On day 9, we took a Grab to Kuah Jetty to take the morning ferry service to Penang island (George Town Port). Although we could have flown, we decided to get the ferry to be a bit more environmentally friendly and to mix up our mode of travel. A one-way ticket costs 60 RM which is only about £13. Duration is approximately 3hours (which is what we did it in) but can take up to 5 hours depending on the weather. I am pretty prone to travel sickness (even in cars) so was really worried about travelling by boat, but I found the ferry to be fine! Some reviews say it can be pretty horrible though!
We stayed in George Town which is the capital city and is actually an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main ethnicity in Penang is predominately Chinese and modern Penang is shaped by British colonialism. There are vibrantly painted colonial buildings, hawker stalls galore, amazing street art as well as modern skyscrapers. It’s a really special place. Like Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown also has a ‘Little India.’
We stayed in a tiny yet modern and minimalist Airbnb apartment. The views were fantastic! Despite being high up, sound really seemed to travel, and I must admit it did keep us up at night. None the less, the apartment was lovely and it was in a great location. It also had an outdoor pool.
We mainly walked but did use Grab a couple of times
Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia. And we certainly understood why! The food in Georgetown was so incredible and was a real highlight of our trip.. the all-vegan Chinese-Malaysian buffets were phenomenal. You can read in more detail about the food we ate in my Vegan in Penang post.
There are many bakeries selling various ‘Penang biscuits,’ we found some ‘accidentally’ vegan ones from Hock Lok Siew Biscuit Trading (a lot of the baked goods had ingredients printed in English).
What to Do
Batik Painting Museum-A three-story museum/gallery showing beautiful Batik (a technique of wax-resist dye applied to cloth) paintings
Wonderfood– An imaginative museum showcasing large scale models of Malaysian and world foods. Being a big foodie, I thoroughly enjoyed this place and would totally recommend it for those who love cooking or eating foods from different cultures!
The House of Yeap Chor Ee– A social history museum showcasing the lives of Chinese immigrants to Penang with a focus on Yeap Chor Ee who went from a barber to a businessman and philanthropist. We found this really interesting.
Penang Peranakan Mansion- A museum dedicated to Penang’s Peranakan heritage (we didn’t get to go inside though)
Thean Hou Temple– A Taoist temple dedicated to Mazu who is believed to be the protector of seafarer.
Yap Kongsi Temple– A small but beautifully decorated Taoist temple
Kek Lok Si– The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia situated on a hill. It is also an important pilgrimage centre. We couldn’t believe the size of the temple and grounds, it was really outstanding and utterly beautiful, particularly, with the chants of the monks in the background. The complex is made of three main sections, with various temple houses, gardens, ponds, pagodas (including the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas) and the four heavenly kings pavilion and the monastery. The hilltop hosts a 36.5 metre bronze statue of Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin). You can reach her by foot or by a super quick tram ride. The colours, the atmosphere and the temple rooms were really beautiful. We spent a good few hours here. It’s out of the city centre, so worth getting a Grab (for a couple of pounds). A must visit if you go to Penang! There is an on-site vegetarian restaurant as well.
Dharmmikarama Burmese Temple- The only Burmese temple outside of Myanmar and well worth the visit (it’s on the suburbs of Georgetown). The grounds and temples were stunning. There are many statues around the grounds with various sections. The colours and decorations were stunning.
Wat Chaiyamanglaran Temple– The oldest Malaysian Siamese temple in the state and is directly opposite the Burmese Temple. The grounds host several shrines, with the main shrine displaying a 33 meter long Reclining Buddha.
Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple- A Taoist temple situated on the waterfront of Yeoh Jetty. It is also known as the ‘floating temple.’
Clan Jetties of Penang– One of seven jetties and one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island. The jetty is a waterfront society of stilted houses and home to various Chinese clans. Despite the abundance of tourists, food stalls and shops, residents still live here.
The Blue Mansion– A government heritage museum (we didn’t go inside though)
Padang Kota Lama & Fort Cornwallis– A waterfront promenade and bastion fort, built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century.
Penang Town Hall
Penang Hill– Penang Hill is a hill ‘resort’ (reached by a short tram ride from the base) with a number of attractions at the top. Attractions include various nature walk trails, a Hindu temple, a mosque, restaurants, museums, attractions for children and viewing decks. We both LOVED the trail routes. There were amazing views of Georgetown city and the nature & wildlife was stunning. We saw my favourite Dusky Leaf Monkeys again! and we highly recommend spending at least half a day here (and using insect/mosquito repellent).
Street Art– It’s hard to miss street art whilst walking around George Town. There are some incredibly artistic, cool and imaginative pieces. You can use the linked map to do the full tour.
Little India- An ethnic Indian enclave
Shop Howard– There are lots of touristy gift shops in Penang, but if you’re looking for something more unique and hand made, I recommend visiting this arts & crafts studio shop.
Penang Heritage Trail– There used to be seven jetties until one was demolished by fire and now six remain. Billed as one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island, this waterfront society is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans.
Highlights- Kek Lok Si, Dharmmikarama Burmese Temple, Wat Chaiyamanglaran Temple, Street Art, Penang Hill & Wonderfood.
From Penang, we flew back to Kuala Lumpur using Air Asia again. We stayed in another apartment next to one of the central train stations so that we could easily make our way back to the airport the following morning. We had one last (delicious) meal in Little India before going to bed.
From the temples to the most friendly people, to the AMAZING food, the sights and sounds, this trip to Malaysia was really so so special and I am so pleased we got to visit. As I am half Asian (with Malaysian roots on my Grandmother’s side), this trip felt close to my heart. Thank you for having us Malaysia and being so kind to us.