Penang, Malaysia is a colourful state, with its charming capital Georgetown awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Blending both Eastern and Western influences, a walk in the city will uncover many attractions that are a sight for sore eyes.
My last visit to Penang was in 2014, just in time for Georgetown Festival and in 2018 before the pandemic. But my, how things were so different then! Penang makes for a great weekend escape, so I've decided to pay a visit to the island again – especially since it's just a 1.5-hour flight from Singapore.
Whether you're having a meal at a Nyonya restaurant (or two), hiking up Penang hill to visit the temple or exploring the local museums, Penang has a lot to offer.
Day 1, Saturday
Rent a car and head on to Cecil Street Market, a food market where you can relish pasembur, curry laksa, chee cheong fun, mee java and prawn mee.
If you love buying souvenirs for friends or just plain shopping, pop by Suka-Suka Store (61, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Penang) for little knick-knacks and locally-made brands. You'll be able to find candles, skincare, home decor and even a fashion line designed by the founder herself.
Right next door is Hin Bus Depot, a former bus terminal that's now home to arts and creative business outlets. Check their Instagram page to find out when the weekend bazaars and exhibitions are scheduled.
By now, you must be feeling peckish, so I'd recommend a visit to China House (153, Beach St, Georgetown) for coffee and cakes. My favourites are the tiramisu and carrot cake.
If you're too tired to walk, see Penang from another angle, from the backseat of a trishaw, as the ride covers major attractions like Penang Town Hall, Kapitan Keling Mosque and more.
If you love cats, head over to Penang's Meowseum (47, Lebuh Melayu 10100 George Town, Penang) for all things cat-inspired or take your pick from other fun museums like the Penang 3D Trick Art Museum (10, Lebuh Penang, George Town, 10200), Wonderfood Museum (49, Lebuh Pantai Georgetown 10300 Penang), Straits & Oriental Museum (163C-3-1 St. Jo’s Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Drive Penang 10250 George Town) and Dark Mansion Museum (145, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town).
For dinner, Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine is a must-have: Mews Cafe (77, Muntri Street 10200 George Town, Penang), Blue Bellevine (27, Lebuh Noordin 10300 George Town, Penang) and Yeng Keng Cafe (362, Chulia St, Georgetown). If you love seafood, eat at Ka Bee Café (49, Pengkalan Weld, George Town) near the Chew Jetty, which is a delight to visit.
Don't want to sleep early? Head to Lovelane street and you'll find a stretch of bars with live music (check out Baa Baa Black Sheep).
Day 2, Sunday
My friends and I are adrenaline junkies and love nature, so if you can set your alarm early, head on to Penang Hill, where you'll be able to ride the funicular train and see Georgetown from the top. If you like to visit Penang or a slower pace, here's another option: hike across hills and orchards from Air Itam to Green Acres Orchard in Balik Pulau and marvel at the first historical dam built in 1958.
For lunch, drive to Deens Maju Nasi Kandar (170, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town) for an assortment of Indian-Muslim dishes in a medley of flavourful curries.
To walk off your food coma, take pictures at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (14, Lebuh Leith, George Town, 10200 George Town).
For a boost of caffeine, I'd recommend Temu Café (62, Lebuh Melayu 10100 George Town), for croffles and coffee. The entrance is beautifully captivating with its overgrown foliage that you couldn't resist a selfie with.
Craving for local food? Satiate your cravings for prawn mee at Green House Prawn Mee Corner (133A, Jalan Burma, George Town, 10050 George Town) or Bee Hooi Café (157, 159, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town, 10200 George Town) for an oyster omelette, bak kut teh and char kuey teow.
Recommended stays in Penang:
28 Lorong Carnarvon, 10100 George Town, Malaysia
Macallum Central Hotel by PHC
51 Lebuh Macallum, 10300 George Town, Malaysia
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
10, Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
55, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Malaysia