Things to do in Penang, Malaysia + Side-trip to Ipoh

May 6-8, 2023

Penang has always been in my travel bucket list. 

I always think of the art installations and wall murals, lots of history, and good food whenever this city is brought up. During my Malaysia trip a few weeks ago, I had the chance to finally visit this northwest side of Malaysia. Our final stop for this FAM tour with Philippine Airlines is George Town, the capital City of Penang. 

When I hear “Penang”, I always think about the OG art murals
Hawker for our first dinner in Penang

Fun Facts About George Town and Penang:

  • George Town is known for its British colonial buildings, Chinese shophouses, and mosques–talk about being multi cultural. As a foodie paradise, of course you can also enjoy the diverse culinary feasts with Malay, Indian and Chinese influences.
  • Aside from the wall murals, another popular Penang destination is the Penang Hill where you have to ride a funicular to enjoy the rainforests, flower gardens, and panoramic views of the city.
  • Designer Jimmy Choo was born in Penang.
  • Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • “Penang” came from the betel nut tree Malay word pinang. 

A pinang tree sighting on our first day

Sharing our itinerary in Georgetown, Penang:

3D2N, but only around 1.5 days to go around, other days were spent in transit

Day 4: May 6 – Ipoh and Penang City Tour

6am – 8am – Breakfast at Thyme Restaurant, checkout ParkRoyal Collection Hotel KL

Read More: Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

8am-10am – Travel to Ipoh 

Kuala Lumpur to Penang will take around 4 hours. I like that we had a stopover in Ipoh for a little shopping and for lunch to break the long bus ride. 

A little about this city:  

➡️ Surrounded by limestone hills 

➡️ Popular for its food scene, so yey for having our lunch (the best!) & buying local delicacies (flaky kaya puffs) for pasalubong here  

➡️ Home of Old Town White Coffee! 

Ipoh is also my very FIRST TRAVEL BLOG assignment  back in 2016, so it will always have a special place in my heart. 

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11am – Sin Weng Fai Peanut Candy Shop, Ipoh

Shopping of Delicacies, like their fresh Kaya Puffs. Took home a box (hand carry) which my family enjoyed even though it’s not as fresh na–masarap parin when you toast them!

12nn – Lunch at Kok Thai Restaurant 

Really enjoyed our lunch here. They served a variety of viands, and even as a vegetarian, there are a lot of tofu based and vegetable dishes served in this resto that are tasty and filling. 

3pm – Check-in at Cititel Penang, freshen up before afternoon tour

Our final hotel for this trip! My room in Cititel Penang may be smaller compared to our rooms from the past days, but it is still nice and homey. I love the view from my room’s window. It is a comfortable space, and location is pretty central where you can easily walk around to see George Town’s hotspots. It’s a recommended hotel if you’re planning a trip in Penang.

Always love a room with a view!

My comfortable room in Cititel Penang for 2 nights

The toilet and bath, clean and complete

4pm-6pm – A Brief Penang City Tour 

  • Harmony Street – different places of worship, sign of diversity
  • Armenian Street – for the street street art
  • Flower Market – near the Sri Mariamman Temple, men worked on the floral arrangements
  • Penang Food Scene Experience – tried the street foods, and had dinner at their hawker

No time to waste, we went out right away during our first afternoon in Penang. We walked around in some of its famous spots, including places of worships, markets, and street art. It was a bit gloomy, and sun was about to set so it was a quick tour of each place–just to get the feel of George Town.

Harmony Street

Flower Market

Armenian Street

Authentic Penang dinner! For vegetarians, I had this dish called Mee Jawa that tastes like our pansit palabok

Cendol for our dessert (similar to our halo-halo)

7pm – Rainbow Skywalk 

A good way to end our day one in Penang is through this “soft adventure” called Rainbow Skywalk! We get to go up The TOP Penang building, and take pictures in the highest outdoor glass sky walk in Malaysia! The building is also the tallest skyscraper in George Town at around 248.7 metres above ground.

A little thrill for our first night in Penang!
Photo at the horseshoe-shaped glass bridge

9pm onwards – Drinks with the group at Chulia Street

Just a few blocks from Cititel Penang is Chulia Street, George Town’s oldest road and where a lot of backpacking accommodations are located. With this, the street is also very much alive at night with bars and restos. We walked the stretch, choosing where to have a bottle for our “2nd to the last night”, when we passed by The Pokok

It was fun to unwind under a huge tree (pokok means tree in Malay), with a beer in one hand, and new friends seating next to each other. We even met a traveller who has been on the road for 6 months already!

Interesting night in Penang!

Day 5: May 7, Penang Tour

7am-9am – Breakfast at the hotel, prepare for tour

Sunrise view from my room’s window
A hearty breakfast for the long day ahead

How our Penang tour bus looks like.. very comfortable and spacious

9am-11am – Penang Tour Part 1:

  • Chowrasta Market – lots of street foods, local goods, plants, and a whole lot more. Had fun going around, and even got myself a tiedye shirt!
  • Cheah Kongsi – oldest Hokkien clan temple in Penang, the family’s place or worship and business dealings
  • Blue Mansion – or the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion which served as the clan’s residence. Currently, it operates both as a museum and a hotel, and was also one of the movie Crazy Rich Asians’ shooting locations 
  • Gudang Cafe – cafe in an old godowm (warehouse). Had a refreshing iced lemon honey tea, perfect coz it was so hot that day!
  • Chew Jetty – a clan jetty, and the biggest of the waterfront settlements in Georgetown
Side note: Didn’t know about the clan (as in families) stories of Penang, and they have a lot! I also heard a lot about mafias through our tour guide Sir Vincent. Very interesting part of their history that I need to read up more.

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A very classic 2D mural of George Town, Penang: Boy on a Chair by Ernest Zacharevic 

Facade of the Cheah Kongsi temple, a 1800s clan temple with post independence architecture

More wall art spotted but this time at one of the houses in Chew Jetty

Quick pose by the port before we walked to our next stop!

The blue mansion where a scene from Crazy Rich Asians was filmed

It is one of the elaborate and luxurious structures of its time

12nn – Lunch at Hameediyah Restaurant – famous to locals, super haba ng line when we arrived and when we left. Really enjoyed our Indian food lunch here especially the breaded bitter gourd or ampalaya, which I usually do not eat!

Long line of local for this Indian resto, One of my favorite meals for this trip (along with the Ipoh food)… will try other dishes next time!

2pm – Penang Tour Part 2:

  • Funicular Ride – one section railway going to Penang Hill. It runs every 30 minutes, 7 days a week
  • Penang Hill – Didn’t know this part of Penang, so glad we were able to visit these hills and rainforest area on our last day. 821m above Georgetown, amazing views of nature and the city, and a bit cooler than the lowlands. 
  • The Habitat Penang Hill – Last stop before dinner! Wish we had more time, but it’s nice that at least I was acquainted to this educational & fun attraction showing off the area’s pristine rainforest. Our tour guide said we needed at least 2 hours to see the whole vicinity! (Sadly we only had about 30 minutes). Para siyang nature and adventures site
  • Dinner at The George – Another beautiful hotel option in George Town Penang, very stylish, also recommended location-wise. We had our final dinner in Malaysia here, where we also tried 

Beautiful view of the city from the Penang Hill funicular ride

We spotted a dusky leaf monkey while walking up the Penang Hill

We stopped by this viewing deck, before getting a little Penang Hill 101 lecture in an air conditioned mini musuem

View on top of Penang’s highest viewing platform, the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk of The Habitat

Passing through the Langur Way Canopy Walk, the longest double span stressed ribbon bridge in the world

Last dinner in Penang at The George hotel

Group photo! It was a fun night coz I remember laughing a lot during this meal 🙂

We tried these fancy cakes at Php 500 per slice.. the last slice DURIAN flavor got a 50/50 reaction in our table