Penang, known as the jewel of the culture and tradition of Malaysia, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Asia. Not only does this island have beautiful sceneries, but it also brings the typical characteristics of local traditional culture. Penang has became magnificent since traders from China brought greentea, spices, fabrics there and made it a trade center. Nowadays, in the light of the new age, Penang is like a treasure chest hiding the ancient beauty, scattering them all over different places. If you do not have much time to stay in Penang, no worry, 48-72 hours with a detail and careful plan is all what you need. After all, “How to spend 2-3 days in Penang effectively?” – it’s time to answer this question!
– Day 1 –
Visiting the old houses
If you are wondering, “What do I need to do in Penang in 2-3 days?” Or, “Where should I start?”, the famous old houses in Penang: Peranakan Mansion and Blue Mansion will be an ideal answer.
These ancient houses used to be the home to the aristocratic Chinese families living on the Penang island many centuries ago. Nowadays, they are opened for visitors as the real tourist destinations. You will have the opportunity to witness the traditional lifestyle of ancient Chinese people through the items in the dining room, living room, bedroom…, and to listen to many interesting stories about the owners of these villas.
Blue Mansion was owned by a Chinese businessman a few centuries ago. He combined the traditional Chinese style of feng shui, the modern Western architecture together with the local uniqueness of Penang design into that great building skillfully. With its unique blue and fabulous bright color after years, this mansion is easy to find when you arrive in George Town.
With a fee of approximately 15RM, you will be guided by an English or Chinese attendant to this house. The inspirational voice of these expert guides made me feel eager and curious about these beautiful old houses.
Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Temple
Being a typical Thai temple, Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram is a Buddhist temple. You can easily find the same Buddha statue at Wat Pho (Bangkok, Thailand) there. This sculpture is recognized as the third largest Buddha statue in the world. Also, Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram temple features typical Thai Buddhist architecture with golden chedi, curved roofs, Naga statues and decorative mosaic details.
Kek Lok Si Temple
Although Malaysia is not a real Buddhist nation, there are still some unique religious sites. The most prominent one is Kek Lok Si located near Penang Hill. This temple is the largest Buddhist monastery in Southeast Asia. It was built in 1890. During the festive season, the temple is lit with more than 200,000 decorative lights. The opening hours is from 9 AM to 6 PM.
The beauty of Kek Lok Si is its size and architectural features. I was overwhelmed and very excited to visit the stupa of the temple, which saves the image of more than 1000 Buddhas with the unique combination of Chinese – Burmese and Malaysian architecture. Besides, there is the 30-meter-high bronze statue of Quan Yin and other Buddhist architectural details. Kek Lok Si is also Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple.
Penang Hill – the most famous tourist attraction in this popular island – is just about 3 km away from Lok Si Temple. This is also my most exciting destination in the whole trip in Penang. You have to buy a ticket to train to the mountain for 30RM (children’s fare is 15RM). At an altitude of over 800 meters above sea level, there are patches of tropical rainforest with diverse flora and fauna of wildlife in Penang Hill. The climate is around 21 degrees Celsius.
Penang Hill also has botanical gardens and cafes that allow you to sit and enjoy the magnificent view of Penang. More specifically, from the hilltop observation deck, you can enjoy panoramic views of Penang, from the mountains of Langkawi and northern Kedah to the rooftops of the city. The scenery is more beautiful at dawn and even much more magnificent at sunset when the city lights up.
Enjoy street food
Eating specialties at the place you visit is a must-do activity on your list. Penang is considered to be one of Asia’s most attractive culinary cities, and to me – this is a heaven of gastronomy. The restaurants are always lit up late with the scent that cannot be more attractive. The famous food markets you can visit are Gurney Drive, Presgrave Road, Lorong Baru Georgetown, Long Beach Food Court. Besides, if you want to enjoy Malaysian specialties in general, you can also choose Little India.
The delicious dishes of Penang in particular and Malaysia in general that you cannot miss are Curry Mee, Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Nasi Lemak, Penang Assam Laksa. These specialties have distinctive taste which is the mixture of Malaysian cuisine, Chinese cooking style, and Indian gastronomy.
– Day 2 –
The Camera Museum of Penang
If you are a pro camera user, then this museum will be your paradise. There are many types of camera: from the Leica to the Polaroid, from the reporter’s dedicated camera and mechanic to the newer representatives in the technology field. You can see both the history of photography and the camera shown in the galleries of the Camera Museum of Penang.
The Snake Temple
The Snake Temple is a temple designed by the Chinese. It is not only famous for its architecture or statues but also for the “residents” there. Coming to this temple, you will have to be extremely careful as this is a home to all kinds of reptiles. Legend has it that a monk had saved a snake’s life and brought him there. Afterwards, it has become the “nest” of the animal. They do not harm visitors generally. Historically, there has never been a record of visitors bitten; however, for safety reasons, you should not poke at any snake at the temple.
Nibong Island is one of the destinations not to be missed when you travel to Penang, especially if you are a nature lover. Joining the journey to explore this small island, you will be visitting the mangrove forest where thousands of fireflies gather. And it is this blinking light that creates a magical beauty that only exists there.
– Day 3 –
Morning and afternoon: Explore George Town
Situated in the Northeast of Penang, this ancient city with a blend of different cultures is considered as the heart of the island. With many works of art, religion, and history, George Town was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2008. This ancient city will certainly have many fascinating things to explore.
For young travelers and the lover of photography like me, this is probably a very inspirational destination. In the early 2000s, the city government invited mural artists to create works of art: paintings were created by artists on ancient walls. There are pictures of children on the swings, the big cats, a small chair, etc. those look so lively.
People often say that you will need a map to uncover the location of all these Penang wall paintings. It will not be hard to see the visitors holding a map or the phone following the pre-marked mural. You can spend time taking pictures with the murals; however, today, because of the high number of visitors, you will have to line up. Therefore, the best time is around 4 PM-5 PM when it is not so crowded.
Fort Cornwallis and the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower
Fort Cornwallis is the largest and oldest tourist spot in Malaysia, bearing the colonial mark. Since this work has never been heavily attacked, it is original in appearance from the office of former British servants, prison cells, stands, squares, cannons, and so on.
Travelers can easily come by bus. Right outside the fort is the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower and the city square, where hosts most of the community activities on the island.
Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple
Many visitors to Penang have placed this temple on the to-do list. Why?
Built in the early 19th century by the Burmese community, it is the oldest Buddhist temple in Penang. The roof and the giant Buddha statue are splendidly golden, attracting tourists on the holidays.
Bathe in Batu Ferringhi Sea
Batu Ferringhi Beach is located in the North of George Town. This place is famous for not only the natural landscape but also particularly nighttime activities. You can bathe, play sports, eat seafood, and watch the astonishing sunset. A small note is: in the summer, even when you come there later than the other times of the year, you still can admire the sunset. It is because the place is completely dark after 8 PM
Shop at Gurney Plaza – Gurney Drive
The last place to finish the 2-3 day journey will be Gurney Plaza – the busiest shopping area on the island. There are varieties of commercial centers and shops there. You can go shopping, buy souvenirs, and so on. Moreover, Gurney Plaza is located close to Gurney Drive – a gastronomic paradise of Penang. Shopping activities can be easily combined with dining or swimming. You will again have the opportunity to taste the street food in the bustling and tumultuous atmosphere.
Now have you already had the answer for yourself? It’s time to schedule and experience a great trip in this wonderful island. Get ready!