Last Updated on September 13, 2023
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jason Rupp and Carla Marie Rupp
Everywhere, it’s a picture-taker’s paradise in Penang, Malaysia.
And strolling through its streets is pure delight. We love it here since there are so many things to do in Penang.
Anytime of the year is great in Penang. But if you want to keep on celebrating the New Year throughout January, you can. Do it Chinese style!
But don’t forget the Hindu temples. No sensory deprivation inside. This is a city of religious diversity, so you’ll also find Chinese, Islamic and Christian historic sites.
The Top Thing to Do in Penang – Be Happy!
Many international budget travelers to Penang usually get a room in the area next to Little India, in Georgetown. It’s around Chulia Street, an area of coffee shops, restaurants, bars and internet shops. Even late into the night, this area stays open for mingling with other tourists and locals. Most are swapping tales of their Asian adventures.
At one of the popular spots, the traveler can bring out a guitar or any other instrument (hey, even sing a tune!) and join in with the featured reggae performer. You may never see these happy folks again, but they are best friends for the time being!
Bob Marley’s hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” is sure to be sung at least once a night. So are John Denver and the Beatles’ hits. You’re sure to get photographed with new buddies in this jolly, reggae-styled cafe bar.
Another Thing to Do – Head for the Beach
At least one day could be spent going to the beach where you’ll find parasailing and other water sports. Just take the bus to Batu Ferringhi where you’ll find high-end resorts, hotels and shopping for anything — at any price! Vendors in the markets offer all kinds of items and souvenirs of Malaysia and they expect bargaining.
When you get back to the city, walk around and notice the awesome Portuguese (and British and Dutch, too) colonial architecture in this city that is a fusion of East and West. Yes, it is, for the most part, a real walking city to view the sights, the fort, the Victorian Clock Tower. Be sure to wear a hat or cap and sunglasses because that sun can be intense.
Landing at Penang International Airport (PEN), you’ll be struck by numerous people waiting for their transportation. We had the experience of having a wonderful Muslim woman and her nephew ask if we needed help (after a bit of getting to know each other). She then invited us to a drive around the city with them to point out the highlights and then eat by the sea in a charming, simple little Malaysian place we’d probably never find again but wish we could. Fabulous!
Taking the train to your next destination is a great way to leave Penang. We chose the overnight sleeper train to Bangkok, which included comfortable beds with very clean white linens, glimpses of local living, and spicy Thai food in the dining car. The most interesting part of the trip was when we neared Bangkok, watching the countryside change from rural to urban. We also enjoyed eating hot Tom Yum Shrimp soup in the bumpy dining car, learning how to get the soup spoon quickly to our mouths before the next bump. Of course, in the background we had Thai music blaring, open-air windows, and friendly Thais smiling at us the entire time.
Now that we know what joys await on the northwest corner of Malaysia in Penang, sitting so lovely on the Strait of Malacca, we’ll be just happy to return. And we will.