When you’re in this part of Malaysia, it’s time to get your feet wet and your taste buds pepped. Here are the best things to see and do in the popular town of Penang.
Visit the Penang Botanical Gardens
If early mornings are your thing, you’ll find this public park a treat. Spanning 71 acres, the former garden is a repository of exotic plant species and spices. Several hundred people visit this park every day to walk, jog, run, practice Tai Chi, or just stretch their legs.
Take note: Monkeys abound. They think it’s fun to steal your food.
673A, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10350 George Town, +604 226 4401
Escape from Humdrum
Traveling to Penang in a group? If you like monkey bars and captain crawls, check out Escape for the next level-up. Between Aerobats, Airbags and Atan’s Leap, this nature-based adventure park is bound to get your adrenaline pumping. Bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes for the water rides.
828, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Teluk Bahang, Penang, +604 881 1106
Hike (or ride) up Penang Hill
The peak of Penang Hill stands 2,732 ft. (833 meters) above ground — which is where you’ll want to be for a breathtaking view of this charming island city. Outdoor buffs will love the long hike from the Penang Botanic Gardens, while less adventurous types can take the new, super-steep funicular train from Air Itam.
Once at the top, you can stay at the Penang Hill Resort, order overpriced meals, buy a souvenir, and change your Facebook cover photo to something resembling this stunner:
Jalan Stesen, Bukit Bendera, 11500 Air Itam, +604 828 8880
Walk (or bike) around town
George Town is as old as Penang itself, and if you walk it, you’ll understand why it’s still the heart of the city. Street art is on every block, and you can eat ice balls (drenched in pink syrup) on the corner of Armenian Street while purchasing a wooden back scratcher.
For those who prefer wheels, you can rent a quadricycle at Skippy Bike Rental, or hire someone else to do the cycling for you.
Skippy Bike Rental: Gat Lebuh Armenian, 10300 George Town, Penang
Say hello to God
Malaysia is known for its ethnic and religious diversity, and no street better reflects this than Jalan Buckingham. This is where you’ll find a busy, chaotic Buddhist temple next to a stately, well-financed mosque, which is next to the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia. You pray where you will, and then eat nasi kandar together at Kapitan.
Kapitan Keling Mosque: 14, Jalan Buckingham, 10450 George Town, Penang, +604 261 4215
Eat, eat, eat some more
Let’s be honest: people visit Penang for the food. Char koay teow? We have the best. Laksa? We have the tangy, exciting one. Nasi lemak? Our santan comes from our own coconuts.
Tour buses will take you straight to the Gurney Drive Food Court, but it’s only because it’s close to Gurney Plaza and Paragon (where they want you to spend your money). For cheaper, better food, try the Viva Food Haven (next to the Chinese Swimming Club) or the Good Day Food Court (next to Island Plaza), both 10-15 minutes from Gurney Drive.
Viva Food Haven: Jalan Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang, +604 890 2549
Take a selfie at a museum
Downtown Penang has birthed a new wave of “interactive” museums that allow glimpses (and selfies) into Penang’s past. The best of these is the Made in Penang 3D Museum, where you get to strike poses with the Chief Minister and be the rickshaw puller for your friend.
For extra novelty, you might prefer the Upside-Down Museum on Kimberley Street; or if you’re into optical illusions, the Trick Art Museum might suit you better.
Made in Penang Interactive 3D Museum: 3, Pengkalan Weld, 10300 George Town, Penang, +604 262 6119
Wind down at China House
Cake, coffee and liquor are aplenty at this trendy café-bar on Beach Street. A traditional heritage compound linking three old shophouses and an open courtyard, this long space is now a treasury of art, music, board games and books. You can even draw on the tables with crayons, and have your work posted up for all to see (admire). Visit on weekends for a diverse mix of contemporary pop and punk bands. Oh, and try the cheesecake — it’s rich, creamy, and slightly orgasmic.
183, Lebuh Victoria, 10300 George Town, Penang, +604 263 7299