Peranakan food, Malaysia’s famous chendol stall, and plenty of street art and murals? We’ve packed our bags for a visit to Penang!
A short break away from the hustle and bustle of the city is always up on our list of things to do. Though nothing beats solo trips overseas or hitting the beach for a day, going on a road trip across the causeway to neighbouring Malaysia is just as peachy.
For culture vultures, the island of Penang is ace for starters. Listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008, Penang has captured hearts with its impressive cultural sights and gorgeous natural scenery. Aside from the soft, sandy beaches and delicious local food all around, the city is also known for its vibrant street art. The quaint nooks and crannies of Georgetown and the Tropical Spice Garden – the only spice garden in South East Asia – as well as Penang’s many flea markets and night markets, are must-see for visitors, and we’ve got lowdown on the best spots to hit for an authentic Penang experience…
EAT & DRINK
For the gastronomes, wine and dine like a local at Bistro Tang. Its menu includes a wide selection of Eastern and Western delicacies, as well as old-school snacks and local icy beverages for a refresher after braving the heat in the heart of George Town’s old quarters. Check out its Macam-Macam souvenir shop filled with quirky memorabilia while you’re at it!
Bistro Tang, 82-A Lebuh Penang (Penang Street), 10200 Georgetown
Mum’s Nyonya Cuisine
The Peranakan culture is alive and well in Penang, and there’s no better way to experience it than eating your way through this cosy resto, previously known as Mama’s Nyonya Cuisine. Save your appetites for Peranakan dishes such as jiu hu char, loh bak, curry Kapitan, Inchi Kabin, and the well-loved otak-otak. If it’s good enough for famous clientele like Hollywood director Ang Lee and luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo, it’s definitely good enough for us mere mortals.
Mum’s Nyonya Cuisine, 31-D Lorong Abu Siti, 10400 Penang
Toon Leong Coffee
If your cuppa tea is homemade beverages, Toon Leong Coffee is the place to go. With its minimal, colonial decor decked with vintage furniture and gorgeous marble tiles, a cup of homemade coffee and traditional breakfast (aka toast and half-boiled eggs) at this Chinese coffee shop goes a long way.
Toon Leong Coffee, 84 Jalan Transfer, 10050 Georgetown
Macalister Mansion: Living Room and The Den
Tucked within the swanky yet whimsical confines of the historic Macalister Mansion, Living Room serves playful Asian-Western fusion dishes — think baked barramundi with banana leaf and Kam Heong linguini Aglio e Olio. It also serves a wide selection of TWG teas. On the other hand, if you’re looking to unwind with a glass of the finest whisky from Scotland to Japan and cigar in hand, look no further than The Den.
Macalister Mansion, 228 Macalister Road, 10400 George Town
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul
Nothing like cooling down on a hot summer’s day like a local. Hit up the popular Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul for a taste of the sweet local dessert (you won’t be able to miss it with its long queue). A colourful bowl of shaved ice topped with chendol, kidney bean, coconut milk and Gula Melaka will costs you less than RM3.
Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul, 27 & 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee, 10100 Georgetown
New Lane Hawker Centre
The quickest way to get acquainted with all of Penang’s local delicacies is, head over to New Lane Hawker Centre at Lorong Baru and Northam Beach Cafe. Must-trys include spicy assam laksa, grilled stingray, char kuey teow and ice-kacang.
New Lane Hawker Centre, Lorong Baru, 10450 Georgetown
Get a taste of Penang’s bustling trade scene and test your bargaining skills by visiting its many markets. For unique souvenirs, trendy fashion pieces, bold accessories, beautiful artworks by local artists, street snacks and more at a steal, look no further than markets like Chowrasta Bazaar (Jalan Chowrasta), Macallum Street Night Market (Lintang Macallum 1, Pengkalan Weld), and Batu Ferringhi Night Market (Jalan Batu Ferringhi), amongst others.
For all things high street, check out mega-malls like Queensbay Mall (100, Persiaran Bayan Indah), 1st Avenue (182 Jalan Magazine), Gurney Paragon Mall (163-D Persiaran Gurney), and the stunning seaside Straits Quay (Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang). Be warned — one trip might just blow a hole in your pocket!
Dress like a local
For a one-of-a-kind Nyonya kebaya outfit, Kim Fashion is the best place to have your dress made by Penang’s best artisan seamstress.
Kim Fashion, 170-04-77 Gurney Plaza, 10250 Penang
THINGS TO DO
Calling all culture vultures! Visiting Penang between August and September? Look out for the Georgetown Festival — one of Malaysia’s most popular art fest where you’ll be able to feast your eyes on all things culture, heritage, art and community. The annual festival showcases world-class performances, installations and collabs from both international and local artists.
Georgetown Festival, 4 Aug-2 Sep 2018, at various locations
Alternatively, bring your camera along for all the Instagram opportunities dotted around the city. Look out for the giant mural of an old Indian woman by Julia Volchkova at Lumut Lane, Georgetown.
We also can’t help obsessing over Thai artist Natthapon Muangkliang and his collaboration with Malaysian artists Louise Low and Tang Yeok Khang for their 101 Lost Kittens project aimed at creating awareness towards stray animals. Cat murals like ‘I Can Help Catch Rats’, ‘Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat’ and ‘Skippy The Giant Cat’ can be found in Lebuh Armenian in Penang.
If you’re more of a tile person, Penang’s a treasure trove of Peranakan-style tiles. Simply go on a walking tour around Georgetown, and you’ll no doubt find these beauties inside hipster cafes or along the streets as our photographer Hazirah did!
Learn about Penang’s history
Discover the island’s rich history by visiting the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (29 Church Street) that’s home to over 1000 antiques and artefacts, as well as signing up for the Heritage Trail for a three-hour guided tour around the city.
Top your weekend trip with a stay at the gorgeous industrial-style guest house of Sekeping Retreats at Lebuh Victoria in Penang. It has a converted warehouse-feel, with intentionally sparse rooms, raw concrete flooring, exposed brick walls and pipes, and bed frames and chairs made from wires for a unique stay.
Sekeping Retreats, 164A-B Lebuh Victoria, 10300 Pulau Pinang
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Opulent, dignified and downright beautiful, a night (or two) at the super-luxe Eastern & Oriental will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to colonial Malaya. The location is fab too — you can simply take a walk to Fort Cornwallis, the City Hall and the Penang State Museum for a taste of heritage.
Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 10 Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 Penang
Cleverly fusing contemporary and Peranakan architecture, Seven Terraces is an oasis right in the heart of Georgetown. These Anglo-Chinese terraces will have you living it up like royalty with the interiors mirroring the romance and splendour of the Peranakan-Chinese era.
Seven Terraces, 14A Stewart Lane, 10200 Georgetown
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