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Farewell Penang

We spent 4 nights in Penang with two young children and by no means did we visit the main sights! Our focus when travelling is for everyone to be comfortable and interested in the activity which obviously limits the options! We are not focused on ticking sights off a list which is just as well because apparently the top 9 places you simply must see in Penang are:

  1. Wat Chayamangkalaram (Thai Buddhist temple that we visited);
  2. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion which is a Chinese courtyard house that won a UNESCO Heritage Award in 2000;
  3. Kek Lok Si which is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia (we ran out of time to visit this and chose to take our children to dinner before a meltdown);
  4. Snake temple which has snakes on display but is south of town and difficult to access;
  5. Penang Hill which offers a cool retreat and good views and is accessed by a cable car (ran out of time);
  6. Butterfly farm which we enjoyed;
  7. Tropical spice garden which we read wasn’t too exciting;
  8. Batum Ferrengi which is a popular beach resort area that terrified us because of the number of tourists so we went into Penang National Park instead;
  9. George Town which we enjoyed exploring on foot especially the street murals, the jetties and the eateries.


George Town was listed in 2008 by UNESCO for its built and living environment and it’s clear that it’s still a highly functioning city that makes food use of the historic buildings and alleyways. It’s exciting to turn a corner and find a mural or ironwork relief on a wall of an otherwise dilapidated building and the street art celebrates the main themes of Penang.

A unique characteristic of Penang is the Baba-Nyonya culture which results from intermarriage of Chinese and Malays and has typical cuisine, costumes, embroidery and beaded shoes.

Penang is famous worldwide for its food which reflects the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Nyonya, and Thai cultural influences. Penang was ranked 2nd in 2009 by New York Times 44 Places to Go, top 10 islands to visit before you die by Yahoo and in top 10 of Asia’s greatest street food cities in 2012 by CNNGo. We tried street food a couple of times but found that too much sugar was used, food hygiene standards were dubious and it was difficult for our children to rest compared to restaurants. We also found that the quality and portion sizes differed widely.

Most people that we passed each day paused and stared and usually smiled first at our children and then at me. Most people were tolerant and indulgent of our children and several said they wanted to keep my blue eyed four year old son. Often we passed small groups of people chatting contentedly and sharing a laugh and I love to see that in a city and recognise it as a sign of contentment and surfeit. The traffic is a bit congested but that’s to be expected. New developments are popping up which is an indication of growth rather than stagnation and it certainly seems to be a vibrant place with an emphasis on nature and the arts. We saw recycling and waste reduction initiatives which are to be commended and encouraged. Giant cruise ships seem to dock daily in George Town yet many locals remain friendly and welcoming. The mixing pot of cultures leads to an exciting experience of smells, flavours, colours and religious icons and it was charming to pass through Chinatown then Little India.

Overall I enjoyed my time in Penang but I’m not sure that I’ve experienced enough to know if I’d want to live here. My initial instinct is that I’d rather stay living where I am than move here.


2 comments on “Farewell Penang

  1. Pingback: Travels in Malaysia with children part 4 | strivetoengage

  2. Pingback: Travels in Malaysia with children part 2 | strivetoengage

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This entry was posted on December 26, 2013 by in Asia, family and tagged , , , , , , .
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