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Explore one of the most fascinating and friendly countries in Asia on holidays in Penang. This island and state in Malaysia features skyscrapers at the foot of mountains, with small fishing villages in the shadows of sprawling temple complexes.
In short, it’s an intoxicating and exciting destination with plenty to see and do...
Penang is a state in Malaysia. The name Penang also refers to the island that’s connected to the mainland by the impressive Penang Bridge. Most holidaymakers bypass the attractions of the mainland for the chance to explore this island.
It’s well worth the detour and Penang holidays can be filled with sightseeing, lazing on the beach, marvelling at soaring temples, sampling street food, sharing the beach with inquisitive monkeys and shopping for gifts in Chinatown.
The Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, is just three and a half hours to the south and the holiday island of Langkawi is only a couple of hours north. This makes Penang an excellent choice for a twin-centre holiday in Malaysia.
Known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, Penang island offers a condensed slice of mainland Malaysia, with excellent transportation links and accommodation to suit all, from luxurious high-end hotels to budget hostels.
Cross the Strait of Malacca from the mainland and be greeted with skyscrapers and temples that reach for the skies, plus traditional villages and excellent beaches where the pace of life is much slower.
To see the island in its full splendour, make your way up Penang Hill, or Bukit Bendera. You can do it the hard way, on foot, or take the easy option and hop aboard the Penang Hill Railway to earn sweeping views of the island. If you look hard enough, you'll see grand whitewashed colonial mansions, houses influenced by the Chinese residents, tropical forests, Buddhist temples such as Kek Lok Si and the sprawling capital of George Town.
Travel back down the hill to George Town to be entranced by a bustling and friendly city, where the sights, sounds and smells will form remarkable memories. Stroll along the Esplanade to see many of the attractions. Must-sees in George Town include Penang Botanic Gardens, which features a lovely waterfall, plus Penang State Museum and Art Gallery. Other attractions on the island worth a visit include the star-shaped Fort Cornwallis.
The island of Penang is a popular destination for families, groups and couples looking for a bit of beach life alongside sightseeing during their holiday. Penang boasts some incredible beaches that feature pale sands and turquoise waters.
Hire a car to the north of the island to find the best beaches. Batu Ferringhi is a popular choice as it’s also home to a very good night market. Monkey Beach attracts many visitors, too. Macaques that eat crabs will splash about in the surf with you here. Monkey Beach is located within Penang National Park, which also features the beaches of Teluk Kampi and Teluk Bahang. Also in the north is the beach resort of Tanjung Bungah.
If Penang starts to feel too big, the small islands of Pulau Aman and Pulau Jerejak afford an even more traditional glimpse of Malaysian customs and traditions. Jerejak housed a former leper asylum too. Luxury accommodation nestled among the lush green foliage can now be found instead.
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