Situated off Peninsula Malaysia’s west coast and reachable by ferry or the modern seven kilometre (4 mile) bridge from the mainland, Penang (Pinang) was once the nerve centre of British South-east Asian colonial ambitions, and is a favourite destination for many modern visitors to Malaysia.


Georgetown, the island’s main centre of population has a strong Chinese character and is best viewed on foot, with a relaxed ramble through the charming melee of its streets. Chinese clan houses abound, of which the wonderfully ornate Khoo Kongsi is undoubtedly the finest. At the waterfront, Clan villages sit over the sea on stilts.

Other flavours colour the cultural mix of Penang such as Little India, The Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, the Burmese Temple, the Thai temple of Wat Chayamangkalaram, Penang Buddhist Association, and the Moorish Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque. The most visited of the British colonial buildings are Fort Cornwallis, the State Legislative Building, and St. George’s Church.

Chinatown is a delight for curio hunters whilst Jalan Penang (Penang Road) provides for a more regular shopping experience, culminating in the modern Komtar Tower. Penang Art Gallery and Penang Museum provide a useful insight into the local culture.


Just outside of Georgetown, the funicular railway will take you to the top of Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill) and its Canopy Walkway. On the northern hillside are the Waterfall Gardens, which provide for a pleasant walk through its botanical treasures.

Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple, Kek Lok Si and its towering pagoda is located on a hill to south of Bukit Bendera, and is a curious blend of Chinese, Thai and Burmese architectural devices.

Unsurprisingly, a popular escape from the heady atmosphere of Georgetown are the beaches of the North Coast, at Tanjung Bungha, Teluk Bahang, and Batu Ferringhi, the most developed, and one of South-east Asia’s most popular resorts.

Other sights of note on Penang include the Tropical Spice Garden, Penang Butterfly Farm, Pantai Aceh Forest Reserve, Penang Bird Park and the alluringly scary Snake Temple.