With a long and illustrious history under its belt, Penang’s capital city is earned the title of Malaysia’s favorite and colourful city. Named after King George III, walking down the streets of Georgetown is like walking through paths of history due to the presence of unique wall paintings and ancient buildings.
As acknowledgment of its well-preserved cultural and historical heritage, the city was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July, 7th 2008.
Day 1: From Vietnam to Penang
If it offers all inclusive cheap flight deals of 80$, you can book a roundtrip ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to the destination you’ve been dreaming of, Penang (this price includes insurance and baggage) in less than 2 hours. This route is currently operating four times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Noticeably, passengers have to transit in Kuala Lumpur.
Attending at Penang Airport in the afternoon, you move down the 1st floor from the 2nd floor, in which the Malaysian called ground floor to take the maps then walk to the gate. You can get to the amazing George Town by bus costing 2.7 RM (less than 1$) or taxi for 48 RM (16$). If you travel by bus, you should prepare change at home to pay for the bus fare in Penang.
It’s such been a great idea to stay in hotels or guesthouses right in the George Town so that you can easily and comfortably explore every corner of the ancient town as well as walk down the street food market. To save money, you might choose double layer beds priced at about 7$ - 10$ per night.
The hotels and guesthouses priced at 7$/ room/night offer convenient facilities and breakfast. As this is a World Heritage Site, you have to pay more 3 RM and 2 RM per night when staying at 4-star hotels and 3-star hotels respectively.
After finishing check in process, you might explore street food markets namely Kimberley Street, Lorong Selamat, Macalister Road ... to experience tasteful dishes because Penang is named "Kingdom of cuisine". Don’t forget to taste the Nyonya food (the mix of Chinese and Malaysian cooking recipes) which is considered as the « prominent » characteristic of Penang. Additionally, Char Kway Teow (a type of flat noodles fried dried with shrimps and bean sprouts) and Assam laksa ( a type of noodles served with coconut milk, curry, and seafood) are definitely worth trying.
Day 2: Enjoying 3D paintings and ancient houses on George Town
After having a full stomach in the morning, you should take your time to saunter along the streets of the stunning George Town to discover the most famous wall paintings in East Asia. Bear in mind, you should get there early because of the hot weather.
Street paintings are of two types, namely 3D paintings aiming to deceveing our vision and steel bending paintings representing the traditional culture of local people. Moreover, you are definitely overwhelmed by weird and artistic paintings which are not illustrated on the map you are bringing with.
Strolling along the corner of the streets, rows of ancient houses with unique windows in which travellers stay away from the bustle and hustle of the city life, you might probably think of the charming ancient Hoi An. Occasionally, you see flocks of birds swooping down the street and flocks of crows perching on the trees, rooftops or streets.
Having been a British colonial bastion and strictly controlled, Penang is currently preserving valuable architecture. To taking the « one-of-all-kind » pictures of your journey, you should visit the ancient house named Pinang Peranakan Mansion (29 Church Street), a typical Peranakan house of the Peranakan (generation of people who were half Chinese and Malaysian). This house was served as Hai Kee Chan restaurant which features Chinese architecture with four rows of self-contained house forming a square.
The next destination in the evening is Clan Jetties bridge running along Weld Quay port. It is a unique picture of the beautiful George Town beach city. Get there, you should treat yourself a glass of smoothie at the wooden coffee house near the sea and hold a panoramic view of merchant ships and fishing boats off the shore.
When the sun goes down, Penang becomes bustling. Noticeably, shopping centers open until 10 p.m, so you can freely see, choose and buy souvenirs for friends and family.
Day 3: Exploring the multi-cultural features of famous pagodas and temples
Due to its importance in the past as a trading port, particularly with India, China, and Thailand, Penang is a melting pot of cultures and religions from right across Southeast Asia. It is the reason why you should spend the third day of your journey visiting famous ancient temples of Penang.
From George Town, you take a visit to the sacred "Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling", which has four ancient worshipping places in Southeast Asia, including St George's Church, Bodhisattva Kwan – yin Temple, India's Sri Mah Mariamman Temple, and the Kapitan Keling Mosque.
Then, you walk along Lorong Burma Street to explore the sacred Dhammikarama Burmese Temple. Being built in the early 19th century by the Burmese community, this worshipping place is the oldest Buddhist temple in Penang. It features the gilding roof and giant Buddha statue which fascinates visitors and pilgrims right they enter the temple.
The other « worthy-visiting » Buddhist Temple that you should set foot in is Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Temple which features the third largest reclining Buddha statue in the world of 33 meters. Built in 1845, the temple is considered as the « heart » of Penang’s Buddhism. Although its name is quite long and hard to remember, most visitors are interested in the « special » name that the local residents named this status, « Sleep » Buddha.
From the entrance gate, you see two impressive statues of Naga Snake, winding to the front of the main hall with the meaning of connecting the earth to heaven. Standing next to them are two « guardian » deities featuring a « fierce » look of the typical Thai architecture.
When worshiping in these sacred temples, pilgrims have to put off their footwear neatly in front of the yard before entering the main hall. After sauntering around the pagoda, both locals and visitors often offer glass candles to the Buddha to pray for peace and luck.
In the afternoon, you take a bus to get to Kek Lok Si Temple (Cuc Lac Pagoda, address 1000L Tingkat Lembah Ria 1, 11500 Aher Itam, opens from 7 a.m to 21 p.m. This temple is entitled the largest temple in Penang, and the largest Buddhist work in Southeast Asia, playing an essential part in the religious life of the Chinese community in Malaysia.
From the bus station, you walk 15 minutes reach the pagoda located on the top of the mountain and facing the sea. This temple features 10,000 delicately sculptured statues, 7- floor tower and vivid flower garden all year round. It is interesting that the pagoda offers colorful ribbons priced at 1 RM so that visitors could write down their blessing for themselves and their families.
The most famous tourist attraction on the island must be Penang Hill, 3 km from Kek Lok Si Temple. At the height of 800 meters above sea level, you can enjoy panorama of the charming Penang at sunset and nightlife from the observatory at the hilltop. Additionally, you might visit botanical garden, old train station, The Guard House, love bridge, etc.
If you want to experience the « horror » once in your journey, you might go to Snake Temple which located in Bayan Lapas, 2 km from Penang Airport. Both locals and tourists flock to this « one-of-all-kind temple to see the poisonous snakes squeezing on the trees, in the vases, altars, etc.
You must be « trembling » with fear colorful snakes squeezing close by. If you are « extraordinarily » courageous, you might take pictures with snakes by paying entrance fee for the guide. The temple freely opens from 6 a.m to 7 p.m for visitors.