Penang is a Malaysian island off the Malay Peninsula in the Strait of Malacca. An island of rich Chinese heritage, Penang has an array of temples, ruins, museums, preserved forests, and beautiful beaches that make a trip here more than worthwhile.
Top it off with the fact that this island is said to be the country’s unofficial food capital, and its no wonder that tourism plays a huge role in its economy. From the water’s edge at the Clan Jetties to the brilliant blue sheen of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang is fairly impressive. Make sure you book your accommodation with Agoda.com in Penang ! It is guaranteed lowest price on hotels, resorts, hostels, homes & more.
When handpicking selections for our list, we decided upon an interesting and eclectic mix of modern and quirky offerings, family-friendly amusement parks, and natural and cultural attractions, all of which are suitable for visitors of all ages.
- Penang Hill
Penang Hill was the first colonial hill station developed in Peninsular Malaysia. Comprising Western Hill, Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill, it is located six km away from Georgetown. The hilly and forested area is the state’s primary hill resort. Set 821m above Penang’s capital, islanders call it Bukit Bendera and it is generally about five degrees cooler than Georgetown.
It is the last patch of tropical rainforest in Penang so the flora and fauna here have been protected since 1960. It does not have the same prominence as Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill or Cameron Highlands but it is one of Penang’s best-known tourist attractions due to its fresher climate.
- Kek Lok Si Temple
Standing on a hilltop at Air Itam, near Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The complex is divided into three zones while the temple grounds comprise the hill entrance, souvenir, food and drinks stalls and the turtle liberation pond. The mid section of the temple houses temples, gardens, the pagoda and the four heavenly kings pavilion; meanwhile the hilltop plays host to an enormous statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin as well as more gardens and temples.
Comprising a series of monasteries, prayer halls, temples and beautifully-landscaped gardens, this national icon was built in 1890 by Beow Lean, a devout immigrant Chinese Buddhist. The ten-acre site was purchased in 1893 and the initial temple structure was built on the summit of He Shan.
20 years later, the two-decade long additional construction of this sprawling house of worship is largely funded by donations from the Penang Straits Chinese community. The complex is a cornerstone of the Malaysian Chinese community. Also known as the ‘Temple of Supreme Bliss’, it features a maze of souvenir kiosks as well as a turtle and fish pond.
The turtle pond – known as The Liberation Pond – was built because according to Chinese tradition, turtles symbolize longevity, strength and endurance and the act of capturing and freeing a turtle is a symbol of spiritual liberation.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, a boutique hotel that’s one of Penang’s best-known attractions in an ornate edifice built in the traditional Hakka – Teochew style. Located at 14 Leith Street, the structure was erected in the 1880s when Hakka merchant, Cheong Fatt Tze commissioned its construction.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion History – A self-made and affluent merchant-trader, Cheong Fatt Tze left China as a penniless teenager but soon rose to the ranks of the well-heeled when he established a vast financial empire throughout East Asia at the end of 19th century. Despite the popularity of modern Anglo-Indian designs at the time, he chose to build his domicile as a traditional-style Chinese courtyard house. The stately manor has 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, seven staircases and 220 timber-frame windows.
- Escape Adventureland
Escape Adventureplay Penang is a cool alternative to the beach and has quickly turned into a firm favourite with outdoor adventure seekers on the island. An outdoor, eco-conscious theme park specialising in zip-lining (a pulley suspended on a stainless steel cable, tied between two trees on an incline), the park also hosts other fun jungle activities for all ages.
A creative and fun way to foster a love of the outdoors, especially among kids, the park started out in 2012 with standout attractions such as a free fall from a 20 metre-high jump platform, an inner tube slide and tree rope swing.
There are quite a few thrill rides to try here. We love the Atan’s Leap, a gravity-defying free fall activity that will see you taking the plunge from a 20 metre-high platform. You will fall through the air and land safely onto an absolutely-safe, extremely large, inflated featherbed on the ground; for safety purposes, this activity is limited to those aged 13 years old and above.
Another attempt to push the laws of physics at Escape Adventureplay Penang is the Flying Lemur, an obstacle course that will have you climbing 98 feet off the ground. To reach the finish line, you will have to overcome hurdles that will include the region’s longest zip line (456 feet-long) across a ravine. The thrilling final obstacle will have your adrenaline levels peaking!
- Adventure Zone Theme Park
While on vacation, parents can find it a little hard to keep the little ones entertained while simultaneously having a good time themselves. The 10,300sqft, Adventure Zone Theme Park is Penang’s answer to that. Geared towards families, with plenty of offerings to keep youngsters of all ages occupied, it is home to more than 30 activities and is divided into three zones – the special features section, kids area and toddler sector with modular play equipment.
The major highlight for both kids and adults can be found at the special features section, where there are three slides – the first two (Astra slide and double drop slide with ball pit exit) are designed for children, but the third is a 24ft-high drop slide perfect for all ages.
At the kids’ area, you can expect ladder climbs, swinging steps, pull up ramps and hurdles and more, while the toddler section is filled with padded ramps, climbs and tumble towers sure to excite kids under the age of four. There is free Wi-Fi available, which is great for parents that just want to chill out at the onsite café, or you can go for a 15-minute Segway ride.
Open: 10:00 – 19:00
Address: centre Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa and Shangri La Golden Sands Resort, Jalan Batu Ferringhi
Tel: +604 886 1911
- Made In Penang Interactive Museum
The Made in Penang Interactive Museum really helps shake off pre-existing ideas of boring, outdated museums, instead offering visitors a fun, exciting way to view artwork with exhibits that have clever 3D imagery features. For example, a portrait of the Penang Snake Temple, with a large 3D snake slithering out from the framework.
A museum where getting involved is truly part of the fun, pictures range from historical images such as battleships being blown up by cannons, to elevators with iconic horror movie characters inside. The trick is that artists have used different colours, textured contours and some props to create each unique photo.
Open: 09:00 – 18:00
Address: No.3, Pengkalan Weld, George Town, Penang.
Tel: +604 262 6119
- Penang War Museum
Penang War Museum in Bukit Batu Maung was a fort built by the British in the 1930s. In 1941 it gained fame when it became the site where the battle for Penang against the invading Japanese army was lost. These days it is a museum open to the public and is billed as Southeast Asia’s largest war museum.
Situated on the road to Teluk Kumbar on Penang’s southern coast, the fort was initially supposed to be a preserved citadel constructed as part of a plan to protect the island from foreign invasion. It is also known as Muzium Perang Pulau Pinang.
Penang War Museum History – The former British bastion was manned by British, Sikh and Malay soldiers after its completion. It fell during WWII when the Japanese launched an attack against the fort from inland, rather than from the sea, as was expected by the British.
From that day onwards (17 December 1941) the Japanese commandeered the stronghold and the army base became chequered with a dark past. It was used as a prison base for acts of torture and other cruelties; as a result of these war atrocities, the garrison was dubbed ‘Bukit Hantu’ (Ghost Hill) by locals due to the hundreds of people who were brought here and beheaded.
- Fort Cornwallis
Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Set close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower, the star-shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang. Named after Marquis Charles Cornwallis, only a set of ten-foot high outer walls remain, with an enclosed park within.
Situated on Penang’s north-eastern coast, a stroll along the privately-managed Fort Cornwallis’ perimeters will take you about 10 minutes. It is a surreal experience to hear the 1812 Overture playing over the speaker system while a Malaysian man dressed in full British regalia stands at the gate. Inside the fort is a variety of vaguely-informative exhibits.
Fort Cornwallis History – Built in 1786, Fort Cornwallis was intended as a defensive structure against pirates, Kedah forces and even the French during the Napoleonic Wars. However although it was initially built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, it served an administrative function rather than an actively defensive one. Spanning 4490sqft it was built as a stockade with no permanent structures.
The fort stands on the site where Captain Francis Light first set foot in 1786 on the then virtually-uninhabited Penang and took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah. He then established a free port to lure trade from Britain’s Dutch rivals.
- Penang Khoo Khongsi
Khoo Kongsi is one of Georgetown’s most interesting attractions. Built some 650 years ago, it is part of the goh tai seh (five big clans) that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in olden-days Penang. One of Penang’s most lavishly decorated kongsis, it is located on Jalan Acheh, off Lebuh Pitt. A kongsi (clan house) is a building in which Chinese families of the same surname gather to worship their ancestors.
Representing a family’s social and spiritual commitments between extended relations, ancestors and the outside community, the kongsi also acts as an important means of solidarity. These days the primary functions of kongsis are supportive roles: they help with the educations of members’ children, settle disputes and advance loans.
Penang Khoo Kongsi History – The kongsis were initially developed as a way for 19th-century immigrants to band together according to their respective districts. Unsurprisingly, as a result of this clan-centric bias, hostile sentiments developed between the different clan houses resulting in rivalry and eventually violence.
Many of the kongsis in Penang are more than 100 years old; the Khoo Kongsi, once known as one of the most prominent Chinese lineages in Malaysia, is probably the most famous clan house in Penang. Founded by the Leong San Tong clan from the Sin Kang clan village in Hokkien Province, the clan house was built primarily to showcase the success of the Khoo family.
- Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram
Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Temple is the largest Thai temple in Penang. Set just off Jalan Burma (on the way to Batu Ferringhi), the yellow-and-blue temple is also known as Wat Buppharam. Built in 1845, it is home to a 108ft-long reclining Buddha image, said to be the third largest in the world.
Draped in a gold-leafed saffron robe, the sprawling statue was erected as a monument to signify Buddha’s final resting position at his death and symbolizes his detachment from worldly matters.
Located opposite the less extravagant Dharmmikarama Temple (which lights up beautifully at night) Wat Chaiya Mangakalaram Temple is a beautiful sight with ornate, gold pagodas, and mural-painted walls.
History of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Temple – Spread across five acres of land (which was gifted by Queen Victoria to the Thai community as a gesture of goodwill to bolster trading relations with Thailand) Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Temple was originally led by a Thai Theravada Buddhist monk, Phortan Kuat.
Also known as the ‘Powerful Monk’, he was very much adored by his congregation: to this day, his devotees bring bowls of asam laksa (coconut-based sour gravy noodles) to his shrine to honour him.
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