Visit the Malay island of Penang; a fascinating fusion of cultures.
Penang is known as ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ and is one of Malaysia’s main tourist draws, famed for its rich heritage, multicultural society, vibrant culture, beaches, shopping, and good food. Its great fusion of cultures is evident not only in its fabulous cuisine but also in its architecture. Connected to the mainland by Penang Bridge, the island is around 370 km from Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia’s north-western coast. Take the funicular railway to the top of 2,300-foot Penang Hill for beautiful views of the island and jungle walks.
Penang’s best beaches are on the northern side, and Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, and Teluk Bahang, are home to its renowned hotel and resort belt. Muka Head and Monkey Beach, within the Penang National Park, are more secluded and cleaner. Backpacker options, as well as a few traditional hotels, can be found in the island’s largest city Georgetown, which is also considered to be Malaysia's food capital. Street stalls offer dishes which mix Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and European flavors. Head for the Ayer Itam marketplace and try rice, noodles, fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, vegetables, eggs and coconut.
Penang also boasts the peaceful religious co-existence of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Christianity, so you can visit both St George's Anglican Church and the Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple which contains a 33mt-long reclining Buddha, said to be the 3rd largest in the world. Local architecture is a fusion of modern high-rises, 19th-century British colonial and Chinese. Outstanding examples of colonial period buildings include the Municipal Council and Town Hall buildings, the Penang Museum and the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, all of which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.