The Malaysian state of Penang is located on the northwest coast. The capital, Georgetown, is a hive of activity, with restaurants, shops and more. A UNESCO heritage site, it is a must-visit with a mixture of architecture including preserved heritage buildings dating back to colonial times. Here’s what to see when you’re exploring Penang.
Penang, once known as Pulau Pinang, “Isle of the Betel Nut,” is home to 1.8 million residents. Penang was formed as part of the Straits Settlements in 1826 and became a British crown colony in 1867. Gaining independence in 1957, it is now one of Malaysia’s most vital economic powerhouses.
Exploring Penang couldn’t be easier. You can take a hired taxi or the free Central Area Transit (CAT) bus. Hop on and off at 19 stops throughout Georgetown, including Fort Cornwalls, the largest standing fort in Malaysia. The bus runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 6am until midnight.
If you arrive for the day via cruise ship like we did, you could also take a pre-arranged shore excursion. We opted to explore via a hired taxi. We haggled and managed a fixed fee of 140 Malaysian Ringgit for a 3.5-hour tour of all three sites mentioned below.
Top Tip: It can be a little over whelming when you exit the cruise ship terminal. There are many taxi drivers awaiting to assist you. Feel free to ask for prices and then walk away if you need to think about it. The taxis are not metered, so best to agree on a fixed rate before exploring Penang.
There are a few ways to reach Penang. You can travel by car from the mainland, fly from a number of airports or visit via cruise ship. We sailed onboard Voyager of the Seas with Royal Caribbean International. If you haven’t taken a cruise yet, what are you waiting for? There is a cruise holiday to suit everyone!
Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
A must-visit is Entopia, one of Malaysia’s largest butterfly farms. Enjoy displays including reptiles and insects while witnessing the beautiful butterflies in a magical dome. Learn about the different stages of butterflies, walk inside the stick insect house and much more! Don’t miss the learning stage, where you could be chosen to release a butterfly or see a caterpillar up-close. Great for the whole family!
Kek Lok Si Temple
The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si is located near Penang Hill. Built in 1891, the complex is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and more. The taxi drove us to the top so we could explore the views, temples, pond before taking the cable car to the next level.
It is a large area with many parts to it. The small courtyards are kept clean with colourful floral displays. There is a small charge for both the cable car and to visit inside the main temple. We then took the winding staircase to the bottom car park to re-join the taxi.
Penang Batik Factory
Malaysian batik is a textile art, with the most popular motifs being leaves and flowers. The process is very labour-intensive with many different stages from hand drawing through painting and dying. It is fascinating to see the skilled process take place and how effortless the artists make it look.
The Penang Batik Factory is one of the oldest on the island, dating back to 1973. Discover the incredible art and walk through the showroom. Afterwards, you can purchase a handmade gift from the factory shop.
We were in luck. It was a tropical-themed night on the ship, and the shirts were just perfect!
I hope you have enjoyed reading and are inspired to visit beautiful Penang. As always, I would love to hear from you. Please leave any questions/comments below. Until next time…Happy Travels 🙂 x