An insider's guide to spending a weekend in Penang
48 hours (more or less)
With RMCO allowing us to now travel interstate, the northern island of Penang is a draw for many reasons—its golden beaches, delectable hawker fare, colourful Nyonya heritage and the UNESCO heritage status of George Town. On weekends it teems with tourists, so here's an itinerary of lesser-known activities which will have you not only keeping safe and avoiding the crowds but also experiencing the island in a different light.
Get into the thick of hawker food paradise with a bespoke food tour by Simply Enak, who will walk you through the culinary thrills of the city against a colourful backdrop of heritage-listed buildings. Experience some of Penang's most lauded hawker dishes, such as Char Kway Teow, and hard-to-find ones like Cheh Hu, at off-the-tourist-track spots frequented by locals.
As the day heats up, keep cool by heading 2,700 feet above sea level into the lush jungles of Penang Hill to The Habitat, where passionate naturalists will take you on a stroll through the 130-million-year-old rainforest. End with the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk which offers a majestic 360-degree view of the island. Also consider booking a private shinrin-yoku or 'forest bathing' experience, a nature therapy that will leave you physically and mentally refreshed.
Hours: 9:00am - 7:00pm, daily
Address: Jalan Stesen, Bukit Bendera, Air Itam, 11500, Penang
The Blue Mansion is a must-go for visitors because of its architecture and UNESCO conservation award. In addition, it's well-known as filming locations for shows such as Netflix's The Ghost Bride and Hollywood's Crazy Rich Asians; but locals know to venture in only when the crowd has filtered out. Go at magic hour when the light softens and the mansion is quiet—then indulge in a cocktail or two at the bar or in the main courtyard, before adjourning to an elegant, East-meets-West dinner at Indigo. On weekends, the guzheng performer serenades in the courtyard at sundown, transforming the space into something quite magical. Also a boutique hotel, you can stay the evening to experience how the 130-year-old mansion changes throughout the day.
Hours: 11:00am - 11:00pm, daily (with the exception of in-house guests)
Address: 14 Lebuh Leith, George Town, 10200, Penang
Bookings: +604 262 0006
Start the day early with a drive down the northwest coast of Penang to the sleepy fishing village of Teluk Bahang, where breakfast at Belimbing Cafe Corner is highly recommended. The roti jala is the main attraction here, accompanied by tasty curries and friendly service.
Hours: 6:00am - 12 noon, Fridays - Wednesdays
Address: At the roundabout, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050, Penang
Ever heard of a meromictic lake? It's a lake fed by both salt- and freshwater sources in layers which do not intermix. Not many countries have them, and Penang is home to the only one in Malaysia. The lake can be accessed from Kerachut Beach, which you'll find either by a 100-minute hike through the Penang National Park, or a boat ride from the park entrance. There is also a turtle sanctuary on this beach as it is a popular nesting spot for Green Sea and Olive Ridley turtles. Within the National Park, you'll also find Monkey Beach which is a much shorter hike with calmer waters, making it ideal for a day trip at a secluded beach.
Hours: Open daily, no entrance fees, register at entrance
Address: Taman Negara Pulau Pinang, Teluk Bahang, 11050, Penang
With family recipes handed down through generations, there is no right or wrong when it comes to authentic Peranakan dishes. Every family is unique, as are their recipes, which can all be discovered through the private kitchen of the Heritage Artisans. Run by a group of Babas and Nyonyas with a fervent need to introduce and sustain their cuisine, this exclusive by-appointment-only supper club will have you experiencing a feast of flavours and textures that will thrill and awaken the palate.
Book and customise: https://www.facebook.com/heritageartisans/
Close the evening with one of the stellar cocktails at Heap Seng House, where you can not only slake your thirst but also enjoy the aphrodisiacal benefits of fresh oysters till late.
Hours: 6:00pm - 11:30pm, daily (by reservation only)
Address: 5 Halaman Seh Tan, George Town, 10300, Penang
Bookings: +604 251 9424