Top things to do in Penang

I first visited Penang when I was on one of my many Thai visa runs. We went to Phuket because it seemed like a beautiful destination and an easy way of getting the Thai Tourist Visa in order.

Penang is a malay island located in the Malacca Strait and it is also called the Pearl of the Orient. Not only you can find hip tings to do here, but the natural scenery is stunning! You can also enjoy delicious mix-cultural food and nice nightlife if you wish.

There are so many things you can do in Penang, I will state the Top Things to do here. You can check out other posts for more detailed information.

George Town

George town is the capital city of Penang, being the place where most tourist book their hotels/hostels at. For us, it was a total relief to find side-walks and a pedestrian friendly city – in contrast to Thailand.

In this city, you can breath creativity, art, culture and spices in the air. It is such a lovely and bohemian place to spend time in. Find a nice coffee shop, walk around the multiple temples and search for the beautiful street art hidden around the city like gems!

Street Art in George Town

The top things to do around George town are these:

  • Street art scavenger hunt: get a map and find all the hidden street art. Check this post if you need some info on this!
  • Visit the different temples and mosques around: hindi, buddhist, taoist or islamic heritage and art.
  • Eat at Little India: enjoy the tastiest food in town!
  • Upside Down Museum: do you have a bit of time to spear on a fun and uncommon museum? Take memorable photos and have a good time!
  • Clan Jetties Floating Villages: near the harbour, you can find this interesting village and stroll around the piers.

Kek Lok Si

Truly, one of the most beautiful temples I have yet seen in Southeast Asia.

It is the largest buddhist temple in Malaysia and it is near the famous Penang Hill. You can enjoy three levels in this temple. The first one is the temple itself with the pagoda and the gardens, the second one consists of a huge statue of the Goddess Kuan Yin, and the third level is a small artificial lake with beautiful views.

Lake at the very top of Kek Lok Si.

It is one of my favorite temples and I have been there twice. Both times here, I have been amazed by the beauty of the Chinese art, and loved contemplating their rituals and prayers.

If you decide going there, don’t miss out on the delicious Laksa at Penang Air Itam Laksa! Best-street-food-ever!

Kek Lok Si is usually crowded since believers and tourist visit it on a daily basis. It is surrounded by nature and the mountains… for me, it is a must on your trip to Penang!

View of the Pagoda and the mountains from the gardens in Kek Lok Si

National Park – Pantai Kerachut trail

Free. The National Park fee is free. Amazing, huh? It is absolutely great that you can enjoy so many activities in Penang for free or affordable prices.

So, I have been twice to this beautiful park, and enjoyed it so much. There are many trails you can choose to hike through,but due to natural phenomenas you have to be ready to change your plans and switch trails (this happened to me both times I was there).

The first time we went to the National Park, we wanted to go to Turtle Beach and through the Canopy walk, but the trails was closed for maintance. Therefore, we walked the Kerachut trail and then walked to Monkey Beach. The trail to the lighthouse was also closed, and we were tired anyways so we chilled at the beach with our fellow monkey friends.

Carefull with the monkeys! So we were carrying food but we were lucky: the monkeys kept their distance scavenging some food out of the garbage. This is not always the case though! My second experience at Monkey Beach was a bit scarier.

National Park in Penang

The trails can be slippery, it’s the jungle! So wear comfy hiking shoes if you plan on walking the paths. Even though they are about an hour long, they are tiring. Prepare to sweat a lot and bring some water!

Also, pay attention to your senses so you can spot some of the cool jungle animals: dusky leaf monkeys (my favorites!!!), macaques; birds like the great egret or the waterhen, squirrels, crabs, monitor lizards, snakes, etc.

National Park – Monkey Beach trail

On my second trip to Penang, I went back to the National Park to chill on Monkey Beach….but, oh oh! The trail to Monkey Beach was cut due to the falling of some rocks…(?) Not very sure why…

“No problem!” They told me. “Take a boat to Monkey beach”. I was with my sister and cousin and the boat cost 80 ringgit in total….LESS THAN 20$ ROUND TRIP! It is frequent for people to approach you at Batu Ferringhi and offer a trip to the Beach for more money… Go directly to the National Park and trust the staff there.

The pier… I swear it is stable haha

Our driver wasn’t very fluent in English but tried his best to engage in conversation with us. He told us that if we were lucky we could spot dolphins jumping in the sea. We weren’t…boo hoo! But remember to check if you get a boat!

It was a nice ride with beautiful view. Totally recommended. Boat rides are one of my favorite ways of transportation….

At Monkey Beach we chilled for a couple hours…We walked around the beach and found trillions of jellyfish on the sand…Yickes! We swam at our own risk -weren’t stung- and enjoyed a coconut under the warm sun.

Enjoying the beach life…!

I’m not much of a beachbum so I soon needed to get my feet moving. We – or mostly I- decided to take a walk to the lighthouse and see the view of the tip of Penang from above.

The way up is a bit more than 1 kilometer but remember it is mostly a hill, so the way up can be a bit intense. Bring bug spray….huge weird flies bit like lil’ monsters.

Now…you know how they say don’t feed the monkeys? Well…I have to say sometimes it is NECESSARY.

On our way down back to our boat, we saw two monkeys in the middle of the path making love… yep! We thought it was hilarious and kept moving forward to get back to the beach….But they weren’t alone. Once we got closer, with just a glance we saw about 15-20 monkeys all around us. A branch above our head had a couple, and more moved towards this direction.

We were so frikin’ scared. My sister and cousin hadn’t seen these monkeys out in the wild before so I tried to keep calm – but wasn’t- and tried to pass through without making eye contact. Didn’t work. A monkey, which we assumed was the Alpha, just got closer with his chest exposed.

I had an idea. We had bought chips for the beach so I threw some far away from the path. Most monkeys ran to eat them. Not the Alpha…who just moved closer. I was about to pee in my pants! My sister said maybe to go back and wait. So, we decided to go back up the hill to the lighthouse and seek for help, lol.

Wasn’t necessary though. As we were receding, the Alpha monkey relaxed and went to eat the chips. Then we ran like the wind and got back to the beach….

So, yeah, sometimes to avoid rabies, it is necessary to feed the monkeys!

Botanical Garden + Penang Hill

Another must-do in Penang, a nice and calm walk through the Botanical Gardens. The best part of this garden is that it is back to back with Penang Hill, having the jungle right behind it. Thanks to this, you can have a great chance to explore some local fauna here!

We were so lucky we spotted a family of Dusky Leaf Monkeys at the Botanical Park!

There are thousands of exotic trees in this park, so if you really enjoy learning about flora or just want to enjoy of a bit of nature, you will really enjoy this bit of Penang.

It isn’t usually crowded, and it is not only a touristy thing to do: many locals come to have a run or enjoy the day out in nature here too!

Lovely Lilly pond at the Botanical Gardens

There are so many paths you can explore! If you feel adventurous you can hike up and down the dirt paths and maybe see some unexpected animals like monitor lizards, squirrels, snakes, birds, and definitely, some monkeys!

If you feel more like a relaxed walk, learning about trees, plants and flowers, you can stay on the paved path and visit the main attractions of the Botanical Gardens.

After visiting the Botanical Gardens, you can go check out Penang hill to have a panoramic view of Penang and enjoy some of the attractions that they hold in this hill! You can either hike your way up there, or use the funicular.

Views from the top of Penang Hill

Penang is one of my favorite places in Malaysia, not only because there are tons of things to see and do. But because people are kind, food in yummy and there is always something going on!