the rock face as well as perched atop the slopes of Air Itam. The main attraction here is the impressive pagoda of Rama VI and at the centre of the complex, the seven-storey, 30-metre high tower is acknowledged as the ‘face’ of Kek Lok Si. Topped with a Burmese crown, Ban Po Thar – the Ten Thousand Buddhas Pagoda – displays a collection of alabaster and bronze Buddhas and has a Chinese octagonal base while its middle tiers are of Thai design. Meanwhile sited in the Hall of the Devas, are statues of the Four Heavenly Kings – each of the Kings allegedly controls one of the four points of the compasses – Kwang Mu (Guardian of the West), Tou Wen (Guardian of the North), Ch'i Kuo (Guardian of the East) and lastly Tseg Chang (Guardian of the South).
Additionally, there’s a three-storey shrine with a large Buddha icon that was donated by King Bhumibol of Thailand – you can find several temples here as well as shops and a vegetarian restaurant. At the highest level there is a 36.5 metre-high bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy; in the future 16 ornately decorated bronze columns supporting a roof over the statue, as well 1000 two-metre high statues of the goddess are planned to be built.
At the apex are a couple more temples, a fish pond, sprawling gardens and 12 animal statues that represent the Chinese zodiac. Kek Lok Si temple houses tablets and imperial Buddhist sutras gifted by Manchu Emperor Kwang Xi and Empress Cixi of the Ching Dynasty; these historic relics are kept in the temple archives. The impressive complex is usually crowded with visitors and is located approximately three kilometres from Penang Hill.
Penang Kek Lok Si -- Location: Air Itam, Georgetown Tel: +604 828 3317 -- Price Range: Entrance: Pagoda - RM2; Incline lift - RM2
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
The home of an influential Chinese industrialist in the early 1890s, the award-winning Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion represents the best of 18th and 19th-century Chinese architecture. Relying heavily on feng shui design, a team of master craftsmen from China took more than seven years to build the mansion, including its five granite courtyards, 38 rooms, seven staircases and 22 stained glass windows. Locals call it the Blue Mansion and it remains one of only three traditional Chinese mansions outside of China. In 1989, it was restored and converted into a 16-room boutique heritage hotel/museum combo best known for its indigo blue façade. Guided tours take place at 11:00, 13:30 and 15:00, with an entry fee of RM12 per visitor.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, a boutique hotel that’s one of Penang’s best-known attractions in an ornate edifice built in the traditional Hakka – Teochew style. Located at 14 Leith Street, the structure was erected in the 1880s when Hakka merchant, Cheong Fatt Tze commissioned its construction. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Address: 14, Leith Street, 10200 Penang Tel: +604 262 0006
Escape Adventureland
The few hours spent at Escape Adventureland Penang are likely to rank as some of the most thrilling and emotionally-charged moments of your life. After all, hurtling speedily through the open air, dozens of feet off the ground, is pretty memorable. A park specialising in zip-lining (or, as Australians call it, flying foxes), there are other fun activities here including a free fall from a 20m jump platform, an inner-tube slide and tree rope swing.  Open: 09:00 - 18:00 Tuesday - Sunday  Address: 828 Jalan Teluk Bahang,11050 Penang  Tel: +604 881 1106 Read More...
Adventure Zone Theme Park
While on vacation, parents can find it a little hard to keep the little ones entertained while simultaneously having a good time themselves. The 10,300sqft, Adventure Zone Theme Park is Penang’s answer to that. Geared towards families, with plenty of offerings to keep youngsters of all ages occupied, it is home to more than 30 activities and is divided into three zones – the special features section, kids area and toddler sector with modular play equipment.
The major highlight for both kids and adults can be found at the special features section, where there are three slides – the first two (Astra slide and double drop slide with ball pit exit) are designed for children, but the third is a 24ft-high drop slide perfect for all ages. At the kids’ area, you can expect ladder climbs, swinging steps, pull up ramps and hurdles and more, while the toddler section is filled with padded ramps, climbs and tumble towers sure to excite kids under the age of four. There is free Wi-Fi available, which is great for parents that just want to chill out at the onsite café, or you can go for a 15-minute Segway ride.  Open: 10:00 – 19:00  Address: centre Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa and Shangri La Golden Sands Resort, Jalan Batu Ferringhi  Tel: +604 886 1911
Escape Adventureplay Penang is a cool alternative to the beach and has quickly turned into a firm favourite with outdoor adventure seekers on the island. An outdoor, eco-conscious theme park specialising in zip-lining (a pulley suspended on a stainless steel cable, tied between two trees on an incline), the park also hosts other fun jungle activities for all ages. A creative and fun way to foster a love of the outdoors, especially among kids, the park started out in 2012 with standout attractions such as a free fall from a 20 metre-high jump platform, an inner tube slide and tree rope swing.
Free Fall & Zip Lining
There are quite a few thrill rides to try here. We love the Atan’s Leap, a gravity-defying free fall activity that will see you taking the plunge from a 20 metre-high platform. You will fall through the air and land safely onto an absolutely-safe, extremely large, inflated featherbed on the ground; for safety purposes, this activity is limited to those aged 13 years old and above.
Another attempt to push the laws of physics at Escape Adventureplay Penang is the Flying Lemur, an obstacle course that will have you climbing 98 feet off the ground. To reach the finish line, you will have to overcome hurdles that will include the region’s longest zip line (456 feet-long) across a ravine. The thrilling final obstacle will have your adrenaline levels peaking!
Tree Swings & Water Park
Intent on providing a variety of activities for all ages and courage levels, Escape Adventureplay Penang is also home to rope swings, set at different inclinations, allowing those who are more adventurous to swing from higher heights, while beginners can feel safe swinging from lower elevations. Besides that, the park also has places where you can play on balance beams, engage in tree climbing contests, navigate through a fun but wobbly rope course, and even go exploring through a cave! In addition to all that is already available at Escape Adventureplay, there are plans to add in a water theme park in the quest for bigger and better thrills.
Entrance is RM60 for adults and RM45 for kids; open from Tuesday to Sunday, the park also operates on Monday when it is a public or school holiday. There is a free hourly shuttle service from a couple of Jalan Batu Ferringhi hotels, or from Georgetown guests can hop on the Rapid Penang bus 101.

Made In Penang Interactive Museum
The Made in Penang Interactive Museum really helps shake off pre-existing ideas of boring, outdated museums, instead offering visitors a fun, exciting way to view artwork with exhibits that have clever 3D imagery features. For example, a portrait of the Penang Snake Temple, with a large 3D snake slithering out from the framework.
A museum where getting involved is truly part of the fun, pictures range from historical images such as battleships being blown up by cannons, to elevators with iconic horror movie characters inside. The trick is that artists have used different colours, textured contours and some props to create each unique photo.  Open: 09:00 – 18:00   Address: No.3, Pengkalan Weld, George Town, Penang.  Tel: +604 262 6119
Penang War Museum
Built by the British army on top of Bukit Maung in the 20th century, the Penang War Museum is historically significant for its past. Used as a Japanese army base during WWII, tales of prisoners of war being tortured for information colour its walls. As a result, the hill itself has earned a reputation among locals as being haunted – in fact, they shy away from climbing the hill after dark. Despite its sordid past, when it was turned into a museum (nearly three decades later), restoration works maintained its network of underground tunnels and ventilation shafts, making for a pretty cool complex to explore. Besides that, you can also see the base’s old ammunition bunkers, cannon firing bays, sleeping quarters and medical infirmary.
The Penang War Museum was restored as a memorial to its dark days and opened to the public in 2002. Interesting fact: the 20-acre museum houses historical artefacts such as cannons and even features underground military tunnels and ammunition bunkers which are located nine metres underground. Some of these tunnels lead all the way to the sea as they once served as access routes to get to submarines. Navigating through these passageways sometimes forces one to walk or even crawl through very narrow, confined spaces. Additionally, you can also tour the barracks, cookhouses, gun emplacements and other structures in the eerie and vast Penang War Museum as there are plenty of signposts to guide your way. Penang War Museum -- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 19:00 -- Address: Lot 1350 Mukim 12, Daerah Barat Daya, Batu Maung -- Tel: +604 626 5142 or +6016 421 3606
Fort Cornwallis
Fort Cornwallis is one of Penang’s most well known landmarks. Within its ten-foot-high walls (which are laid out in the shape of a star), you can see a 17th century chapel, some prison cells, ammunition storage area, and more. There are even some pretty cool old bronze cannons, including a Dutch one which superstitious locals believe has a positive effect on women’s fertility. Named after Charles Cornwallis, the former Governor General of India, it was originally built entirely out of wood, but refurbishment over the years has led to its current concrete facade.
Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Set close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower, the star-shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang. Named after Marquis Charles Cornwallis, only a set of ten-foot high outer walls remain, with an enclosed park within.
Situated on Penang’s north-eastern coast, a stroll along the privately-managed Fort Cornwallis’ perimeters will take you about 10 minutes. It is a surreal experience to hear the 1812 Overture playing over the speaker system while a Malaysian man dressed in full British regalia stands at the gate. Inside the fort is a variety of vaguely-informative exhibits. Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:30 Daily Location: Lebuh Light Tel: +602 61 0262
Penang Khoo Khongs
Penang’s Khoo Khongsi is a Chinese clanhouse for individuals with the surname Khoo. A clanhouse acts as a representation of a specific family’s social and spiritual commitments between extended relations, ancestors and the outside community. Also known as Dragon Mountain Hall, it represents good luck and wealth, with stone carvings that adorn the entrance hall and pavilions. Murals portraying birthdays, weddings and, most memorably, the 36 divine guardians sprinkle the interior. Overhead, massive paper lamps cast the clanhouse in an orange glow and stunning ceramic sculptures of immortals, carp fish and dragons dance across the roof ridges.
Khoo Kongsi is one of Georgetown’s most interesting attractions. Built some 650 years ago, it is part of the goh tai seh (five big clans) that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in olden-days Penang. One of Penang’s most lavishly decorated kongsis, it is located on Jalan Acheh, off Lebuh Pitt.
A kongsi (clan house) is a building in which Chinese families of the same surname gather to worship their ancestors. Representing a family’s social and spiritual commitments between extended relations, ancestors and the outside community, the kongsi also acts as an important means of solidarity. These days the primary functions of kongsis are supportive roles: they help with the educations of members’ children, settle disputes and advance loans. Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 -- Address: 18 Cannon Square, Georgetown -- Tel: +604 261 4609
Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram
A Thai temple built in 1845, Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram houses the giant Reclining Buddha statue. Measuring 33 metres long, it is said to be the third largest of its kind in the world and signifies Buddha’s total detachment from worldly matters during the last days of his life. Famous as Buddha’s final resting pose before his death, besides the lounging Buddha statue you can also find smaller Buddha sculptures in various guises and positions around the temple, as well as those of Thai deities. Furthermore, the temple is also home to colourful murals depicting Buddha’s life story.

Nature-lovers might want to head to the Botanic Garden or the Tropical Spice Garden. The 72-acre Botanic Gardens site was founded in 1884 by the British. It's a five-mile trip outside of George Town by bus or taxi. In addition to the vast collection of unusual tropical trees and plants, you'll also probably spot long-tailed macaques and dusky leaf monkeys as you stroll the paths. In fact, don't take any food with you, or the critters might get a bit too friendly. (open daily, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 604-227-0428) The Tropical Spice Garden, about 13 miles from the pier and best reachable by taxi, features 500 species of flora and fauna, spread over eight acres of secondary tropical jungle. The facility also has a gift shop and cafe and offers guided tours and cooking lessons. (Book both in advance.) It can be combined with a visit to the nearby beach area, Batu Ferringhi. (garden open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Kek Lok Si Temple is a huge complex (said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia) located in the hills about six miles from the pier. Aside from the excellent views, attractions include a funicular train that travels up to a massive 120-foot-high statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, as well as a tower of 10,000 Buddhas, which you can climb under your own power for more views. With its souvenir shops and crowds, the place seems a bit like Disneyland. It can also be combined with a trip to nearby Penang Hill, about a mile away.
Penang Hill was a cool refuge for the British, who built bungalows along its slopes. The Penang Hill Railway can take you to the top, 2,000 feet above sea level, where food and tea vendors offer refreshments to accompany the views. (open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., weekends from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., closed for annual inspection during one week in January)
Toy-lovers can travel back to their childhoods at Ben's Vintage Toy Museum in George Town. Chances are, the friendly family members who lovingly collected the toys will be there to walk you through the small private museum's two floors. (55 Lebuh Acheh; open Saturday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 6014-308-6657)
Shoppers who prefer an air-conditioned mall environment can head to Gurney Plaza, nine floors of upscale shops and food outlets about four miles up the coast from the pier. International brands and local clothing and crafts can be found, as well as a "fish spa," where finned friends nibble the dead skin off your feet.
Watch Out For traffic moves on the left side of the road, British-style. Be very cautious, and look to the right when crossing the street.
George Town is generally quite safe, but petty crimes like purse-snatching and pick-pocketing sometimes occur. Just use normal caution in crowds, and carry your purse on the side away from the street. Take precautions to protect yourself from sun and heat, which can be exhausting. Sunblock and a hat or an umbrella are essential. Take frequent breaks if you're walking, cool off in an air-conditioned shop now and then, and drink plenty of fluids.
Speaking of fluids, the water in Penang is safe to drink, and hygiene among street food vendors is of a higher standard than most places in Asia. We dined on a variety of street foods with no problem.
George Town's historic buildings earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. They include Fort Cornwallis and grand colonial architecture along Lebuh Light and Lebuh Farquhar, as well as historic shophouses (with shops on the bottom and residences above), places of worship, mansions and Chinese clan jetties. The Penang Heritage Trust offers several different heritage walking tours (604-264-2631) that start at 9 a.m. and last about three hours each; be sure to book in advance. If you'd like to tour on your own, Penang Tourism offers a colored map that you can download and print. It includes the locations and photos of many heritage buildings, as well as "intangible heritage" workshops.
The Penang State Museum is an air-conditioned oasis with excellent, well-curated displays depicting the history and cultures of Penang. You'll see everything from ornate Peranakan wedding outfits to information on George Town's food scene. (Lebuh Farquhar; open Saturday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 604-261-3144) 
The "Street of Harmony," Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (formerly Pitt Street), offers an unusual chance to see major religious communities existing side by side. Just off the street, you'll find the beautiful, historic Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Indian Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Temple and Anglican St. George's Church. You'll come upon many other historic Chinese temples and clan buildings in the city's old streets and alleys that are well worth a look.
George Town is becoming known for its clever street art, which appears as engaging murals with 3D elements by Lithuanian-born Ernest Zacharevic, or entertaining welded-iron caricatures that illustrate how different streets or neighborhoods earned their names. A downloadable brochure from Penang Tourism offers descriptions and tells you where to find the art (or just look for a gaggle of tourists posing for photos with some of Zacharevic's most popular works).
Under the roofs of neighboring Penang Bazaar and Chowrasta Market (on Jalah Pinang near Lebuh Campbell), you'll find everything from spices to fabric and souvenir fridge magnets. If you enjoy markets, it's worth poking around. The second floor of the market houses a boggling collection of used books, while alleyways between buildings host street-food vendors.
See how wealthy George Town traders lived by visiting either the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (29 Church Street; open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 604-264292) or Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (14 Lebuhraya Leith; guided tours at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.; 604-262-0006). Both are huge homes, although the latter also serves as a hotel, so access is more limited. If you have time to visit only one, we recommend the Peranakan Mansion, which is full of furniture and artifacts depicting family life.
Chinese Clan Jetties jut into the water about a half-mile south of the cruise terminal, off of Pengkalan Weld. Houses and temples are built along historic piers. The most famous (and, thus, the most visited by tours) is the Chew Jetty. For a quieter, more personal experience, explore the narrow passageways of the Lim Jetty, which you reach before the Chew Jetty.
Ferringhi Beach (Batu Ferringhi) is located up to an hour from George Town, depending on traffic. The waters aren't as pristine as you might hope for, and there's the buzz of water-sports vehicles, but you'll still find white sand and palms amid the resort hotels. As dusk falls, a famous Night Market stretches more than a half-mile along the beach. (By the way, ferringhi might sound familiar to Star Trek fans. It actually means "foreigner.")
Eating Out
Penang's melting pot of cultures cooks up some great cuisine. You'll find Indian, Chinese and Malay dishes -- all with uniquely Penang-style twists. In addition, there's Peranakan Nyonya ("mama") food, a cuisine that developed when Chinese traders married local Malay women, as well as an abundance of seafood. For a look at 12 iconic local dishes, and where to find them, download Penang Tourism's excellent Food Trail brochure.
Some of the most popular dishes include assam laksa (hot and sour fish broth with noodles, vegetables and shrimp paste), fried koay teow (rice noodles stir-fried with prawns and cockles) and roti canai (crispy, flat Indian pastries cooked on a griddle and served with spicy lentil dip). Desserts tend to be shaved ice, with toppings like sweet beans, corn, coconut milk and green pandan noodles. For a fascinating, cooling drink, try ais tingkap, described below.
To sample George Town's famous hawker food, your best bet at lunchtime is to visit Lorong Selamat, between Jalan Burmah and Jalan Macalister -- less than two miles from the pier. Keng Huat Cafe is famous for its char kuey teow (and rude proprietor), as is its competitor Low Eng Hoo Cafe. T&T Hokkien Mee dishes up several versions of the classic soup noodles, while, farther down the street, you'll find oyster omelets, duck rice and laksa vendors. To suss out the best vendors, look for lines of locals.
The ais tingkap street vendor concocts one of the most interesting beverages you'll ever consume. The base is shaved ice, which makes it fabulously refreshing. To that, the Indian proprietor adds rose essence, coconut water, a bit of sugar syrup, fresh coconut water, tender "young coconut" meat, a dash of herbs and -- most unusual of all -- soaked basil seeds, which form a gelatinous coating around their crunchy center. It all sounds rather strange, but trust us, the rosy-pink drink is worth a try. And the show's good, too, as the complex concoction gets mixed for you. To find the vendor, look to your right as you head down little Lebuh Tamil for tables against the wall and a man surrounded by various buckets and jars of ingredients. (Lebuh Tamil, left off of Jalan Penang in the Chowrasta Market complex)
Tek Sen Restaurant is renowned for its siew yuk, or double-cooked pork. (With a name like that, it has to be good, right) But the extensive menu (in English) provides plenty to choose from, with several Chinese ethnic cuisines represented. The decor offers very little, though. (18 and 20 Carnarvon Street; open noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 6012-493-9424)
De Tai Tong Cafe is a classic dim sum spot, where you'll find "aunties" pushing carts of Chinese dumplings through the decor-free room that harkens back to the 1960's. In addition to the usual dumplings, they also serve noodle dishes. (45 Cintra Street; open daily, 6 a.m. to noon and 6 p.m. to 11p.m., but sometimes closed on Mondays; 604-263-6625)
Ivy's Nyonya Cuisine, about two miles from the pier, offers favorites like assam prawns and beef randang in a nondescript atmosphere with warm, friendly owners and reasonable prices. Set menus let you sample more dishes with smaller portions of each. (58 Jalan Chow Thye, off Burmah Road; open Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
Kapitan offers a wide variety of Indian food in a bustling but scruffy environment. We're suckers for roti canai, and their butter chicken was tasty, too, washed down with a mango lassi. They're also known for their clay pot nasi briyani, a spicy rice dish. (93 Chulan Street, George Town; open 24 hours daily; 604-264-1191)
Kebaya Restaurant is only open for dinner, but if you're in port, it's worth a visit for upscale "modern" Nyonya cuisine, using innovative ingredients and techniques, in a stylish fine-dining environment. (Seven Terraces Hotel, Stewart Lane; open Tuesday to Sunday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; 604-264-2333)
1885 Fine Dining Restaurant serves British afternoon tea in the landmark E&O Hotel. Dress appropriately for the elegant environment. (Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Lebuh Farquhar; tea daily from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.; 604-222-2000 ext. 3170)
Suffolk House offers refined European dining and afternoon tea in a beautifully renovated heritage building. The chef is known for his truffle mushroom soup. (250 Jalan Air Itam; open noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. for tea, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner; 604-228-3930)
Along Jalan Penang and at Prangin Mall are a variety of department stores and shops. For goldsmiths, look on Lebuh Campbell in Chinatown. Batik, silk, Royal Selangor pewter and jewellery are also available in Penang. The local currency is the ringgit.
Georgetown is Penang’s premier shopping destination with its retail therapy offerings firmly divided into three sectors –street markets, independent stores and shopping centres. Four of the city’s most popular malls are within a one-km radius of each other along with several interesting stand-alone shops down narrow avenues, plus quirky street markets that pop up and dominate select roads on certain days.
The most famous mall is the 761ft KOMTAR – though it is older and atmospheric in comparison to flashier malls like Penang Times Square and 1st Avenue Mall, it is one of the most prominent landmarks in Penang and acts as the focal point through which all bus routes in Penang radiate from. Meanwhile, if you are a serious budget shopper we suggest the Little Penang Street Market – it is a treasure trove of fabulous finds, from homemade handicraft to vintage steals.
Little Penang Street Market -- Upper Penang Road plays host to the monthly Little Penang Street Market, every last Sunday of the month. It initially started as a small community project in 2006 but has steadily grown in size. One of the island’s cleanest and most well-organized roadside fairs, it has risen to become a major part of every local’s shopping itinerary with more than 70 stalls set up selling all sorts of items such as jewellery, spices, wood carvings and hand-embroidered kebaya.
A popular tourist must-visit along Penang Road, besides crafts and food, there are also cultural shows, live music performances, book readings and visual art displays that really draw in the crowds. Stall vendors are friendly, the atmosphere is stimulating and the street simply bursts with activity throughout the day.
Opening Hours: Every last Sunday of the month -- Location: Upper Penang Road
1st Avenue Mall -- Set beside Prangin Mall and KOMTAR on Jalan Magazine, the seven-storey 1st Avenue Mall is one of the flashier additions to Penang’s retail landscape. Opened in 2010, it is a bright and clean complex with a range of high-end international marques such as Coach and Victoria’s Secret, as well as affordable mid-range labels like H&M, Cotton On and Sketchers.
Its shopping venues are not the only reason to visit – there is also a bowling alley, movie theatre, karaoke lounge, snooker centre and internet cafe – plus, food-wise, visitors have a choice of over 20 restaurants and cafes.
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00 -- Address: Jalan Magazine, Georgetown, 10300 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia Tel: +604 261 1121
Lorong Kulit Flea Market --  An absolute must-visit on any visit to Penang, Lorong Kulit Flea Market just bursts with life and colour. A shopping experience just made for the budget shopper, you will find quite an eclectic collection of knick knacks here – indeed stalls selling lethal-looking hunting knives, vintage binoculars, compasses and flasks, are set up right beside booths with records, Mickey Mouse figurines, stationery and more.
An integral part of many locals’ life in Georgetown, it is a great place to grab a bargain on anything and everything, especially if you arrive early and carefully look through the selections available. On our last visit we found some hard-to-find used book titles for less than RM10 each, as well as great quality second hand clothes at great value prices. Opening Hours: 09:00 - 12:00 -- Location: Jalan Dato Keramat
Komtar is one of the most prominent landmarks in Penang with a viewing deck on the 58th floor offering views of the island and across the straits to Penang’s mainland. Located in central Georgetown, along the north-south Jalan Penang and east-west Jalan Magazine, the 65-storey cylindrical high-rise is the sixth-tallest building in Malaysia and Penang’s tallest structure.
Shopping-wise, there are quite a few people who consider the atmospheric mall an acceptable pass on their tour itinerary, but we highly recommend it. It may not look as polished or as new as 1st Avenue Mall or Penang Times Square, but there are quite a lot of shops inside that make a trip here worthwhile. You will find boutiques selling incredibly reasonably-priced apparel (for example a sundress from RM25), plus there are quite a few shops specialising in digital products like cameras, hand phones and computers.
Opening Hours: 10:30 – 22:30 -- Location: South Georgetown (Next to Traders Hotel)
Prangin Mall -- Adjacent to Komtar, Prangin Mall is Georgetown’s largest shopping mall. Another bargain hunter’s paradise, in similar vein to KOMTAR, it has quite a collection of local clothing boutiques. Prices for apparel rarely go beyond the RM50 mark – we bought three pretty peplum dresses from one of its boutiques for only RM20 each.
What’s more, the five-storey complex also has as its anchor tenant, Singapore department store, Parkson, plus book store chain Popular. Food and drinks-wise, the mall does not disappoint with more than 25 restaurants, ranging from fast food chains like MacDonald’s to local cafes selling Malay favourites like nasi lemak and chee cheong fun.Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00 -- Address: Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong (Prangin Road), Georgetown Tel: +604 262 2233
Chowrasta Market is perhaps Penang’s most well-known daily market. More than a century old, the dry market area downstairs (there’s also a wet market at the back selling fresh seafood) sells all sorts of popular local delicacies such as fresh nutmegs, preserved fruits and the classic Ghee Hiang biscuits. The foodstuff sold here are said to be cheaper than anywhere else in Penang. Located one level up on the first floor is a much-loved second-hand bookseller where you can purchase used copies of favourite reads at a fraction of the original price.Opening Hours: 08:30 – 20:00 -- Location: Jalan Penang, George Town -- Tel: +604 262 0202
7. Cecil Street Market - Lebuh Cecil
Divided into two sections, Cecil Street Market is most popular with locals for its wet market where daily household groceries such as fresh vegetables and meats are available. This section of the market is full of character to say the least – there are the sounds of butchers cutting up meat and calling out to passing customers, the sight of fish, beef, pork and poultry placed on top of mounds of ice on the stainless steel stall counters, plus wet, slippery floors make walking a slow affair. However, it creates a colourful, electrifying atmosphere – especially when you get to see a local haggling with a vegetable seller on the price of a bunch of carrots.
Come nightfall and the streets surrounding the market are transformed into one big, open-air restaurant. This dry section of the market is where you will find stalls selling local delicacies, the asam laksa comes highly recommended (glass noodles in a sweet, spicy and sour broth made with crushed sardine fish, cucumber slices, tamarind juice and chilli paste). Opening Hours: 07:00 – 12:00 (market) -- Address: Lebuh Cecil, Georgetown
Penang Times Square -- Penang’s shopping scene has come a long way in recent years, and it is no longer passed off as just a ‘big-food-and-beach-state’. It has particularly come into its own in the area of retail therapy, with more than four major malls within a one-km radius of each other. Seasoned budget fashionistas head for Penang Times Square when searching for one-of-a-kind selections to help them stand out: though there are not that many stores open here, the ones that are in operation offer some pretty good deals, particularly when it comes to apparel and shoes. In fact we found a structured peplum dress for only RM30 – a real bargain. 
Set just around the corner from KOMTAR, the complex is a mixed development project with residential apartments set on its upper floors and commercial stores on the lower levels. Determined to keep patrons entertained, the mall organises routine events such as Zumba dance classes at its outdoor open stage arena every first and third Saturday of the month. What’s more, there are also two pretty famous nightclubs in its basement levels – Soju Room and M2: food-wise, the mall has close to 20 restaurants and cafes. Whether it is coffee, books, or footloose fun you are searching for, it can all be found here.
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00 - Address: 77-4B-1, Penang Times Square, Jalan Dato' Keramat, George Town, Penang. -- Tel: +604 210 9020
Pulau Tikus Market
One of Georgetown’s best markets for tourists to soak up the exotic atmosphere of a true Asian street market, Pulau Tikus Market is set along Jalan Pasar Besar (off Jalan Burma) just 15 minutes walk away from KOMTAR. This night market has a collection of stalls selling cheap Chinese curios, plus it does a buzzing trade in fake handbags, watches, shoes and clothes as well as DVD and CD copies.
Hungry shoppers will be glad to know that street food sellers set tables along the avenue – we recommend chai tow kway (fried carrot cake), a savoury dish of cubed white radish, fried with egg, bean sprouts, spring onions, lup cheong (preserved Chinese sausage), and sweet, spicy black soy sauce. Opening Hours: 18:00 – 24:00 Thursday – Tuesday -- Location: Jalan Pasar, Off Jalan Burma
Ghee Hiang -- Locals will tell you that Georgetown is famous for its food, particularly its sumptuous hawker offerings, but it is also the go-to place for tau sar peah – mung bean pastry balls. A favourite Malaysian pastry, it is also called tambun biscuits and one of the best places to get them at when you are in Georgetown is Ghee Hiang.
Originally from Fujian, China, it has been in business in Georgetown since it set up operation in 1856. Set along Jalan Macalister, the store claims to produce more than 10,000 of these delicious, fluffy and sweet pastries during peak season and we are not doubtful of that claim. On our last visit there, we had to wait in line for more than 15 minutes to get a box of their traditional handmade biscuits. Besides the mung bean biscuits, they also sell coconut biscuits, almond cookies and sesame oil.
Address: 216 Jalan Macalister, Georgetown -- Tel: +604 227 2222

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