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Long known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” the Malaysian island of Penang is one the most fascinating destinations in Asia. A mélange of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures overlaid with colonial history is the prime draw of its UNESCO-heritage-listed state capital, Georgetown. Here you can explore the old Chinese assembly halls and clan houses such as the fabulous ornate Khoo Kongsi and Tua Pek Kong. Other grand homes of wealthy Straits Chinese traders have become hotels such as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and Clove Hall. You can learn all about the island’s colorful history at the Penang Museum and later relax on the beach at Batu ...

Long known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” the Malaysian island of Penang is one the most fascinating destinations in Asia. A mélange of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures overlaid with colonial history is the prime draw of its UNESCO-heritage-listed state capital, Georgetown. Here you can explore the old Chinese assembly halls and clan houses such as the fabulous ornate Khoo Kongsi and Tua Pek Kong. Other grand homes of wealthy Straits Chinese traders have become hotels such as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and Clove Hall. You can learn all about the island’s colorful history at the Penang Museum and later relax on the beach at Batu Ferringhi.

The 2,694-foot peak of Penang Hill provides a cool retreat while the massive Buddhist temple Kek Lok Si also has an elevated position on the slopes of Air Itam. Thai and Burmese Buddhist temples add further interest while the recently restored Suffolk House, the original home of Francis Light, the founder of the British colony on the island, offers a slice of gentrified England in the tropics. Above all, Penang offers a delicious range of cuisines, mixing elements from all the different cultures crowded onto the island – don’t leave without having sampled asam laksa, a fish soup flavored with sour tamarind paste.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Now Happening in Penang

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south.
  • Language: Malay
  • Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
  • Research: Wikitravel | Malaysia | Peninsular Malaysia | Penang
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    This is the tropics so it's hot year round. May to October is the rainiest season. Chinese New Year in January or February is a very busy time with lots of visitors but also a good opportunity to see Chinese opera and dance.