Penang: Main Sights
Pearl of the Orient
Historic architecture in George Town
Diverse, beautiful architecture and a colonial past has helped Penang’s capital, George Town, to earn a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site listings. Visitors will be entranced by the sheer range and beauty of the historic architecture in Penang, especially in George Town.
National Park (Muka Head)
Although Penang’s National Park in Pantai Acheh is the smallest in Malaysia, it is still impressive. Eco-attractions such as the pristine Pantai Kerachut beach and meromictic lake (a body of sea water and fresh water that do not mix) provide the perfect spot for picnics, swimming, fishing and trekking. If you want to visit some of Penang’s islands, boat trips can be arranged.
Penang Hill reaches 821m above sea level, which allows visitors to enjoy the view of some of the grandest colonial mansions (many of which are now guest houses and restaurants) while enjoying the cool air and bird’s eye view of Penang Island.
Kek Lok Si Temple
To date, Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Construction began way back in 1890. Known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss, Kek Lok Si is one of the most famous of Penang’s temples. Situated in the hills above Air Itam, the best time to visit Kek Lok Si is during Chinese New Year when thousands of lights are switched on.
Thee Kong Tua (Jade Emperor’s Temple) in Air Itam
Close to Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill Railway Station in Air Itam is Thee Kong Tua, or the Jade Emperor’s Temple. It is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, who according to Taoist beliefs, is the supreme ruler of heaven.
Wat Chayamangkalaram was built in 1845 by a Thai Buddhist monk. It houses a 33-meter gold-plated reclining Buddha that attracts devotees from all over the world. Dragons, mythical serpents, elaborately decorated shrines and Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes dot the temple grounds. A small Malaysian-Thai community lives around this temple. Right opposite Wat Chayamangkalaram is the Dharmikarama Burmese Temple.
Tropical Spice Garden
The Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang has the distinction of being East Asia’s only dedicated spice sanctuary. The garden’s café overlooks the sea and is a wonderful spot for an afternoon drink, since it’s ideally located the foliage, exotic ferns and flowering plants. The gardens are spread over 3.2 hectares and house more than 500 varieties of flora from Malaysia and other regions.
Penang’s Snake Temple is known as the Chor Soo Kong Temple to locals and is ‘guarded’ by green Wagler Pitt Vipers which are believed to have slithered to the temple to protect the deity. It is thought that the snakes are harmless but their venom has been removed, just in case!
Visited by Tony and Cherie Blair in 2008, Penang’s tropical butterfly farm in Teluk Bahang houses a live museum about as well as a breeding research centre.
The Penang Toy Museum in Tanjung Bunga is worth a look. It houses over 100,000 toys, dolls, models and other gems and is the largest museum of its kind in the world. Highlights include life-size models of super heroes.