Asia > Southeast Asia > Malaysia > West Coast (Malaysia) > Penang > George Town (Malaysia)
George Town is the capital city of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is the second largest city in Malaysia, with a population of 708,000 as of 2010, and 2.5 million in the Greater Penang area. Founded as a trading outpost by the British in 1786, George Town has evolved into a melting pot of sorts, with its cosmopolitan, multicultural character evident in its architecture, festivals and even food; the city is well-known as the food capital of Malaysia. Aside from the city's living heritage coexisting with modern shopping malls and skyscrapers, a variety of natural attractions, such as the Penang Hill and beaches, are also within easy reach.
The city of George Town sits at the northeastern promontory of Penang Island. The city centre, which sprawls towards Sungai Pinang to the south, covers both the UNESCO World Heritage Site and more modern areas bristling with skyscrapers, such as Gurney Drive and Komtar.
While George Town does not have clearly delineated districts other than the UNESCO World Heritage Site, several zones of interest can be identified within the city centre, based on the characteristics of any particular area. For instance, Gurney Drive has a large concentration of skyscrapers and high-rises, while the Seven Streets Precinct is mostly made up of Straits Chinese houses and temples.
The following zones have been conceptualised for visitors to George Town.
|UNESCO World Heritage Site |
This old part of the city centre is home to some of Penang's most recognisable landmarks, such as Fort Cornwallis, City Hall, Penang State Museum, Khoo Kongsi, Masjid Kapitan Keling and St George's Church. The Central Business District (CBD) is located around Beach Street, also within this zone.
The administrative centre of Penang is located within the 68-storey Komtar Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Penang. It is also a shopping district, with trendy shopping malls - Prangin Mall and 1st Avenue Mall - located next to Komtar Tower.
|Seven Streets Precinct |
Traditionally a Chinese residential area, with Chinese shophouses lining the grid-like streets. Also located here are Chinese temples, coffeeshops, and a hawker centre.
Modern skyscrapers and residential high-rises line both Gurney Drive and Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah that runs along the northern coast. Gurney Drive is also a shopping haven popular with expatriates, with two upmarket shopping malls - Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon, a famous hawker centre, bars and seaside restaurants.
|Pulau Tikus |
This affluent suburb of George Town consists of a multicultural neighbourhood that includes significant Eurasian and Thai communities. Wat Chaiyamangkalaram and Dhammikarama Temple reflect Thai and Burmese traditions respectively, while the Eurasians founded the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Also, a wide variety of Penang food can be found at Burmah Road and the wet market.
|Dato Keramat and Macalister |
High-rises line Macalister Road and Jalan Dato Keramat, while shophouses dominate the rest of the landscape. Penang Times Square and Gama, both at Jalan Dato Keramat, are regarded as cheaper shopping destinations catering to the middle-class urbanites. Famous food haunts that serve local cuisine here include New World Park.
|Western neighbourhoods |
A leafy, affluent neighbourhood, where important institutions, such as the Penang General Hospital, are situated. An area of little interest to tourists, nonetheless it is notable for colonial-era mansions, including Suffolk House and the Seri Mutiara (the Governor of Penang's official residence).
Beyond the city of George Town proper are the adjoining suburbs and towns within Penang Island, such as Air Itam, Batu Ferringhi, Bayan Lepas and Balik Pulau. These, combined with Seberang Perai on the mainland and the surrounding towns in Kedah, such as Sungai Petani, Kulim and Bandar Baharu, constitute Greater Penang, the second largest conurbation in Malaysia.
Founded in 1786 by British trader Francis Light, George Town was part of the British crown colony of the Straits Settlements, along with Malacca and Singapore. Similar to Singapore, the British built up George Town from scratch and governed Penang directly (as opposed to the rest of Malaysia under indirect British administration); this gave Singapore and George Town distinctive British colonial characteristics and truly multicultural demographics consisting of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Peranakans, Eurasians, Europeans and others.
Furthermore, the city centre is home to one of the best preserved collections of pre-war heritage buildings in Southeast Asia. Unlike Kuala Lumpur, where many heritage buildings faced demolition to make way for concrete jungles, George Town's heritage shophouses are also being given a new lease of life as hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. Traditional trades still operate out of some of these shophouses, alongside bustling street markets and hawkers. Indeed, in this aspect, George Town is often likened to Singapore in the 1960s and 70s.
Outside the UNESCO World Heritage Site, more modern comforts can be found in the several shopping malls in the city, including Gurney Plaza and 1st Avenue Mall. These malls, which open at 10:00 daily, offer a welcome respite from the sweltering heat outdoors; one could also catch a movie or play laser tag in the entertainment outlets within these malls. Fine dining options and bars are also mushrooming, particularly around Gurney Drive and Komtar.
George Town has a rather relaxed pace of life, which also made the city attractive for expatriates and foreign retirees, especially from Britain, Australia, the United States, Japan and Singapore. The city truly springs to life in the evenings, when most local Penangites head to the nearby street hawkers to have their meals and, sometimes, a couple of drinks.
Penang's modern history really began with the founding of George Town by Francis Light. Light had landed on the island, which was part of Kedah at the time, on 17 July 1786. After successfully negotiating with the then Sultan of Kedah regarding the cession of Penang Island to the British East India Company, Light and his crew returned to the island on 11 August, raised the Union Jack and established George Town as the newest settlement in the British Empire.
Penang was the first British foothold in Southeast Asia, and George Town's strategic location within the Malacca Straits allowed the settlement to be developed into a major entrepot. In the beginning, Penang was the centre of the booming spice trade, with spices cultivated on Penang Island being exported out from George Town. In the late 19th century, Malaya's two most vital commodities, tin and rubber, would also be shipped out of George Town.
George Town was briefly made the capital of the Straits Settlements, which also included Singapore and Malacca. In 1832, the capital was relocated to Singapore owing to the latter's superior location and greater economic preeminence. Nonetheless, George Town continued to grow as one of the largest towns in Malaya.
The Straits Settlements were made a British crown colony in 1867. Direct British rule ushered in an era of prosperity in George Town; crime and triads were largely eradicated, while colonial administrative buildings (many of which are still in use today) were constructed and the port expanded. Banks and mercantile firms flocked to George Town, developing Beach Street into the town's financial centre.
Penang was invaded by the Japanese in December 1941. Not only did the British retreat with barely a fight, they also evacuated the Europeans while leaving behind the majority Asian population to the mercy of the Japanese. A brutal period of Japanese occupation followed, during which thousands of Chinese were massacred. Upon the end of World War II, George Town became the first town in Malaya to be liberated by British forces.
Following the return of the British, the Straits Settlements were dissolved, with Malacca and Penang being merged with the other British colonies and protectorates in the Malay Peninsula to form the Malayan Union, while Singapore was split off to form a separate crown colony. George Town was granted city status in 1957 by the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, becoming the first city in the Federation of Malaya. It was also the first city in Malaysia to have a fully elected local council, with municipal elections being introduced in 1951.
However, the city declined during the post-independence decades that followed. George Town's free port status was revoked in the 1960s, sparking off massive unemployment, an economic downturn and brain drain, as Penangites looked elsewhere for greener pastures. Concurrently, the development of Port Klang near Kuala Lumpur as Malaysia's main harbour took away much of George Town's maritime trade. In the 1970s, the construction of Komtar Tower proved controversial, as several heritage buildings and entire streets were erased off the map. By the 1990s, Komtar fell into disrepair, with the project as a whole never completed.
In the early 2000s, media reports about the decline of George Town, including its derelict pre-war buildings, dirty streets and poor traffic management, led to vigorous conservation efforts to bring back the glory of the 'Pearl of the Orient'. The resulting widespread dissatisfaction also led to the ruling party being replaced by the opposition in the 2008 elections.
Since then, the state government (now governed by the opposition) and the local council have stepped up efforts to clean up George Town, improve its traffic flow and public transportation, and rebrand the city's living cultural attractions. Consequently, George Town has been undergoing a renaissance of sorts; it was accorded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008 and ranked the most livable city in Malaysia by ECA International.
Unlike other Malaysian cities, most of the city's English street names are retained, albeit altered with Malay road name designations. The most common Malay street name designation in George Town starts with Jalan, meaning road, although Lebuh, which means street, is also common within the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Malay street name designations and their English translations are as listed below.
|Malay||English||Malay Example||English Example|
|Jalan||Road||Jalan Penang||Penang Road|
|Lebuh||Street||Lebuh Bishop||Bishop Street|
|Lebuh Pantai||Beach Street|
|Lorong||Lane||Lorong Love||Love Lane|
|Gat Lebuh||Street Ghaut||Gat Lebuh Armenian||Armenian Street Ghaut|
|Persiaran||Drive||Persiaran Gurney||Gurney Drive|
|Lebuhraya||Avenue||Lebuhraya Peel||Peel Avenue|
|Pengkalan||Quay||Pengkalan Weld||Weld Quay|
|Medan||Square||Medan Cannon||Cannon Square|
|Pesara||Place||Pesara King Edward||King Edward Place|
The designation for Street Ghaut refers to the extensions of a street that were part of reclaimed land.
You will find that street names are often referred to by their English and Malay names interchangeably. In the case of Beach Street, its Malay translation is Lebuh Pantai, with the Malay term Pantai, meaning Beach. To further add to the confusion, you may also hear streets being referred to by their English colonial names. For instance, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling is still being referred to as Pitt Street by local Penangites. This indicates a strong conservatism among the local population, who see Penang's colonial history as part of their local identity.
In 2008, the standard street signs throughout George Town were modified with the addition of the streets' English, Chinese, Tamil and/or Jawi (Arabic-script Malay) names. The new street signs are still in use to this day throughout Penang Island.
Only a few Malaysian cities could claim to have George Town's multiethnic mix. What separates George Town, and the state of Penang, from the rest is that there is a higher proportion of ethnic Chinese compared to Malays. The city is also home to substantial proportions of Indians, Eurasians and Thais, along with a large expatriate community and also migrant workers from less well-off Asian countries.
George Town is also a centre of Peranakan culture. When Chinese traders first came to George Town soon after its establishment, some of them took local Malay brides and adopted many local customs. This resulted in an interesting fusion of Malay and Chinese cultures. In addition, at the time, the British favoured George Town over Malacca and endeavoured to transfer Malacca's wealthy merchant class, including the Peranakans, to George Town. Thus, the Peranakan community in George Town also consisted of the Peranakans who migrated from Malacca. Historically, this particular community played an important role in George Town's economy and politics.
The harmonious coexistence of various ethnicities, cultures and religions over the centuries has manifested itself along one particular street in George Town. Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) is also known as the Street of Harmony, due to the Muslim, Taoist, Hindu and Christian places of worship sharing the same street, being located merely metres away from one another.
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|Nightly lows (°C)||24||24||24||24||24||24||24||24||23||24||24||24|
Check George Town's 7 day forecast at MET.gov.my
With George Town being fairly close to the equator you can expect a typical tropical climate. Temperatures are generally constant year round, with daily highs of around 30-32°C (86-90°F) and nightly lows around 22-24°C (71-75°F). Humidity is also usually high so do not be surprised by stinking hot days.
Along with the glaring sun and humidity, rainfall is almost guaranteed daily and the occasional deafening thunderstorm from the Strait of Malacca will drench the city, especially during the wet season. Annual rainfall averages around 2,500 mm, with the wettest months being around September to November. The driest months of the year run from December to February, although rainfall is still frequent.
As with much of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, George Town suffers from the annual haze phenomenon, which is caused by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. The hazy season typically occurs between July and October. If you happen to be in George Town during a haze, it is best to constantly check for the latest air pollution index (API), reduce outdoor activities if the haze gets worse and, of course, drink more water.
Gong xi fa cai Penang style
There are a few twists to the Penang way of celebrating Chinese New Year, particularly the food, which bears little resemblance to the steamy hotpots of frigid northern China. The top dish is bak kwa (肉干), sweet barbecued pork, followed closely by yu sheng (魚生), a salad of shredded vegetables and raw fish enthusiastically tossed into the air by all present. Favourite desserts are crumbly sweet pineapple tarts and gooey steamed nian gao (年糕) cakes. Ang pows (红包) are still handed out generously, albeit customarily only by married couples.
With the cocktail of cultures and religions, George Town takes its holidays seriously. Many of the cultural and religious festivities in George Town are celebrated in ways unique only to Penang.
Ethnic Chinese in Penang celebrate Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. In particular, the Chinese New Year festivities in George Town are more boisterous than anywhere else in Malaysia; it is also said that while other Malaysian cities fall silent during this period, George Town is the most happening city due to the wide array of festivities. While this might seem to be an ideal time to visit, many smaller shops and eateries are closed for the first 2–3 days, though convenience stores like 7-Eleven will remain open. Due to the influence of the majority Hokkien community, the Chinese in Penang not only celebrate the first few days of Chinese New Year, but also the Jade Emperor's Birthday, colloquially known as the Hokkien New Year, on the 8th day. On that day, offerings to the Jade Emperor, a Taoist deity, are made at the Chew Jetty at Weld Quay, attracting thousands of locals and visitors alike. In addition, there is the annual city-wide Chinese New Year festival on the 5th day, when all the Chinese clan houses within the UNESCO World Heritage Site open their doors and cultural performances, such as lion dances and Penang-style Chingay, are held on the streets. The last day of Chinese New Year (15th day), also known as Chap Goh Meh, is essentially a Chinese version of Valentine's Day, when single ladies would gather at popular waterfronts like Gurney Drive and the Esplanade, write their numbers on oranges and throw the oranges into the sea.
Lunar New Year dates
The year of the Rooster started on 28 Jan 2017
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to George Town (Malaysia) during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, is observed to commemorate a Chinese folk hero. As part of the celebrations, rice dumplings, which are sometimes wrapped in pandan leaves instead of the original bamboo leaves, are usually eaten. Meanwhile, the seventh month, usually either in July or August, is known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, when ethnic Chinese, sticking to age-old traditions, would burn 'hell money' and food offerings to please the spirits of ancestors who are said to return to Earth from hell during the month. Hokkien opera performances are also held throughout the city. On the other hand, the Mid-Autumn Festival is observed with lantern decorations and moon cakes.
As for the Muslims, the Islamic month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr, or Hari Raya Puasa as it is called here, are major occasions. Open houses would be held throughout the city, offering visitors a rich array of Malay cuisine to sample. Shopping malls and the Malay enclave in the UNESCO World Heritage Site would also be decorated for the festivities. Another festival celebrated by the Muslims is Eid-ul-Adha, known locally as Hari Raya Haji. In local mosques, lambs contributed by the faithful are sacrificed and their meat is given to the needy.
The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, known locally as Deepavali, is celebrated around October or November. For this particular occasion, Little India, with its brightly-coloured decorations, becomes the most happening place in George Town. The other major festivity, which falls in either January or February, is Thaipusam, during which male devotees would carry a kavadi, an elaborate structure which pierces through several parts of his body, through the length of the city into Little India. This boisterous celebration also includes the smashing of coconuts on the road, symbolising the shattering of one's ego to unveil inner purity.
The Buddhists, of both Theravada and Mahayana faiths, observe Vesak Day, which also includes street processions with large hand-made floats by the various Buddhist associations and temples. Towards the end of each year, there is Christmas Day, which is observed by the Christians, including the Eurasians at Pulau Tikus.
Other popular cultural celebrations in George Town include Songkran for the Thais and Bon Odori for the Japanese. Songkran is celebrated by ethnic Thais and other Penangites regardless of ethnicity in Pulau Tikus, where two Thai temples - Wat Chaiyamangkalaram and Wat Buppharam - are located. Bon Odori is typically held at the Esplanade and features Japanese cultural performances.
The secular holidays in Penang include New Year's Day and the National Day, the latter of which falls on 31 August.
- 1 Penang Global Tourism Centre, 10 Whiteaways Arcade, Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Consider making your way to the local tourist centre, located in the charming colonial Whiteaways Arcade. The staff are friendly and the centre offers all the typical services of a tourism centre. It's a great place to pick up a map or brochures and to find out about the latest events around George Town and the whole of Penang. In 2015, they had a particularly useful map (online pdf version is grossly inferior) that not only showed the locations of all the wrought iron street art and large murals, but also the directional stops of the CAT free hop-on, hop-off bus that runs daily until 23:40.
The nearest airport is Penang International Airport (PEN IATA), formerly Bayan Lepas International Airport, around 16 km from the centre of George Town in the town of Bayan Lepas. The airport is served by 15 airlines with flights operating to both domestic and international Asian destinations. Domestic flights include Johor Bahru, Kota Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kuantan and Langkawi, served mostly by AirAsia and a few destinations by Malaysia Airlines and Firefly. International flights also call at the airport from Banda Aceh, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Ko Samui, Medan, Phuket, Singapore, Surabaya and Taipei.
Ground transport options to the airport fall under two categories: local taxis or the public bus system, Rapid Penang. Taxis operate with a pre-paid coupon system that you collect from the taxi counter near the arrivals area of the airport. The coupon to George Town will cost around RM44.70, but between 00:01-05:59 will cost RM67. For a bus to George Town take bus 401/401E to Weld Quay (Not to Balik Pulau), with 401E being an express service, or bus 102 to Teluk Bahang. The fare to KOMTAR is RM2.70, where you can then transfer to another bus if needed. Have the correct fare ready as bus drivers don't give out change.
Because of the exceptionally cheap, comfortable and dense route network of Air Asia, the only ferry goes to Langkawi.
For those who are in Butterworth, or have made their way up by train, the easiest way to reach George Town is by the Penang Ferry Service, the oldest ferry in Malaysia. See the Butterworth Get in section for information on how to arrive by train. Only a short walk from Butterworth train station is Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal, with ferries departing every 10-20 minutes between 05:20–00:40 daily. The fare to George Town costs RM1.20 for adults or RM0.60 for children. If you are returning to Butterworth the journey is free. Ferries arrive at Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal at Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Virtually all Rapid Penang buses on the island arrive and depart from Weld Quay, via KOMTAR.
Langkawi Ferry Services operates twice daily ferries between Swettenham Pier in George Town and Langkawi, with the first days service stopping via Pulau Payar en route. Ferries are scheduled to depart from Langkawi at 14:30 (via Pulau Payar) and 17:15 while from George Town at 08:15 (via Pulau Payar) and 08:30, taking around 2h 45min. Fares cost RM60 (RM115 return) for Adults and RM45 (RM85 return) for children. Tickets for the ferry can be booked online here.
Swettenham Pier is the cruise terminal of George Town, with many cruises calling here from other cities in the region. Star Cruises is a primary operator at this port with common itineraries including a one-night cruise on the high seas or a 3-night cruise to Krabi and Phuket before returning to George Town. The port is also a frequent stop for round-the-world and major regional cruises often originating from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and North America. Typically these cruises allow a port visit in George Town for several hours before continuing to another destination. Refer to individual cruise companies for details of these cruise routes and the duration of stay at each port.
Long-distance bus is a common means of travel between cities and regions in Malaysia. The bus network is not only extensive but is also relatively cheap and comfortable. George Town has one bus terminal, Located at KOMTAR, but only some of the buses heading towards Penang terminate here. Most buses will arrive and depart the other bus terminals located just outside of George Town.
The Sungai Nibong Express Bus Terminal is south of George Town in Sungai Nibong. To reach George Town from here, a taxi will cost around RM30 or you could take bus 401 or 102. The other unimaginatively named bus station, Butterworth Bus Terminal, is on the mainland near Butterworth Train Station and the ferry terminal. Once here, the Ferry is the easiest way to travel between Butterworth to George Town. For more information on the Penang Ferry see George Town (Malaysia)#By boat.
Rapid Penang is the public bus network that serves not only George Town, but the whole state Penang. The fleet is clean, modern and air-conditioned with low floors for disabled access. Most buses will pass through both main bus terminals in George Town, KOMTAR and Weld Quay (often called Jetty). Bus information centres, or Rapid Kiosks, are also available at these locations. Depending on the service, buses begin operating around 05:30 from Weld Quay and can cease operating as early as 22:00, with some major bus routes continuing until midnight. Bus schedules can be found here.
The fare structure used by Rapid Penang is distance-based. Most fares within the city will cost RM1.40 or RM2. For travel heading outside of George Town expect to pay between RM2.70 to RM4. When boarding a bus the exact fare is required, so keep hold of some loose change and if unsure how much to pay just tell the driver where you are going. If you plan to stay in George Town and around Penang for more than a few days may be of benefit to purchase a Rapid Passport. This 7-day travel pass allows for unlimited travel on all Rapid Penang buses throughout Penang for RM30. The Rapid Passport can be purchased from any Rapid Kiosk, namely KOMTAR and Weld Quay, or from the Penang visitors centre at Whiteaways Arcade on Lebuh Pantai.
There is also a free bus service that operates around the historic area of the city, known as the Central Area Transit bus, or CAT. Aimed mainly at tourists, but used by all, CAT buses operate between Weld Quay and KOMTAR with 19 stops along the way including at Little India, Lebuh Light, Jalan Penang and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. The bus operates between 06:00-23:40 from Weld Quay, every 20-30 minutes. A map of the CAT bus route can be found here.
George Town, in particular the historic area, is a relatively compact city to explore on foot. However many areas do lack footpaths, making the city a bit of a pedestrian nightmare. Walking along the side of the road is common and almost expected if you want to properly explore the city. Doing so is considered safe but do keep an eye out for traffic, wide open gutters and other hazards, particularly at night. Streets that do contain footpaths tend to be wider and busier, with the quality of the paths ranging from exceptional to dilapidated. You may also spot the occasional footbridge along busy roads, which are particularly handy to use compared to waiting for a break in the traffic.
The humble trishaw, or beca in Malay, was once the primary mode of transport for the locals. With the introduction of an extensive bus network the trishaws of George Town have dwindled and are now primarily aimed at tourists. They are still a fun and unique way to travel the streets at a leisurely pace and perhaps find some of the city's hidden gems along the extensive back streets. Trishaws are generally found around inner city streets and tourist attractions. Hiring can be done on an hourly basis, costing around RM30-40/hr, or for shorter travel the price will vary, around RM10-15 for a 15min trip. Always agree on a price in advance and do not be afraid to haggle, as drivers will often inflate their first price.
City taxis are required to charge according to the meter. However, as in Kuala Lumpur, most taxi drivers have no respect for this law. Attempts at finding a taxi driver willing to use a meter will be futile. Always haggle with the taxi driver and firmly agree on a price beforehand.
Taxis can also be hired for a minimum of 3 hr at RM25-30/hr. A good way to see the northern and western parts of the island if you don't have your own vehicle.
By motorbike or scooter
You may also rent your own motorbike or scooter to get around. These shops can be found along Chulia Street and also Penang Road. Cost is around RM25 for each day if you're renting more than a couple of days rental including the loan of an unsanitary helmet. Deposit is often RM200 (May 2015). Test the brakes and chain tightness as most are not well-maintained.
See Penang for attractions located throughout the rest of the island; this covers only sights located within George Town.
Thanks to the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing and strict zoning laws of George Town, a combination of historical buildings and gently crumbling, but largely intact, shophouses offer a glimpse into the town's past. Restoration works are slowly progressing.
It may be worthwhile engaging a walking tour guide, for example from the Penang Heritage Trust, (26 Church St, ☎ +60 4 264-2631. Fax+60 4 262-8421) as they are trained to give in-depth details on the history and culture of heritage sites. There are several themed walking guides to choose from and each typically takes 3 hr. Book ahead.
- 1 Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Leith Street. Built in the 1890s, and restored in the 1990s (earning it an UNESCO award in 2000), this indigo-blue Chinese Courtyard House in George Town was the main residence of Cheong Fatt Tze, known as the 'Rockefeller of the East' and 'J.P. Morgan of China'. Cheong was a prominent, successful Hakka Chinese merchant who demonstrated his business ability after marrying into a wealthy family, founding the Chang Yu Winery and ending the segregation of Chinese from Europeans on passenger ships. The mansion was built according to feng shui principles by master craftsmen brought in from southern, who used their skills to fashion a sprawling mansion with 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases, and 220 windows. The mansion features in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning Indochine. Tours: 11:00, 13.30 and 15:00 sharp (RM17, 60-90min, no indoor photography, consider booking in advance). Lodging also available, see the sleep section.
- 2 Fort Cornwallis, Light St. M-Sa 09:00-18:30. The fort, named for Charles Cornwallis is built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, landed on August 11, 1786. It was first built in 1793. But this site was an unlikely spot to defend the city from invasion. In 1810 it was rebuilt in an attempt to make up for initial strategic planning errors. In the shape of a star, the only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine, and a small Christian chapel. Several old cannons (including one that is believed by some locals to have magical 'fertility' powers) can still be found at the fort. There are also small displays of artefacts recovered from archaeological digs inside the fort. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort. RM20 for adults.
- 3 Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi (龙山堂邱氏宗祠), 18 Cannon St. M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Built in 1850 by the forefathers of Khoo family who emigrated from South China, as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family. In 1836, construction of a new temple began and was completed 8 years later. Fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, it was allegedly struck by lightning. Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and made of the finest wood. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck. RM10.
- 4 Municipal Council of Pulau Pinang Hall (formerly City Hall), The Esplanade (Jalan Syed Sheikh Barakbah). A well-preserved colonial building from the heyday of the British Empire since 1903, at a cost of 100,000 Straits dollars.
- 5 Penang Islamic Museum, 128 Armenian St, ☎ , fax: . Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, a century-old mansion named after its owner, a spice trader from Aceh. The museum is closed and under renovation pending funding.
- 6 Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Church St (Lebuh Gereja), ☎ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Daily conducted tour 11:30–15:30. Originally the home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, leader of Penang and Perak Hai San groups in the Larut Wars from 1860-1884. The mansion is a typical representation of the Straits eclectic style of architecture highly favoured by rich Peranakan families of old. Affectionately called Hai Kee Chan or Sea Remembrance Store, it served as his residence and office. Admission fee is RM20 for adults), free for children below 12.
- 7 Queen Victoria Clock Tower (At the Intersection of Light Street, Beach Street, Fort Road and King Edward Place). The 60 ft high clock tower was presented to Penang by local millionaire Cheah Chen Eok in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
- Sun Yat-sen Museum Penang (Sun Yat Sen Penang Base), 120 Lebuh Armenian, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:30-17:00. The Sun Yat Sen Museum is a beautifully preserved house museum and one of the smallest museums in Asia. It houses a permanent exhibition on Sun Yat Sen’s early revolutionary period in Penang when he planned the uprising now knows as the Chinese Revolution of 1911. If you're not into Chinese history, it's still worth dropping by just to see a modest, scaled down version of the traditional Chinese courtyards seen in historic mansions in town. The house was built in 1880 and is full of period furniture and details. RM5, Includes hot Chinese tea.
Georgetown has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.
- 8 Church of the Assumption (Formerly Cathedral of the Assumption), 3 Lebuh Farquhar. The first permanent Catholic Church to be built on Penang Island, established by a group of Eurasian immigrants who accompanied Penang's founder, Sir Francis Light, to the island. It is also one of the few churches in Malaysia with church bells that were cast during British rule. It also houses one of the last remaining and oldest European-made air organs in Malaysia.
- 9 Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, 24 Lorong Burma (Opposite Wat Chaiyamangalaram), ☎ . 05:00-18:00. A Burmese Buddhist temple founded in 1803. At the entrance a pair of white elephants, which are sacred in Buddhism, guard the temple while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
- 10 Kapitan Keling Mosque, Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling, ☎ . Built in the early 19th century and named after Caudeer Mohudeen, an Indian Muslim merchant who was also the Kapitan Keling, or leader of the Keling community. This historic mosque features a dome-shaped minaret that reflects Moorish Islamic influence and has been a prominent place of worship for local Indian Muslims for over 200 years. Free tours operate during non-prayer times. Shoes must be removed prior to entering the mosque and women are provided with heavy robes to wear. Men who are not appropriately dressed will also be supplied robes.
- 11 Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple), Jl. Masjid Kapitan Keling, ☎ . Built in 1801 by early Chinese settler, Kuan Yin Teng is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. This temple is flocked to by pilgrims year round, particularly on the 1st and 15th days of each lunar month. The building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which guard the temple. Puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged in the Temple's square on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community.
- 12 St. George's Church, 1 Lebuh Farquhar. 09:00–17:00. Services are held Sunday at 08:30 and 10:30 and Wednesdays at 09:30, during which tourists are not allowed to see inside or take photos. Boasting the title of the oldest Anglican Church in South-east Asia, St George's was completed in 1818 by convict labour. The church was designed by Capt. Robert Smith, a military engineer who is known for his oil paintings of early Penang that are located in the Penang State Museum. A memorial dedicated to Captain Francis Light, in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab, stands in the grounds of the church.
- 13 Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Lorong Burma (Opposite Dhammikarama Burmese Temple), ☎ . 06:00–17:30. Founded in 1845, this Thai-style Buddhist temple that is famous for its 33m reclining Buddha, one of the world's longest. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to 4 women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.
Graffiti has become all the rage in George Town, after Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic painted several whimsical murals of inner city life like the pensive "Boy on a Bike" and the cheerful "Little Children on a Bicycle" on the walls of old buildings as part of a 2012 festival. Since then, many more wall paintings have popped up around the city, grabbing the attention of passers-by. Wire art has also been widely installed by the heritage board, commemorating bits and pieces of Penang history with pithy quotes. An informative map is available from the visitor centre.
- 14 Chew Thean Yeang (周天央) (CTY Aquarium), 82 Burmah Rd, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia, but the workers are mostly rude and impatient.
- 15 Clan Jetties (姓氏桥), Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). There are six clan jetties along the shorelines of George Town. They are worth walking to and looking at, as they provide an insight to the way locals live in traditional huts built on the sea on stilts. Chew Jetty is the most well known and leads to a small temple at the end. Lee Jetty is brightly lit at night by beautiful lanterns. Be cautious while walking in this area.
- 16 Jewish Cemetery, Jalan Zainal Abidin. The cemetery that once served the Jewish community of Penang, and one of the few reminders of a once-thriving community during the colonial period. The Jewish community no longer exists, the last member having died in 2011, and the road in front of it has been re-named from Jalan Yahudi (Jew Road) to Jalan Zainal Abidin. The former synagogue has also since been converted to a photo studio.
- Little India, Covering an area around Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Pasar (Market Street), Little India is an ethnic Indian enclave. Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Penang, is in this neighborhood. Walking on the streets you can't avoid smelling Indian spices and hearing Bollywood music. The area is very lively: one might say it is the noisiest part of George Town with the sights, sounds, aroma and foods of India.
- 17 Penang Botanic Gardens (Waterfall Gardens), Jalan Kebun Bunga (Take Rapid Penang bus no.10 from KOMTAR for RM2 (little warning: you can spend hours waiting for Bus no. 10, seems to be the least frequented bus on the island, better rent a bike or take a taxi!)), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily, 05:00-20:00. The gardens were established by Charles Curtis of Britain way back in 1884; it's generally known as the Waterfall Gardens by the local community because of a little waterfall located within it. Many locals will come to the gardens to perform their daily exercises like walking, jogging, jungle trekking, aerobic dance, and to practice Tai Chi, (太极) or Qi Gong, (气功). The wild monkeys are supposed to be there but not to be seen. The garden hosts an annual international floral fest as well as a world music festival. . Free admission.
- 18 Penang State Museum, Lebuh Farquhar, Pulau Pinang. Sa-Th 09:00-17:00. Formerly the Penang Free School which was built in two separate stages in 1896 and 1906. The museum is an interesting starting point to discover the multi-ethnic background of George Town. 2 floors display the history of the immigrant community that participated in the creation of the present city. The museum also exhibits the paintings of Captain Robert Smith and the lovely engravings of William Daniell. Other exhibits include a former Penang Hill railway carriage, a handwritten Qur`an and old Malay weapons donated by the family of the late Dato' Haji Fathil Basheer. RM1.
- 19 Protestant Cemetery. The burial site of Captain Francis Light, Thomas Leonowens and more. Filled with crumbling, vegetation-covered tombs, it bears witness to a century of colonisation. There are around 500 burial sites here, a quarter of which no longer bear readable inscriptions. Accessible through a gate in the rear wall is the Roman Catholic Cemetery, most of whose graves are so old the inscriptions are no longer readable. Free.
- Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang). Take bus 101 all the way to the last stop (4RM, about one hour). This small national park contains 2 easy walking trails in the jungle. Along the way you will see white sand beaches, monkeys, a light house and get to spend half the day far from the noise of the city. Entrance is free, you just have to write your name on the register as you get in and out. The trails are well marked and boat services are available to various points inside the parks for those who don't want to hike. Free.
Besides enjoying excellent food, walking tours and sightseeing the beautiful old city, George Town itself does not offer that much to the adventurous tourist. If you, tired of walking, want to kill a couple of hours there is the possibility of catching a movie at Cathay Cineplex on the 5th floor of the Komtar shopping-complex. Other opportunities are Golden Screen Cinemas in Gurney Plaza. For inclement weather, there's always snooker and bowling too, at Prangin Mall and elsewhere.
Many George Town shops now offer bike rentals for RM10/day, as travellers embark on a street art trail of sorts, cycling around main roads and hidden back lanes to look at murals and wire art. Although bike paths exist around the city centre, walking or renting a motorcycle may be an easier/safer decision.
- One Indoor Archery Sport, Komtar Walkway, 1st Floor (not ground floor) Penang Road 10000 (Next to GeorgeTown White Coffee), ☎ . till 24:00. 11 targets set up for archery. Bows provided. The staff are happy to give advice and you can watch locals come in to shoot and discuss craft. RM8 for 12 arrows.
- 1 Nazlina Spice Station, 71 Stewart Ln, ☎ . Tu-W, F-Sa. You've eaten the food, now it's time to try cooking the dishes. Nazlina's morning classes include the hustle and bustle of a wet market tour to look over ingredients before heading back to the kitchen. Deeply knowledgeable about Penang cuisine, she will give cooking lessons based on the wants of the class. They can make bookings for up to 12 but that's a bit squashed. But if you're lucky there may be fewer people, so you can get a more personalised experience. RM160.
- Chinese New Year. Fourteen days later, during the full moon, there is a festival in which the gods from numerous temples around the island are brought out for a procession, with the route including Chulia St.
- Songkran (Thai water festival). Held around Wat Chayamangkalaram Buddhist Temple in April every year.
A number of events are held in George Town every year. The major annual events held within George Town are as listed here. This list does not include other major one-off events.
|1 January||City Walk||Beach Street and Light Street||Held to commemorate George Town's city status, which was granted on 1 January 1957.|
|February||Hot Air Balloon Fiesta||Polo Ground||Typically held a few days after Chinese New Year, it features colourful hot air balloons brought in from all over the world.|
|May, June or July||Penang Durian Festival||Markets across George Town||Coinciding with the annual durian season, when the durians have ripened and are harvested.|
|August||George Town Festival||UNESCO World Heritage Site||This month-long event is a celebration of George Town's various cultures and its booming creative arts scene. The heritage setting comes to life with various plays, exhibitions and movie screening events.|
|December||Chingay Parade||UNESCO World Heritage Site||A procession of Chingay performers will entertain onlookers as they perform their stunts while proceeding through the city centre.|
|31 December||New Year Countdown||Gurney Drive, Komtar, Penang Times Square, Straits Quay, Karpal Singh Drive||Concerts, parties and fireworks at midnight.|
In addition, the Occupy Beach Street event is held every Sunday. A section of Beach Street is closed off to all vehicles, allowing a street market of sorts to be set up within this section. There are also a variety of family-friendly recreational and sports activities, as well as childrens' games available.
Street markets remain a daily way of life in Penang, and locals often go to them to buy cheap accessories and fresh food. Bargain hard to get a good price and preferably get a local to accompany you.
- 1 Little India (junctions of Market Street (Lebuh Pasar) with King Street and Queen Street). Many traditional Indian traders sell all sorts of Indian traditional wares such as saris, garlands, trinkets, sculptures, Indian music, handicrafts, Punjabi suits, Singhalese silverwares, stainless steel housewares and accessories from as early as the 18th century. Remember to bargain as some prices quoted are astronomical. Spicy Indian food like roti canai or thosai are available along the streets either at coffee shops, restaurants or road-side hawker stalls.
- Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, 31a Jalan Gurdwara (opposite of Neo Hotel), e-mail: email@example.com. 12:00-20:00. Hin Bus Depot is a contemporary art centre and exhibition space located in an old bus depot. They often hold pop up art markets featuring local artists.
Shopping malls & supermakets
- In the heart of George Town, 1st Avenue, KOMTAR and Prangin Mall are all connected by walkways.
- 2 1st Avenue, 182 Jl Magazine, ☎ . 10:00-22:00. Next to Komtar and Prangin Mall. It is a stylish city mall like Gurney Plaza. It has Aeon Big Hypermarket, a cinema (including the novel 'Beanie' theatre with bean bag seats and tickets at RM46 for two) and some entertainment centres.
- Gama Supermarket and Departmental Store, 1 Jalan Daato Keramat, ☎ . 08:00-21:00. Has a good low-cost supermarket.
- 3 Gurney Paragon, Jalan Kelawei. Fancy shopping mall built around a preserved old school building.
- 4 Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney, ☎ . 10:00-22:00. One of Penang's premier shopping malls, the second-largest on Penang Island, with lots of good food, plenty of stuff to shop, Parkson as its anchor tenant, RedBox Karaoke and 12 cineplexes.
- 5 Island Plaza, Jalan Tanjung Tokong. Anchor tenant: Metrojaya Stores. Restaurants, food court, and more than 150 specialty shops.
- 6 KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak). Penang's first skyscraper and a bit of an eyesore, it is a useful navigational landmark but not so good for shopping anymore.
- Penang Time Square, Jalan Dato' Keramat, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This shopping mall opened in Oct 2009 and it shows.
- 7 Prangin Mall, 33 Jl Dr Lim Chwee Leong (Next to KOMTAR building.), ☎ . 10:00-22:00. Located next to KOMTAR, has stolen much of its neighbour's buzz and offers a convenient yet sanitized shopping experience. It features 167 shops, offering five floors of shopping, dining and entertainment. It is often crowded here as people can't get enough of the mall.
- 8 Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang. Upmarket shopping mall next to a marina, with British-style architecture. Good open-air seating for meals.
- Tesco Hypermarket, 1 Jalan Seri Tg Pinang Seri Tanjung (one bus ride from George town), ☎ . 08:00-01:00. Sells about every thing you need. lower prices.
- Mydin Department Store, 258 Jalan Penang, ☎ . 09:30-20:00. lower price.
- Giant Supermarket, 126 Jalan Burma. 09:30-22:00.
- Pacific Hypermarket, Menard Komtar 1 Jalan Penang, ☎ . 10:00-22:00.
- 9 Ghee Hiang Bakery (义香), 95 Beach St, ☎ , . The oldest bakery in Penang, established since 1856; other well-known products include sesame seed oil.
- 10 Him Heang Bakery (馨香), 162-A Burma Rd, ☎ , . Su closed. This may be the most famous Chinese bakery in Penang, popular among locals and Singaporean tourists. Its most famous products are Tambun Pneah and Beh Teh Sor. Go early in the morning or order through phone first due to limited daily production.
- 11 Ng Kee Cake Shop (伍记), 61 Cintra Street, ☎ . The shop produces and sells Cantonese traditional biscuits including wedding biscuits. One of the famous biscuits is pepper biscuit (咸切酥, Ham Chit Soo).
- 12 Sin Hock Seng Bakery, ☎ . (新福成), 316, Penang Rd. The shop sells more than one hundred different types of biscuit. Basically, you can find any kind of traditional biscuit there.
Penang is widely considered to be the food capital of Malaysia, and George Town is the best place in Penang to eat. (See Penang for listings of local dishes.)
Gurney Drive may be the main location where tourists go to have their food, but that does not necessarily mean that the best food can be found there. In fact, most locals consider it to be overrated and expensive. It's best to ask the locals to point you toward the best locations for food, though walking into any "coffee shop" or stall would almost certainly guarantee a worthwhile experience for your taste buds. Knowing some Malay or Hokkien will be useful, but most vendors speak enough English to communicate the basics.
- 1 Ban Heang, 245 & 247 Jalan Penang (corner of Jalan Penang/Lebuh Campbell), ☎ . Daily 07:00-22:00. New outlet opened in Nov 2014 of the locally famous biscuit and delicacy manufacturer. Also sells organic ice creams, sorbets and dried fruit. Its own restaurant linked next door is cheap and cheerful with a wide variety of fresh local and western-style foods. Tourist friendly, fast and fresh. Insiders tip: approach the counter as if to pay and almost hidden to your right will be a steep staircase to a (usually deserted) first floor with air conditioning and a large HD screen showing Chinese historical soap operas. Cheap, e.g. fish, chips and coleslaw RM9.90.
- 2 Red Garden Cafe, 20, Lebuh Leith (Not far away from the backpacker area around Lebuh Chulia), ☎ . early morning till late. Local food: satay, roasted and BBQ'd chicken, duck and pork variations with noodles or rice (Chinese stall in the right corner). Also Thai, Filipino, western and fusion food.
- 3 New World Park Foodcourt, 1, Jalan Burma (corner of Jalan Burma and Jalan Pangkor), ☎ . Local specialities including curry mee, prawn mee, laksa, chee cheong and fun. For dessert try the ais kacang special with ice cream on top.
- 4 Behind Fifty (BHD50), 50, Love Lane (at the corner between Love Lane and Jalan Muntri), ☎ . 18:00-01:00. Started by 3 Chinese buddies who have a passion for food, art and making friends. This is one of the latest cozy places where one can chill out and hang out while enjoying a drink or tasting some noodle specialities. from RM15.
- 5 Sri Ananda Bahwan, 55 Penang St. 53 & in the Indian quarter, offers great Indian food for a very good price. They have branches all over Malaysia.
- 6 Kapitan's, 93 Lebuh Chulia, ☎ . 24 hours. No matter what time of the day, this mamak restaurant serves up great Indian food at a decent price. They are well known for their biryani, tandoori chicken and butter chicken. Also consider trying a drink called Badam milk, unless it has already sold out. RM5-12.
- 7 Krsna Restaurant (Krishna Vilas) (In the heart of Little India). Cheap banana leaf style food but now served on paper. Loads of rice with dal and condiments.
- The Soul Kitchen trattoria in Lebuh Muntri (lat=5.420512 | long=100.334192) used to do very good Italian dishes but closed in 2014. This entry is retained because a steady stream of ignorant pasta lovers beat a weary (and unfulfilled) path to its (closed) doors. Try Bactri.
- 8 Tai Tong, 45 Lebuh Cintra. 06:00-12:00. Well priced dim sum breakfasts, served in the traditional way on carts wheeled among the tables. Get there earlier for more variety.
- 9 No Eyed Deer Restaurant, 98-1-26 Prima Tanjung, Jalan Fettes 11200 Tanjung Tokong (Above the 7-Eleven store in the Prima Tanjung complex opposite Island Plaza), ☎ , fax: . 06:00 - 23:00. Favourite haunt among the locals & expatriates living in Penang. Western and Asian cuisine, famous for its Laotian laksa, chicken parmigiana and steaks. Popular dishes include its chicken Kapitan Bryani, chili lime sea bass, grilled lamb chops, mutton rogen josh, and spaghetti marinara. They are also reputed to serve one of the best fish & chips in town. The weekends are normally pretty busy, thus it is advisable to get there early.
- 10 Cherry Sweet Spicy Thai Food, 8 Clove Hall Road., ☎ , . Th-Tu 12:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00. Pork-free.
- eGate (Next to Tesco hypermarket along Jelutong Expressway). Restaurants such as Tao Japanese and formulaic outlets such as Starbucks, Old Town Kopitiam, Subway, Oasis.
- Illyana's, Teluk Kumbar. A Malay-style eatery with a popular Thai cook. Notable dishes include lala fried with olive oil, satay and the clay pot fish head curry. Seafood is always fresh, you pick what you want from the fresh seafood laid out and the chef cooks it for you in whatever style you fancy.
- Salsas, Upper Penang Rd (At the junction of Penang Rd and Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah). Good western food at reasonable prices.
- Yellow Light Thai Food, 1-C Fettes Rd, ☎ . Closed on Monday.
- Sri Lankan - Top Secret, 98 Jalan Mutri, ☎ . from 16:00. Serving Sri Lankan and western food. Also home to the Penang Hash House Harriers chapter. In the later-earlier hours it becomes a bar and place where the regulars and travellers hang out. RM15.
- Eden Seafood Village, ☎ . Daily 18:00-23:00. 69A Batu Ferringhi.
- Ocean Green Seafood, (Hotel Paramount), Jl Sultan Ahmad Shah. Used to be a popular seafood place for Penangites but of late, other seafood places have become popular. Commendable dishes include mantis prawns fried with salted egg yolk batter, fried sharksfin with eggs, and prawns.
- Oriental Seafood Restaurant, ☎ . Macalister Rd. (A sister outlet of the Oriental Seafood at Gurney Drive). This outlet at Macalister Rd is less pricey and it's for the locals who crave crabs and prawns, however unlike the one at Gurney Drive it lacks a view. Service is quick and you can order other side eats such as fried noodles. Crabs go by the kg so prices fluctuate. Ask first before ordering. They accept credit cards and cash.
- Seoul Garden Korean Restaurant, Sunrise Tower, 1st Floor, 190-192 Gurney Drive, ☎ +60 4 229-8705. The food here is not bad except that the kimchi can be quite different each time you eat here. Long established venue that attracts Korean expatriates during lunch and dinner. Nice views.
Upper Penang Road
If you're looking for something to do at night, there's always Upper Penang Road, where clubs, pubs and bars are always flooded with young people. UPR is located just opposite the famed Eastern And Oriental Hotel and beside the City Bayview Hotel.
- 1 The Garage, 2 Penang Rd. Once owned by the Wearne Brothers, the Garage used to be a motorcar showroom and has since been restored to its Art Deco glory, housing clubs, bars and boutiques like the Slippery Senoritas and F.A.M.E.
- Slippery Senoritas, Upper Penang Road (Located in the Garage), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open 11:00-03:00. Salsa Club & Restaurant. (Lunch, dinner, music) 1/2 price drinks until 21:00. Live music/DJs from 21:30. "Ladies Nights" Wed and Fri. Large club of 2 stories. Has another club called "Fame" connected to it in the courtyard. Get bottle service upstairs. Cover is less than US$10 but just go into the courtyard, buy a beer, and they will stamp you for free.
- 2 MOIS Dance Club, Wisma Boon Siew (1 Upper Penang Road), ☎ . 21:00-03:00. A club for the younger crowd in a grand colonial-style building.
- 3 Soho Freehouse, 50, Ground & Upper Floor, Penang Road,, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Selection of continental food and beer. Good place for gaming with pool tables and foosball.
Love Lane and Lebuh Chulia are also favourite hangout haunts, with many bars and cafes mixed with backpacker hostels.
- Church Street Cafe, 12 Church St (Lebuh Gereja), ☎ .
- The Meeting Point, Lebuh Chulia (Next door to Banana Guest House). 17:00-04:00. Chilled out reggae bar with most seats outside offering beers from RM8 (Jazz) and some snack food.
- Hong Kong Bar, Chulia Street. Famous and historically significant bar, home to many Commonwealth soldiers in Penang, particularly Australian forces based across the water at Butterworth. Run by the ever friendly Jenny. Fantastic atmosphere.
- Rock World, China Town (Walk down Lebuh Campbell). Seems to be visited mostly by Chinese Malaysians, and is fairly empty on weekdays.
- 1 75 Travellers Lodge (Next to W&O Guest House), 75 Lebuh Muntri, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 75 Jl Muntri. In the middle of Chinatown. Free 1-hr internet included in the room rate with 24-hr Wi-Fi. Dorm beds. Single ensuite, double/twin rooms Double/twins rooms (shared bathroom). dorm bed from RM20 per person..
- 2 Banana New Guest House (Banana Guest House), 355 Lebuh Chulia, ☎ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Clean, well organised and friendly. Free Wi-Fi.
- 3 Cathay Hotel, 15 Lebuh Leith, ☎ , fax: . Frequented by western backpackers.
- 4 Friendship Motel, 20, Jalan Penang, ☎ , , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. From RM28 for a small A/C room with shared bathroom. Free internet.
- 5 GoodHope Inn, 22 Jalan Kelawai, ☎ , fax: . RM100.
- Hang Chow Hotel, No. 511 Lebuh Chulia (Located at the west end of Lebuh Chulia), ☎ . Budget hotel with free Wi-Fi. Family room comes with a king and a queen bed, ceiling fan, air con and shower closet. The toilets are shared but very clean. This is a family run business, with a cafe on the ground floor and friendly owners. RM50.
- Hotel 1926, ☎ , fax: . 227 Jl Burmah. Heritage boutique hotel. Room Rate: RM80-100.
- 6 Hotel Mingood, 164 Argyll Rd, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. From RM80.
- Hotel Noble, 36 Lorong Pasar, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. fan single and double rooms with bathrooms. Pay for Wi-Fi. RM25.
- Hostel Red Inn, 55, Love Ln (walk in to Love Lane from 7-Eleven Chulia St.), ☎ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. New and stylish. Laundry service, DVD, clean toilets, breakfast included, computer for free internet (no printer). RM28-100.
- Jim's Place, 431 Chulia St. Just look out for the reggae colours. Rooms about the same price as in other places. Friendly and helpful owner and staff.
- 7 Love Lane Inn, 54, Lorong Love. Cheap and minimal guest house. The owner can be grumpy but serviceable. Curfew 02:00=07:30. Horrible mattresses but big rooms. Dorm, fan RM18, air-con RM20; single RM25.
- Mansion One Serviced Apartment, 57 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (Persiaran Gurney), ☎ . Available for daily, weekly and monthly rental.
- New Asia Hotel (Heritage), 71 Kimberly St (cross junction-Pintal Tali St./Rope Walk St), ☎ , fax: . Refurbished Sept 2011, heritage hotel, operated since WWII. A/C or fan), WiFi, flat-screen TV, water jug/heater, spacious common dining area, clean, security CCTV, friendly staff. From RM50-150.
- 8 Old Penang Guesthouse, 53 Lorong Love, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Budget heritage hostel with a modern fit-out in a historic restored pre-war building. Wi-Fi, In-room air-conditioning, towels and simple breakfast are included. There is also a downstairs communal area with DVDs, TV and books. Laundry service is available for an additional charge. The staff are very friendly and happy to suggest places to visit around Penang. Dorm: RM26, Privates from RM55.
- 9 One Malaysia Guesthouse, 369, Jalan C.Y. Choy (near Komtar Tower), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Free pickup from transport terminals, free Wi-Fi, free English newspaper, free mineral water. Very kind and friendly owner. Please call in advance. Double RM25.
- Oriental Guest House (formerly known as W&O Guesthouse), 81 Jl Muntri, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. 2 storey shop house building with the same owner as 75 Travellers Lodge a few doors away. Large airy rooms with windows, fan, sink. Friendly, clean and efficient, right in the middle of Chinatown. Cafe (known as Western Oriental Cafe) with TV. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in front of reception. Internet RM3/hr, RM2/half hr, laundry service, taxi, arrange local tours, sell boat, bus and train tickets and help to apply for Thailand visas. Single RM30, double/twin RM35-45, triple RM45-55 (Nov 2015).
- Pin Seng Hotel, 80 Jalan love Lane., ☎ . fan single and double rooms with bathrooms has Wifi. RM25.00.
- Reggae Hotel and Guesthouse, 57 Love Ln. Dorm rate: RM25. Opened Sept 2011, clean with a nice bar/restaurant/patio area. Western-style bathroom with hot shower. Free Wi-Fi. Dorm beds have individual 'stalls' with curtain for privacy and a small mirrored cabinet and two power plugs. Scooter rental in front is not run by Reggae, but the scooters are reliable if a little on the pricey side - RM30 for the day with RM20 deposit.
- Ryokan@Muntri St, 62, Lebuh Muntri (Muntri St) (via Upper Penang Rd. A stone's throw away from Cititel Hotel and Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Boutique hostel with a chic, comfortable and secure environment. Bar and cafe serving daily breakfast and beers in the evening, laundry service, bunk and suites, lockers, light boxes, clean toilets, library and iPad2 for surfing, printing facilities. RM33-RM38 for bunk beds & RM 136 for suite with full facilities.
- 10 Sim CityStay, 60 Level 1 Pengkalan Weld, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. Clean, well organised and friendly. Free Wi-Fi. Dorm beds from RM25 per person.
- Star Lodge, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 39 Jl. Muntri. All rooms with windows, fan, sink, toilet and hot shower. For A/C add on RM10/day. Free 1 hr internet included in the room rate plus free Wi-Fi 24/7.
- Super K Hostel, 324 Chulia St. Dorms with free Wi-Fi, chiropractic mattresses (none of the cheap thin mattresses), café, convenience store, open 24 hr, laundry service and free lockers.
- 11 Tune Hotel, 100 Burmah Rd (5 min from Komtar in George Town), ☎ . Single room from RM70 (promotional prices can be as low as RM10-30, check website regularly several months in advance, nice and clean. A/C and other services are not included in the online price, but can be purchased separately.
- YMCA International Hostel, 211 Macalister Rd. RM66-RM85 per night.
- YWCA Penang, ☎ . 8A Jl. Mesjid Negeri (State Mosque Rd./Green Lane Rd). Only has 5 single rooms, 5 double rooms and a dormitory so call to book first. Also, it is next to the State Mosque.
- An-Nur AnCasa Express @ Georgetown, Lot 1238, Jl Kampung Kolam, ☎ . 3 bed rooms, all of which have A/C, LCD flat-screen, cableTV, and kitchen with refrigerator and coffee/tea maker. From RM180.
- Banana Boutique Hotel (Heritage Building Hotel) (previously Blue Diamond Guesthouse), No 422 Chulia St, ☎ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. In an interesting and attractive century old building, restored and under new management. Walking distance to Upper Penang Rd where you can find cafe, bar and night spots. RM138-599.
- 12 Berjaya Penang (formerly Georgetown City Hotel), I-Stop Midland Park, 488, Jalan Burma, Pulau Tikus, ☎ , fax: . Rooms from RM250/night.
- Cititel Penang, 66 Penang Rd, ☎ , fax: . Rooms from RM130-RM350/night.
- City Bayview Penang, 25A Farquhar St. ☎ +60 4 263-3161, (Toll free within Malaysia 1 800 888854), (Fax: +60 4 263-4124). Location: 5⁰ 25'18.68"N ; 100⁰ 20'9.01"E.
- Hotel Continental Penang, 5 Penang Rd, ☎ .
- Grand Paradise Hotel (previously Midtowne Hotel), 101 Macalister Rd, ☎ , fax: .
- Hotel Sentral Seaview Penang (formerly Naza Hotel Penang), 555 Jl. CM Hashim, Tanjung Tokong, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- PPisland Hotel, Penang, 33A, Abu Siti Lane, ☎ , fax: . A boutique hotel with 3-star qualities. Rooms rate from RM68 (promotion) per night.
- Red Rock Hotel (formerly Agora Hotel), 202A Macalister Rd, ☎ .
- 13 Sunway Hotel Georgetown, 33 New Ln (Lorong Baru) (off Macalister Rd, centre of George Town), ☎ , fax: . Walking distance to Komtar and famous New Lane hawker centre (night time). May ask for room without breakfast since there are many food stalls around the area. RM140-460 per night.
- Hotel Penaga, Corner of Jl Hutton & Lebuh Clarke, ☎ . Rooms and suites individually furnished with antique cabinets, benches and chairs. The classics of mid 20th century furniture design are also in every room. They also have world class facilities such as the Penaga Spa, a business centre, a garden, and a swimming pool. From RM443.70.
- 14 Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, 14 Lebuh Leith, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Instead of just visiting this beautifully restored heritage building, why not consider sleeping there. The Mansion boasts 16 rooms with all the usual modern fittings, although there is no pool available. Breakfast included. RM420.
- 15 Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang, 10 Farquhar St, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Founded in 1884 by the Sarkies brothers, legendary hoteliers who also founded Yangon's Strand Hotel and Singapore's famous Raffles Hotel, the E&O is Penang's grand old colonial hotel. Rooms from RM400.
- G Hotel, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 168A Gurney Drive. Brand new post-modern luxury hotel in town with direct sea views. Comfortable, hip and funky.
- Hotel Royal Penang (formerly Dorsett Penang Hotel), 3 Jl. Larut, (Larut Rd), ☎ , fax: . This 273-room Singapore-managed, is a short drive from Komtar and the food hub of Macalister Rd. From RM480 for deluxe room.
- Northam Hotel All Suite, 55 Northam Rd (Jl. Sultan Ahmad Shah), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 142 A/C suites, cableTV, en-suite bathroom, water-massage Jacuzzi.
- Hotel Jen Penang (formerly Shangri-La Hotel Penang), Magazine Rd, ☎ , toll-free: . Next to Komtar and Prangin Mall, in the heart of George Town. The rooms are fairly old, but the staff are friendly and attentive. Guests can book a free shuttle bus to Rasa Sayang Shangri-la and Golden Sands in Batu Ferringhi.
George Town is a safe city and serious crimes are pretty rare. Be extra careful in crowds and on roadsides, as they are the spots where petty crimes such as snatch thefts and pickpockets occur.
Like everywhere, some local men like to yell things and make suggestive comments to women walking alone, and sometimes they can get "too friendly".
If you look like a tourist, you will get considerably higher prices from the salesmen in markets, like Batu Ferringhi Night Market, or the market near the Kek Lok Si temple. The real price of the product is always a lot less and at times the "best price" is five times the normal price.
Taxis generally do not use meters due to poor enforcement by local authorities, even though it is "compulsory". The meters are often claimed to be "broken" or are hidden. You should always ask for the use of the meter. The metered price is always less than a price given in advance. Tourists are often cheated, sometimes even left by the roadside in the middle of nowhere if they refuse to pay a considerably inflated sum of money. You should negotiate the fare before boarding if the taxi driver refuses to use the meter, preferably seek a different taxi if they refuse to use the meter. Taxis from Penang Airport are paid using slips given in a small office in the airport building.
Do not use drugs, and stay away from them. You will get the death sentence if caught dealing with certain types of drugs and Malaysia's laws provide very harsh punishment for any drug related offence. The amount of the drug you are caught with will determine whether you are charged as a user or a dealer. Pay heed to the warning signs at all entry points to the country and just don't have anything to do with illegal substances.
- Immigration Dept George Town Office, Beach St, ☎ , fax: .
- Bangladesh, 15 Bishop St, ☎ .
- Canada, 3007 Tkt. Perusahaan 5, Kaw Perusahaan Perai, ☎ .
- Denmark, 1F, Wisma Rajab, 82 Bishop St, ☎ , fax: .
- Finland, 8F, Wisma Penang Garden, 42 Jl Sultan Ahmad Shah, ☎ , fax: .
- France, 2F, Wisma Rajab, 82 Bishop St, ☎ .
- Germany, Plot 205-206 Jl Kampung Jawa, Free Industrial Zone 3, ☎ .
- Hungary, Plot 226-228 Jl Kampung Jawa Free Industrial Zone 3, ☎ .
- Indonesia, 467 Jl Burma, ☎ .
- Japan, Level 28, Menara, BHL, 51 Jl Sultan Ahmad Shah, ☎ , fax: . M-F 08:30-12:30, 14:00-17:00 Closed on Public Holidays. Visa counter: 08:30-12:00, 14:00-16:00.
- Netherlands, 202 Jl Sultan Azlan Shah, ☎ .
- Norway, 4 Jl Sepoy Lines, ☎ .
- Russia, 37 Green Hall, ☎ .
- Sri Lanka, 1 Bishop St, ☎ .
- Sweden, 3F, Standard Chartered Bank Chambers, 2 Beach St, ☎ .
- United Kingdom, 3F, Standard Chartered Bank Chambers, 2 Beach St, ☎ .
- Thailand, 1 Jl Tunku Abdul Rahman, ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hour for visa applications: 09:00-12:00, closed on Malay and Thai holidays.
- Turkey, 3F, Standard Chartered Bank Chambers, 2 Beach St, ☎ .
There is still plenty more of Penang to visit; simply hop on one of the local Rapid Penang buses and explore.
- Visit Air Itam, a town just west of George Town. Visit the famous Penang Hill, either by funicular train or spend a few hours and trek to the top. The views of Penang are exceptional from the hill. If you still have time then visit the gigantic Kek Lok Si Temple.
- Relax on the beach at Batu Ferringhi and the nearby resort town of Tanjung Bungah. If you're hungry for seafood look no further than the fishing village of Teluk Bahang and if you still have some energy left, go for a leisurely trek in Penang National Park.
- Discover Penang's backcountry at Balik Pulau. The area is literally the back of the Island and is a slice of an undeveloped Penang. Around the expansive area you will find kampungs, fruit farms and rice paddies scattered throughout.
- Cross over to Penang's mainland (Seberang Perai), which is somewhat off the tourist track. The towns of Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam are a great place to start.