Penang Island, near the west coast of Malaysia, is the third stage of our full time travel – Malaysia chapter.
We liked it?? We’re not too sure…
Maybe we had high expectations.
Thinking of an island of Malaysia the first image in our mind was a huge white beach, a crystalline sea and lots of wild nature. So costume, Flip-flops and sunscreen were already ready.
Actually Penang is not this. The wow factor is definitely missing as far as beaches are concerned, but after reviewing our expectations, we have found good reasons for stopping a few days to explore it.
What to see in Penang: George Town
With the ferry from Butterworth in about 15 minutes you reach Penang Island (1.70 RM).
To greet us we find the city of George Town, the real centre of the island (sometimes called Penang). Despite traffic, the best way to visit it is on foot, or by CAT buses (free buses around the centre). As we learned in Malaysia, in every city, small or large, there are at least 3 DIFFERENT REALITIES. George town is not different. There is the colonial part with the white buildings, symbol of British colonialism, the chaotic and noisy little India, the colorful China town and the Malaysian track. So, walking in the historic center of George town you can run into a majestic mosque, and find a Chinese Buddhist temple or admire The Colorful Stupa of a Buddhist temple while in the background you see a white clock tower dedicated to Queen Victoria… I mean an interesting mix!
What to see in Penang: the temples
Surely a valid reason to visit Penang Island is the that it’s hom of the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia: Kek Lok Si Temple.
Located just a few kilometers from the center of George Town, it is reachable by bus 201/203 at the cost of 2 RM. The Temple is visible from far away, thanks to a 30-metre tall statue representing the goddess of prosperity. The bus leaves a few meters from the main entrance and from here begins the climb.
The temple is divided into 3 Levels: Chinese on the ground floor, Thai on the first floor and Burmese at the last. On the way up, there are some chinese temples with golden statues of the Buddha and many colored lanterns. Then it rises to the second level, that of the pagoda, to finally arrive at the feet of the Statue Yin Statue. To reach the top, you can follow the main road (before the entry to the first temple below) or take an elevator (3 RM FOR TEMPLE CONSERVATION).
It is worth getting all the way up here not only for the view of the city, but also to discover a garden with statues of the zodiac signs of Chinese horoscope and look closely at the highest statue. Since it’s about the goddess of prosperity, we’ve asked for something… just in case. ?? on the island there are other smaller temples such as the snake temple that hosts Vipers (only at night).
Kek Lok Si Temple[/caption]
What to see in Penang: National Park and Penang Hill (maybe!)(forse!)
For those who love walking in the nature but not so prepared to make adventurous trekking, Penang National Park is the right solution to spend a day while on the island. Located about 45 minutes by bus from George Town, you can reach it with bus 101 (4 RM).
Once at the entrance, there are several stands that propose boat rides because apparently many tourists prefer to walk and return sailing. The Park can be accessed by registering at the entrance.
Two are the main routes; one leads to Monkey Beach (when we went there was closed due to a landslide) and the other one – about 2 hours – to Turtle Beach. Obviously, excited by the beautiful name of the beach, we immediately started on this second path. It’s a continuous roller coaster in the middle of the jungle and its noises… you’re gonna sweat a lot but it’s really worth it.
At the end you’ll reach a small bridge overlooking a kind of lake at two levels (although we have had a bit of a hard time understanding even the first level) then Turtle Beach. A Wild white sand beach where you can’t bathe for the massive presence of jellyfish in water!
You also wonder why his name is turtle beach and not, for example, Jellyfish Beach??
The reason is the presence on the beach of a turtle safeguard centre. Turtles come in this area to lay eggs. In the centre there are 5/6 small tanks with some turtles.
Always for nature lovers, the famous Penang Hill from which you enjoy a beautiful view of the island is worth a visit. Unfortunately, during our visit, the funicular that leads to the top was closed for maintenance so we have no other info about it. In any case, we do not know whether it is really worth spending 30 rm for the climb.
What to see in Penang: the food
Before we arrived on Penang Island we had done a little research on one of the fundamental things for the success of a journey: Food! We had so discovered that the island is renowned for its Indian cuisine, but also for the Chinese one, not to mention Thai and Malay, but especially for original mix of various flavors. I mean the embarrassment of choice. There is a place in George Town where all the various kitchens can be found at the same time. It’s the Red Garden Food Paradise. I hope from 18 to 24, here next to Chinese dumplings, you can taste the typical Hokkien (Prawn) Mee of Penang, or enjoy meat or fish skewers. I mean there’s for all tastes and for all pockets (let’s not forget that our budget is always 10 euros a day!).
What to see in Penang: the sea and beaches
Penang beaches lack the wow effect that one would expect from an island of Malaysia.
The most famous and largest beach is Batu Ferringhi. A huge expanse of golden sand reaching from the center of George town with bus 101.
And so far, ok, you’ll say.
The problem of this beach, in addition to the skyscrapers in the background, is the amount of water bikes or colored parachutes… so, to take a bath you have to pay attention to traffic! Not really relaxing…