Penang Island or Pulau Pinang, often called the Pearl of the Orient, is located off the west coast of Malaysia. Penang Island is connected to the mainland by the Penang road bridge. Georgetown is the capital city of Penang. Penang has over 2 centuries of history and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7th July 2008. It was made the first British Staits Settlement in the late 18th century.
Penang has a real mixture of cultures from traditional Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Arab, Acehese from Sumatra in Indonesia, Siamese, Burmese and European. Some of the best food in all of Malaysia is found in Penang.
The historical city of George Town has a mixture of architecture that reflects the diversity of cultures. From colonial buildings built by the English to Indo-Malay Palladian Style, Neo Classical Style, Art Deco Style and Early Modern Style. Many of the historical buildings are still kept in excellent condition.
Penang Town Hall was built in the Victorian architecture style and completed in 1880 by Gov Sir Frederick Ward. The hall was used for various purposes including theatrical performances, church services and once housing the Penang State Library.
Penang City Hall was built with neo-Palladian architecture and completed in 1903. At the time of opening it seated the Municipal government and still houses the Municipal Council of Penang Island. Penang City Hall is located on Jalan Padang Kota Lama right next door to the Penang Town Hall.
Fort Cornwallis was built by Francis Light in 1786 and was named after the then Governor of India. It served as an administration centre rather than for defense, it later became the Sikh Police headquarters before becoming a tourist attraction.
Goddess of Mercy Temple was the first temple built in Penang by the Chinese settlers dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and second virgin Goddess of Mercy, Mar Chor Poh. It’s original name was Kong Hock Keong (Canton-Hokkien Temple). Goddess of Mercy Temple is located on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.
Penang Museum has on display the history of Penang and cultural information. Open from 9am to 5pm everyday except Friday.
Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower is located on Lebuh Light close to the Fort Cornwallis and ferry terminal. The 60 foot clock tower was built by Penang Millionaire Cheah Chen Eok in 1897 as a symbol of wealth. The construction was completed in 1902 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th year of reign.
Little India is found in the centre of Penang’s Georgetown. This colourful neighbourhood is full of exotic sites and smells with streets lined with fabric and clothing stores, spice shops and plenty and cheap and tasty eateries and restaurants. On Queen Street you’ll find the oldest Hindu Temple in Penang – Sri Mahamariamman Temple.
Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Sri Muthu Mariamman. It started as a humble Hindu shrine in 1801. The gateway or gopuram is sculptured with 38 Hindu deities.
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion located on Lebuh Gereja is one of the most ornate private homes in Penang. Once owned by Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee in the late 19th century. Now it is a museum with antiques of the Peranakan Baba Nyoyian community.
Yap Kongsi Temple located on Lebuh Armenian Georgetown Penang was completed in 1924 paid for by Penang tycoon Yeap Chor Ee. This temple houses the ancient tablets of the Yap clan.
Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang located at Cannon Square in Georgetown Penang represents the prosperity of the Khoo clan. Built between 1894 and 1906. Visiting hours are 9am to 5pm everyday. Entrance fee is RM10 for adults and RM5 for children.
Penang National Park
Penang National Park is located on the north western corner of Penang Island. This used to be called the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve though was declared a National Park in 2003.
It takes around 30 minutes to reach the Penang National Park from Georgetown. Within the park are 8 secluded beaches many are nesting grounds for sea turtles. These are some of the nicest beaches in Penang, some with coral reefs which are ok for snorkeling.
You are able to camp within the park at the designated camp site close to Meromictic lake close to Pantai Kerachut (beach).
Catching Taxi’s in Penang
Alot of Taxi drivers do not turn on their meter when you get into the Taxi then try to charge you a huge amount when you arrive at your destination. They then claim their meter is broken. Make sure they turn on the meter when you get into their taxi. One taxi driver explained to me that the meter prices are set by the taxi commission and are the same as in Kuala Lumpur. He told me that there are just not the number of passengers in Penang like in KL. He said locals do not use taxi’s so they rely on tourists to make their money. Usually you can bargain down the prices that they quote. If they quote RM15 you can get the trip for RM10. Usually this is about 30% more then the metered fair.