Penang: Pearl of the Orient

To get to Kek Lok Si, visitors have to pass dozens of stairs flanked by souvenir stores. Interestingly, to reach the Goddess Kuan Yin statue, visitors queue for a lift that moves up at an angle of about 45 degrees. Arriving at the site of the statue, which is being renovated, one has a fantastic view of the whole island.

Scenic Spots

Penang as an island-city has beautiful beaches. Popular beaches are located along the north coast in Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang. The area is popular among tourists and there are several hotels facing the sea, restaurants and souvenir stores.

Pasir Panjang Beach, located in the southwest of the island, is another popular spot with complete facilities. Quiet beaches can be found in Teluk Duyong, Pantai Keram Pantai Keracut and Pantai Mas, which can be reached through the Pantai Acheh protected forest in Teluk Bahang.

To get to the beaches in Teluk Bahang toward the northwest, a road passing through a mountainous area in Balik Pulau is taken where one gets to see a beautiful panorama of clove, nutmeg and durian plantations on the mountain slopes. A rural area, Balik Pulau, has many pretty Malay traditional houses. Just like a Pearl of the Orient.

Photo by Yaopey Yong on Unsplash

Travel Tips

Accommodation in Penang ranges from budget hostels to star-rated hotels. Budget hostels cost between $8 and $31 per night and star-rated hotels $80 to $200 per night.

The best way to explore Penang is by foot. By walking, the everyday life of the Penangites can be observed. You can also take buses, taxis or trishaws.

Fares vary sharply between public buses and taxis. A cab from 100 Cintra Street (a hostel in Chinatown) to Batu Ferringi costs RM30.00 (US$8.80), while the bus costs RM1.50. Most city taxis do not use the meter, in which case you should agree on a price beforehand. Most city buses use coin machines to collect fares. The main bus terminals are at Pengkalan Weld (ferry terminal) and KOMTAR (ground floor).

Penang is a foodie’s haven due to its variety of hawker stalls. Among Penang’s most popular culinary delights are Penang Char Kuay Teow, Assam Laksa, Tar Sau Peah, Rojak Pasembur, Nasi Kandar and Hokkien Mee. A delicious lunch cost as little as $2.19.

Much of Penang’s nightlife can be found in the area between E&O Hotel and the Cititel. Here you’ll find smoky English pubs with darts, bars, discos and small eateries.

Penang’s main shopping areas are located on Jalan Penang, Lebuh Campbell, Lebuh Kapitan Keling, Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Pantai. Shops along Rope Walk (Jl. Pintal Tali) offer a range of antique items and bric-a-brac.

Penang also has excellent and affordable medical services. For example, a basic standard executive health screening test including examination, electrocardiogram, chest X-ray and blood and other tests costs $130. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, December 29, 2009

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