Adventures at dusk
Avoid the crowds visiting Kek Lok Si and Khoo Kongsi and visit the lesser known Hean Boo Thean Temple, which is dedicated to Kuan Yin – the Goddess of Mercy. This ‘floating temple’ located near the famous clan jetties of Weld Quay hovers above water. Erected in 1972, the temple was initially a simple shrine on stilts, but was fortified in 2012 to last against daily high tides. Visit at dusk when the temple’s twinkling lights are reflected in the North Channel.
52 Pengkalan Weld, George Town (011 1080 6362).
Penang is all about the food and with so many choices, going on a guided tour will not only be educational it’ll also introduce you to unique places and insider information. Simply Enak is a company run by ‘culinary explorers’ who are passionate about food and run their tours based on their core values of supporting local businesses, exploring the tradition and culture behind the food, and using all your senses to experience the inimitable cuisine of the island.
For more information, head to simplyenak.com.
KOMTAR, an iconic landmark in George Town, has recently undergone a face-lift with the instalment Window of The TOP. Located on the 68th floor of the building, the Rainbow Skywalk offers a majestic 360-degree view of Penang while the Observatory Deck on the 65th floor has a built-in glass walkway that gives you a bird's-eye view of the island.
The Top, KOMTAR, Jalan Penang, George Town (04 262 3800/thetop.com.my).
Penang Hill was Malaysia’s first colonial hill station and has one of the world’s oldest funicular railway systems. Take the 30-minute train ride up and have a walk around as the sun goes down and the temperature pleasantly drops. While enjoying the peaceful ambience at the summit, treat yourself to dinner at David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terrace and enjoy the panoramic views of the island.
Bukit Bendera (04 828 8880/penanghill.gov.my).
One of Penang’s most famous tourist spots, Kek Lok Si Temple is quite a sight at night. Also known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss, the temple often impresses with its serenity and ornate architecture. The ambience is particularly lively during Chinese New Year when thousands of lanterns are lit to signify the beginning of the Lunar New Year.
Ayer Itam (kekloksitemple.com).
This kerbside bar (attached to a liquor shop) has become a bit of an institution and is the cheapest place in George Town for drinks. An eclectic friendly crowd of locals, old-timers, travellers and passers-by all seem to end up sitting by the side of the road on plastic chairs chatting over beers or whatever takes their fancy – a good place to meet new people and watch the world go by.
Lorong Stewart, George Town.
A local haunt through and through, Good Friends Club slowly comes to live after sunset, its neon pink lights casting an atmospheric glow on Gurdwara Street. Sip on localised cocktails such as the ‘Lao Hao Peng’ and ‘Pat Poh Peng’, respectively made with nutmeg tincture and local herbal tea, and rub shoulders with a young hip crowd. Cheesy sausage fries are the cure when the munchies hit.
39 Jalan Gurdwara, George Town (instagram.com/goodfriendsclubpenang).
For an authentic local drink, head to Market Lane and look for the Kedai Tuak. Tuak is a traditional homemade palm wine produced using palm sap, yeast and sugar. Also known as toddy, tuak is made using a process of fermentation and has a slightly milky consistency and a sweet aftertaste. For just RM2 a glass, it’s worth a try but be warned that after a few, you may find yourself walking unsteadily.
At the intersection of Lorong Pasar and Lorong Muda, George Town.
The only beachside café in the Unesco World Heritage Site of George Town, Beach Blanket Babylon is surprisingly underrated and under the radar. Kick back and enjoy the sea breeze at this alfresco restaurant and bar, which boasts a wide list of cocktails and an extensive menu offering international cuisine.
32 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, George Town (04 263 8101/fb.com/Beach.Blanket.Babylon.Penang).
From Chinese opera to family-friendly theatre and art exhibitions to movie screenings, PenangPAC’s vibrant line-up helps keep the local arts scene robust. The centre also houses The Actors Studio Academy, which is dedicated to nurturing new talent in the performing arts. Check the website for current productions.
3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong (04 8991 722/penangpac.org).
Dinner and supper spots
It’s not all about the hawker food in Penang, and this café and yoga studio has become a haven for vegetarians, vegans and health enthusiasts. The ingredients used are plant-based whole foods so expect delicious quinoa-chickpea burgers, rich smoothies and vegan versions of shepherd’s pie, pizzas, creamy desserts and raw treats. Head upstairs to the yoga studio for a candlelit meditation session. 61 Jalan Gurdwara, George Town (04 218 9006/fb.com/wholeywonder).
This lane is synonymous with Hokkien prawn mee – an archetypal hawker dish made with a rich broth of pork and prawns, topped with fried shallots, sliced pork and small prawns. What makes this stall unique is the option of add-ons like siu yuk (crispy pork belly), pork ribs, knuckle or intestines. The stall also serves lor mee, another pork-based noodle dish in a five-spice flavoured starchy soup. Mix the two soups together for a tasty variant of the normal Hokkien mee.
67-A Lebuh Presgrave, George Town.
No foodie trip to Penang is complete without a meal of nasi kandar. At Nasi Kandar Beratur, be prepared to beratur (queue up) for your food. Dine like the locals and top your white rice with a variety of flavourful curries and side dishes including crispy fried chicken, vegetables and papadum. This is a real supper joint as they only open at 10pm serving through to the morning.
98 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town (04 261 3984).
Durian may be an acquired taste but there’s no denying that this creamy, ‘fragrant’ fruit has become an integral part of Penang’s food culture. The season usually starts at the end of May and can stretch into September, and during this time you’ll see certain street corners being taken over by small trucks offering popular varieties of durians. Alternatively, take a day trip and head to a durian orchard (Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Balik Pulau is a popular choice), or check out an all-you-can-eat buffet at Tng Siang Hock Trading in George Town, which offers an extensive spread and also sells frozen durian for those out-of-season cravings.
In Penang, there’s a night market almost every day of the week and the Farlim Night Market on Wednesdays is a local favourite with a staggering amount of food stalls to be sampled. Penangites throng by the hundreds for cheap street food like char kuey kak, lok lok (hot pot dining), deep-fried popiah and assam laksa. There’re also stalls selling accessories, cheap clothes and knick-knacks.
Medan Angsana, Bandar Baru Air Itam, Air Itam.