How to Spend 48 Hours in Penang, Malaysia

George Town, Penang | © LMspencer /
George Town, Penang | © LMspencer /
Photo of Michelle Leong
18 January 2018

48 hours isn’t enough to see Xanadu of the East, but if you absolutely have to catch that next plane, here’s what Penang can serve up on a time budget.

Day 1

Visit the Butterfly Farm

Entopia Butterfly Farm | © Michelle Leong

Also known as Entopia, this lively vivarium is where your fluttering should begin. Home to over 15,000 winged friends and at least 150 species of flora and fauna, the giant greenhouse shows you what the real Eden must have been like.

Opening hours: Every day 9:00 am – 5:30 pm

Admission fee: RM49 for locals ($12); RM65 for foreigners ($16)

Check out the Tropical Fruit Farm

It’d be bad manners to leave Penang without tasting the fruits of its rainforest. Located in the wilds (sort of) of Teluk Bahang, this farm takes you and your taste buds on a tour. Many of the fruits here aren’t even available at the local market (they’re either not popular enough for en masse consumption, or part of plant research).

If you take the tour package, you’re even entitled to a free buffet. Here’s where you go wild on soursops, green figs, durians, passionfruit, and mango-like non-mango (no, seriously).

Opening hours: Every day 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Admission fee: Varies according to tour package, but generally starts from RM40 ($10)

Get your Ananda fix

Special banana leave.. #briyani #chickpeas #vegeproteinmeal #anandabahwan 😁

A post shared by khaiwei (@thekhaiway) on

When you’re tired and hungry — and hopefully still undefeated by mosquitos — drop by the lush Ananda Bhawan in Tanjung Bungah for some heavy-duty Malaysian-Indian fare. The chicken Punjab is epic: thick, creamy and bright red. For the weight-watchers, there’s a plethora of vegetable options, too.

Opening hours: Every day 7:00 am – 12:00 am

Food prices: RM4 – 30 ($1 – 7.5)

14, Jalan Tanjong Bungah, 11200 Penang,+604-890 9771 (there are also other branches in town),

Stroll along the beach

Here’s a local secret: Right behind the Flamingo Hotel in Tanjung Bungah, there’s a stretch of unlit shore that is good for all sorts of things — midnight picnics with the posse, quiet meditation, even a frolic with your pet. This is where you can watch the east and west of Penang go to sleep, while stars in the night sky light up like sparkle in champagne.

Opening hours: Whenever you’re awake

Admission fee: None, just pick up your litter

Day 2

Follow the Street Art Trail

The party is going down in Armenian Street. This is where you find the Window Cat, the Boy on a Chair, the Boy on a Bike. The Tourism Board even has a brochure for you to hunt down George Town’s best murals.

Opening hours: Whenever your camera is ready

Admission fee: Your own bus/Uber/taxi fare

Get those Tambun biscuits

They may be called “biscuits,” but they’re really more like golden balls of flaky pastry. Drop by Him Heang, Ghee Hiang or Ban Heang for a free taste. The pandan and spicy shrimp fillings are the best, but durian and lotus bean are available, too.

Opening hours: Varies

Admission fee: None

Check out the Hin Pop-Up Market (if it’s a Sunday)

Hin Pop-Up Market | © Michelle Leong

Every Sunday, something special happens at the old Hin Bus Depot. Crafters, carvers, and calligraphers set up stall, so go along to check out Penang’s local talent. From hand-drawn postcards to engraved name stamps, crocheted puppets to handmade resin jewelry, this is where most visitors realize that Penang is more than just char koay teow and Ernest Zacharevic — it’s a flourishing community of everyday artists.

Take note: securing a parking spot here can be a nightmare, so make sure you either a) come early, before 11:00 am, b) take the bus/Uber/your feet, or c) live nearby.

Opening hours: Sunday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Admission fee: None

Visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (if it’s not a Sunday)

Actually, it doesn’t matter if is a Sunday, as long as you can catch it after the Pop-Up Market. This 19th-century home of a rich Chinese businessman is now a well-maintained heritage museum. See what courtyards were like in the 19th century, and find out how the rich used to pee. If your tour guide is in the mood, he or she might even tell you the story of Chung’s many wives.

Opening hours: Every day including public holidays, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Admission fee: RM20 ($5)

Splash out on Nyonya fare

Food at Perut Rumah | © Michelle Leong

End your trip with some memorable Nyonya cuisine. Assam Prawns, Kapitan Chicken and Otak-Otak (steamed fish mousse) at Perut Rumah (literally, “belly house”) are highly recommended. Be sure to try the red bean soup for dessert. This family-run eatery on Jalan Bawasah will be the reason you return to Penang.

Note: Book in advance for seating. It’s a popular place.

Opening hours: Every day 11:00 am – 3:00 pm; 6:00 – 10:00 pm

Food prices: RM5 – 70 ($1.2 – 18)

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