The island of Penang, known as the ‘Pearl of the
Orient’, sits just off the northwest coast of Peninsular
Malaysia. A large number of tourist facilities have been added,
which have spoilt heaps of the island’s main beach charms.
Some of the beaches popular with resort developers, especially Batu Feringgi on the north coast, have been invaded by jet
skis, private hotel stretches of sand and numerous touts and hawkers.
Despite this development to the north, the rest of the island is
still a tropical haven that is surrounded by palm trees and sandy beaches. It is also
the key international gateway to northern Malaysia. Its
natural harbour was what first attracted the British to Penang in
the late 18th century. The port is still 1 of the most important
in Malaysia today. There is frequent ferry service available between the island and
the town of Butterworth on the mainland.
Georgetown is Penang’s main settlement and is
a developing area where Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai and European
combine. The architecture in the space of a few miles takes
in a British colonial style to Chinese stilt houses.
The major shopping area is on Canarvon and Campbell Streets.
Worth a visit are Fort Cornwallis, a British 18th-century fortress, Khoo Kongsi, an old Chinese clan residence,Penang
Museum and Art Gallery and a number of temples, churches, and mosques
throughout the town.
The 1st class laksas and unusual Penang dishes are reason enough
for visiting. Many meals are enjoyed outside at the ubiquitous food
Rest of Penang
Penang is more than just beaches. The most unique tourist attraction is
the Snake Temple, swarming with venomous snakes. Apparently
their poisonous threat is countered by heavily drugging them with
incense. Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple houses a massive gold-plated
reclining Buddha. At 33 metres long, is believed to be the 3rd
largest in the world.
The Penang Bird Park in Seberang Jaya is a place for over 400 species of birds, ideal for bird
lovers and horticultural admirers. The park's aviaries are pleasantly designed
with waterfalls and
gardens ablaze with flowers and tropical greenery, located among man-made islands. Many varieties
of orchids and hibiscuses can also be found.
The Penang Butterfly Farm in Teluk Bahang houses more than 100 species of butterflies and insects, and it is open daily.
Penang Hill is set amidst the island, with a 700 metre or 2,300 feet peak, where tourists who don't
mind the long queues for the cable car are rewarded with beautiful
views and jungle walks.
Located north of Penang, Langkawi consists of 104 islands.
The largest island, Langkawi is a free port and the only island with tourist
facilities and duty-free shopping
is available. International chain hotels and resorts have opened
as the government and developers flood into what is set to become
the country’s premier island resort. The island’s
coves, inlets and lagoons make it great for all water sports.
Horse riding and golf is also available. Flights to Langkawi
depart from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Alor Setar. Langkawi can also be reached
by road and sea.
The state of Kelantan is on the Malay-Thai border in the north,
whose capital Kota Bharu is a vibrant, colourful city,
very much the archetypal South East Asian border town. Kelantan boasts clean and unspoilt beaches
which are ideal for diving, swimming and
fishing, and hosts a number of cultural festivals, some of which
are unique to the region. The birthday of the Sultan (Puja
Umur) is celebrated with a week long festival, starting with
a parade in Kota Bharu. An art unique to Kelantan is the Ma’yong,
a mixture of opera, ballet, romantic drama and comedy, originally
a form of court entertainment.