A quick and dirty list of lists: What to do, things to see, where to eat in and around Penang, Malaysia
Batu Ferringhi is a popular beach destination located on the northwest coast of Penang, Malaysia. The area has a rich history that spans from its early days as a sleepy fishing village to its transformation into a thriving tourist hotspot. Here’s a brief history of Batu Ferringhi:
Early Settlement and Fishing Village: Before becoming a tourist destination, Batu Ferringhi was a quiet fishing village inhabited by local Malays and a small number of Chinese and Indian communities. The village’s name, “Batu Ferringhi,” is derived from the Malay words “batu” (stone) and “ferringhi” (foreigner), likely referencing the presence of foreign traders and visitors.
Colonial Era: During the colonial era, Penang was under British rule, and the island played a significant role as a trading port and administrative center. While Batu Ferringhi remained relatively untouched, the development of tourism infrastructure began in the mid-20th century as the area’s natural beauty and sandy beaches attracted attention from travelers.
Emergence as a Tourist Destination: In the 1960s and 1970s, Batu Ferringhi started to witness the development of hotels and resorts, catering to the growing interest in beach tourism. This period marked the gradual transformation of the village into a destination known for its picturesque coastline, clear waters, and recreational opportunities.
Tourism Boom: By the 1980s and 1990s, Batu Ferringhi had become one of Penang’s main tourist attractions, drawing visitors from Malaysia and around the world. The area was characterized by a variety of accommodations, ranging from budget lodges to luxury resorts, along with water sports activities, night markets, and dining options.
Environmental and Development Challenges: The rapid growth of tourism in Batu Ferringhi brought both economic benefits and challenges. The increased development of hotels and other amenities raised concerns about environmental preservation and sustainability. Over time, efforts were made to balance tourism development with conservation of the natural environment.
Modern Era: In recent years, Batu Ferringhi has continued to evolve. Efforts have been made to enhance the area’s infrastructure, attract investment, and promote sustainable tourism practices. The night markets, in particular, remain a popular attraction, offering a variety of local crafts, clothing, and street food.
Batu Ferringhi’s history encapsulates the transformation of a humble fishing village into a bustling tourist destination. Its journey from a quiet shoreline to a vibrant beachfront illustrates the complexities of managing tourism growth while preserving the area’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
- George Town: The capital city of Penang and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, George Town is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant street art, and cultural diversity.
- Street Art: George Town is famous for its street art murals by Ernest Zacharevic and other artists. These whimsical and thought-provoking artworks are scattered throughout the city, creating a unique art trail.
- Penang Hill: Offering panoramic views of the island, Penang Hill can be reached by a funicular train ride. It’s a popular spot to escape the heat and enjoy cooler temperatures.
- Kek Lok Si Temple: One of Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist temples, Kek Lok Si features stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and a towering seven-tiered pagoda.
- Penang Botanic Gardens: A lush green space with a wide variety of plant species, including rare orchids and giant rainforest trees. The gardens also house a collection of local wildlife.
- Fort Cornwallis: Built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century, this historic fort is a reminder of Penang’s colonial past.
- Khoo Kongsi: A grand Chinese clanhouse that showcass intricate architecture, wood carvings, and ornate decorations, offering a glimpse into Penang’s Chinese heritage.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (Blue Mansion): An iconic indigo-blue mansion that exemplifies 19th-century Chinese architecture. Guided tours provide insights into the mansion’s history and design.
- Penang National Park: Malaysia’s smallest national park offers a range of nature trails, pristine beaches, and diverse ecosystems. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered green sea turtle.
- Gurney Drive: A popular promenade known for its seafront food stalls and hawker centers, offering a wide array of delicious Penang street food.
- Snake Temple: A unique temple where venomous snakes are believed to be tamed and are free to roam around. Visitors can witness this unusual coexistence of humans and snakes.
- Penang Museums: Explore various museums like the Penang Museum and Art Gallery, the Penang Islamic Museum, and the Penang State Museum to delve into the state’s history, culture, and art.
- Batu Ferringhi: As mentioned earlier, this beach destination in Penang offers sandy shores, water sports, night markets, and a variety of recreational activities.
- Peranakan Culture: Discover Penang’s rich Peranakan heritage at places like the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, showcasing the unique blend of Chinese and Malay cultures.
- Local Cuisine: Penang is renowned for its diverse culinary scene. Don’t miss out on trying dishes like Char Kway Teow, Asam Laksa, Nasi Kandar, and Cendol.
- Eastern & Oriental Hotel (E&O Hotel): A historic luxury hotel in George Town, known for its colonial charm, elegant rooms, and stunning sea views.
- Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa: A 5-star beachfront resort in Batu Ferringhi offering luxurious accommodations, lush gardens, and a range of dining options.
- G Hotel Gurney: A contemporary and stylish hotel located on Gurney Drive, featuring modern rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and convenient access to shopping and dining.
- Hard Rock Hotel Penang: A family-friendly resort with a rock ‘n’ roll theme, featuring fun amenities like a large pool with water slides and regular live music events.
- Hotel Jen Penang by Shangri-La: Situated in George Town, this hotel offers modern rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and easy access to local attractions and street art.
- Lexis Suites Penang: A unique hotel in Bayan Lepas with spacious suites, many of which come with their own private pools, making it a great choice for a relaxing stay.
- The Wembley – A St Giles Hotel: Located in the heart of George Town, this contemporary hotel offers comfortable rooms, a rooftop pool, and proximity to major attractions.
- Bayview Hotel Georgetown Penang: A centrally located hotel with comfortable rooms, a rooftop pool, and views of the city skyline.
- Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort: Situated in Tanjung Bungah, this beachfront resort offers a range of accommodations, including suites with sea views, and recreational facilities.
- Sunway Hotel Georgetown Penang: Located in the heart of George Town, this hotel provides modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and easy access to shopping and dining.
- Cititel Penang: Another centrally located option in George Town, offering convenient access to attractions, shopping areas, and a comfortable stay.
- Vouk Hotel Suites: A contemporary hotel in George Town with spacious suites, a rooftop pool, and close proximity to heritage sites and eateries.
- Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La: A family-friendly beachfront resort in Batu Ferringhi with a range of facilities and activities for all ages.
- Hotel Royal Penang: A comfortable hotel in George Town with various room options, an outdoor pool, and a convenient location.
- JEN Penang Georgetown by Shangri-La: Formerly known as Traders Hotel, this modern hotel offers comfortable rooms and a rooftop infinity pool with panoramic views.
- Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel: Located in the heart of George Town, this hostel offers a mix of private and dormitory rooms with Japanese-inspired design elements.
- Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel: Known for its lively atmosphere and social events, this hostel in George Town is a favorite among backpackers looking for a fun experience.
- Queen’s Hostel: Situated in the heart of George Town, this cozy hostel offers affordable dormitory and private rooms, along with a communal kitchen and common area.
- Red Inn Court: A budget-friendly hostel in George Town with a heritage feel, offering both dormitory and private rooms in a historic building.
- Tido Hostel Penang: A stylish and modern hostel located near Little India in George Town, offering a variety of dormitory and private room options.
- Container Hotel Penang: A unique hostel experience with rooms fashioned from repurposed shipping containers. The hostel is situated in George Town and offers a trendy atmosphere.
- Reggae Penang Love Lane Hostel: Known for its laid-back vibe, this hostel on Love Lane offers dormitory and private rooms, as well as a social courtyard area.
- Frame Guesthouse: Situated in George Town, this hostel features colorful and artistic decor, offering a range of dormitory and private rooms.
- House of Journey: Located in the heart of George Town, this hostel provides cozy dormitory and private rooms with a warm and welcoming ambiance.
- Hutton Lodge: Set in a charming colonial building, this hostel in George Town offers a mix of dormitory and private rooms with character.
- Kimberley House: A budget-friendly option in George Town offering dormitory and private rooms, known for its central location.
- Dreamcatcher Traveler’s Refuge: Situated near Little India, this hostel offers a laid-back and artistic atmosphere, with dormitory and private rooms available.
- Wassup Youth Hostel: Known for its sociable vibe and central location in George Town, this hostel offers various room options for travelers.
- Jawi Peranakan Mansion: This unique hostel is set in a beautifully restored Peranakan mansion, offering a mix of dormitory and private rooms.
- Red Inn Heritage Guesthouse: A budget-friendly choice in George Town, this guesthouse provides a range of room types and a cozy environment.
- Gurney Drive Hawker Center: A bustling open-air food court on Gurney Drive, known for its wide array of Penang street food, including Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee, and Assam Laksa.
- Line Clear Nasi Kandar: An iconic nasi kandar restaurant in George Town, serving a variety of curries and dishes over rice, with a long-standing reputation.
- Kebaya Dining Room: Located in the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, this restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a focus on Malaysian and Peranakan cuisine in an elegant setting.
- Tek Sen Restaurant: A popular Chinese restaurant in George Town, known for its extensive menu of flavorful dishes and vibrant flavors.
- Suffolk House Restaurant: Situated in a historic mansion, this restaurant offers a blend of Western and Asian cuisine in an elegant colonial setting.
- Siam Road Charcoal Char Koay Teow: A must-visit for Char Kway Teow enthusiasts, this humble stall is known for its delicious stir-fried flat rice noodles.
- Swee Kong Coffee Shop (Cendol & Rojak): A local favorite for traditional Penang cendol (a sweet dessert) and rojak (a mixed fruit salad), offering a burst of flavors.
- Jawi House Cafe Gallery: Combining art and cuisine, this cafe offers traditional Jawi Peranakan dishes in a charming environment.
- Lorong Selamat Char Kway Teow: Another popular Char Kway Teow stall, known for its wok-fried noodles with prawns, eggs, and Chinese sausages.
- Deen Maju Nasi Kandar: A well-known nasi kandar spot that’s popular among locals, offering a variety of curries and dishes with rice.
- Kimberley Street Night Hawker Stalls: A lively street food scene that comes alive in the evenings, offering a mix of local delicacies like oyster omelette and satay.
- Hameediyah Restaurant: A historic Malay restaurant serving traditional dishes, such as nasi kandar and murtabak, with recipes passed down through generations.
- ChinaHouse: A unique space combining a cafe, bakery, art gallery, and event venue, offering a range of dishes, desserts, and beverages.
- Mui Chooi Coffee Stall: Famous for its Penang-style chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and yam cake, located in the Macallum Connoisseurs coffee roastery.
- Mee Sotong Hameed Pata Special: Located in Penang Road, this stall is known for its spicy and flavorful mee sotong (squid noodles).
Neighborhoods and Areas to Visit
- George Town: The historic heart of Penang and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, George Town is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant street art, bustling markets, and a rich mix of cultures.
- Batu Ferringhi: A popular beach area on the northwest coast of Penang, Batu Ferringhi is known for its sandy shores, water sports, night markets, and a range of accommodations.
- Little India: Located in George Town, Little India is a colorful and bustling neighborhood known for its vibrant Indian community, traditional shops, temples, and delicious Indian cuisine.
- Armenian Street: A historic street in George Town lined with art galleries, boutiques, and cafes, known for its cultural events and the famous street art mural “Children on a Bicycle.”
- Chulia Street: This lively area is known for its budget accommodations, backpacker scene, and a variety of eateries offering local and international cuisines.
- Jalan Penang: A bustling street in George Town with a mix of colonial buildings, modern shops, and plenty of dining options, making it a popular spot for shopping and food.
- Tanjung Tokong: Located between George Town and Batu Ferringhi, this area features shopping malls, seafood restaurants, and the famous Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque.
- Gurney Drive: A popular seafront area known for its food stalls, hawker centers, and upscale shopping malls. It offers a mix of local and international dining options.
- Queensbay Mall: This large shopping mall in Bayan Lepas is known for its extensive retail outlets, dining choices, and entertainment options.
- Air Itam: Home to the famous Kek Lok Si Temple and Penang Hill, this area provides opportunities to explore religious sites and enjoy panoramic views.
- Pulau Tikus: A charming area with a mix of residential neighborhoods and local shops, offering a glimpse into daily life in Penang.
- Bukit Bintang: Not to be confused with the area of the same name in Kuala Lumpur, this neighborhood in George Town offers a variety of street food, cafes, and cultural experiences.
- Bukit Jambul: Known for its golf courses, shopping complexes, and easy access to the Penang International Airport.
- Bayan Lepas: This area is home to the Penang International Airport and industrial zones, as well as attractions like the Snake Temple and Penang War Museum.
- Batu Lancang: A residential neighborhood with local food stalls, markets, and a quieter atmosphere, providing a glimpse into Penang’s everyday life.
- SOJU Room Penang: A well-known nightclub located in Penang Times Square, featuring a variety of music genres and often hosting local and international DJs.
- FAME Club Penang: Situated in Batu Ferringhi, this club offers a mix of live music, DJs, and a vibrant dance floor, making it a popular spot for party-goers.
- MIYAVI Club Penang: A nightclub in George Town known for its energetic atmosphere, featuring both resident and guest DJs, and a wide range of music genres.
- Play Club at The Roof Penang: Part of The Roof Penang entertainment complex, Play Club offers a chic setting, modern music, and a lively crowd.
- M2 Club Penang: A trendy nightclub located in the Penang Times Square area, known for its modern interior, LED screens, and lively parties.
- LUST Club Penang: Located in the Gurney Drive area, this nightclub offers a luxurious setting, live entertainment, and a mix of music styles.
- Gravity Club Penang: Situated in G Hotel Kelawai, this upscale club offers a sophisticated ambiance, rooftop views, and electronic dance music.
- Soho Freehouse: While not strictly a nightclub, this bar in George Town hosts live music performances and DJ nights, creating a fun and energetic atmosphere.
- MILO Penang: A club located in the heart of George Town, offering a mix of electronic and hip-hop music, often hosting themed parties.
- The Bangunan: A multi-level entertainment space in George Town, hosting various events including DJ nights, live music, and art exhibitions.
- Kampai Penang: A Japanese-themed nightclub in Batu Ferringhi, known for its energetic dance floor and vibrant atmosphere.
- Rexy Penang: A popular club known for its retro and classic music nights, offering a nostalgic dance experience.
- Vino Vino Bistro: While not a traditional nightclub, this wine bistro in George Town often features live music performances and a lively crowd.
- Fahrenheit88: Located in George Town, this club offers a mix of local and international DJs, with a focus on electronic dance music.
- Sixty9ine Mansion: A nightclub in Batu Ferringhi that hosts a variety of events and parties, often featuring live music and themed nights.
Cuisine / Food
- Char Kway Teow: Stir-fried flat rice noodles with prawns, eggs, Chinese sausages, bean sprouts, and a savory sauce. It’s a signature Penang dish.
- Asam Laksa: A tangy and spicy fish-based noodle soup with tamarind, mackerel, and a variety of herbs and vegetables.
- Hokkien Mee: A flavorful noodle dish made with prawn and pork broth, mixed with yellow noodles and rice vermicelli.
- Nasi Kandar: A Malay dish featuring steamed rice served with various curries and side dishes like fried chicken, fish, and vegetables.
- Penang Rojak: A mixed fruit and vegetable salad coated in a sweet and spicy shrimp paste sauce, often topped with peanuts.
- Lor Bak: A popular snack of marinated minced pork wrapped in bean curd skin and deep-fried to crispy perfection.
- Prawn Mee: A soup-based dish made with prawn and pork broth, served with yellow noodles and topped with prawns, sliced pork, and hard-boiled eggs.
- Roti Canai: A flaky, flatbread usually served with dhal (lentil curry) or other types of curries.
- Curry Mee: A creamy and spicy noodle soup made with a mixture of coconut milk and chili-based broth, often served with prawns, cuttlefish, and tofu.
- Mee Goreng Mamak: Stir-fried noodles with a mix of ingredients like prawns, eggs, vegetables, and a tangy and spicy sauce, influenced by Indian cuisine.
- Cendol: A sweet dessert made with shaved ice, green rice flour jelly, coconut milk, and palm sugar syrup.
- Apam Balik: A type of pancake filled with ingredients like sweet corn, peanuts, and sugar, often folded into a half-moon shape.
- Kuih: A variety of traditional Malay and Nyonya (Peranakan) sweets and snacks, often colorful and made with ingredients like rice flour, coconut, and pandan.
- Satay: Grilled skewers of marinated meat, usually served with a peanut sauce and sides like rice cakes and sliced onions.
- Oyster Omelette: A dish made with a mixture of eggs, oysters, and starch, pan-fried to create a crispy and flavorful delight.
- Gurney Plaza: A premier shopping mall in George Town, offering a mix of international brands, fashion outlets, electronics stores, and dining options.
- Queensbay Mall: One of the largest shopping malls in Penang, located in Bayan Lepas. It features a wide range of shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities.
- Penang Times Square: A shopping complex in George Town that houses various retail outlets, eateries, and an indoor amusement park.
- 1st Avenue Mall: Situated in the heart of George Town, this mall offers a mix of fashion, electronics, entertainment, and dining choices.
- Straits Quay: A waterfront mall in Tanjung Tokong with a selection of boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, offering a scenic view of the marina.
- Komtar JBCC: Located within the iconic Komtar building in George Town, this mall offers a range of shops, dining options, and an indoor theme park.
- Island Plaza: A shopping center in Tanjung Tokong featuring a variety of specialty stores, cafes, and outlets.
- Prangin Mall: A multi-level shopping mall in George Town offering a mix of shops, electronics stores, and eateries.
- New World Park: A food and entertainment complex in George Town that also hosts a weekend market selling a variety of goods.
- Little India: George Town’s Little India area is known for its vibrant shops selling clothing, accessories, textiles, and Indian spices.
- Campbell Street: A historic street in George Town with a mix of shops selling antiques, jewelry, textiles, and traditional goods.
- Chowrasta Market: A bustling market in George Town where you can find fresh produce, local snacks, spices, and household items.
- Jelutong Market: A local market in Jelutong where you can experience the daily life of Penangites and find a variety of goods.
- Lorong Kulit Flea Market: A popular flea market offering a range of items including antiques, vintage clothing, electronics, and collectibles.
- Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul: While known for its cendol dessert, this establishment also sells souvenirs, local products, and snacks.
- Strange and Bizarre
- Upside Down Museum: A quirky museum in George Town where you can explore rooms designed to look upside down, creating optical illusions and amusing photo opportunities.
- Penang Ghost Museum: This museum is dedicated to the spooky and paranormal, featuring life-sized exhibits of ghosts, spirits, and haunted scenes.
- Dark Mansion – 3D Glow-in-the-Dark Museum: An interactive museum where you can explore glowing 3D art, with scenes ranging from fantastical to surreal.
- Mysterious Mansion: An attraction in George Town that offers a haunted house experience with creepy decor, secret passages, and surprises.
- Penang Time Tunnel Museum: This museum takes visitors on a journey through Penang’s history using 3D art, multimedia displays, and a recreation of historic streets.
- Penang Avatar Secret Garden: A garden filled with colorful LED lights, sculptures, and installations that create a surreal and otherworldly atmosphere at night.
- The Owl Museum: Featuring a vast collection of owl-themed art and sculptures, this museum showcases owls in various forms and artistic styles.
- Penang Vintage Toy Museum: A museum filled with an extensive collection of vintage toys, action figures, and memorabilia from various eras.
- Penang War Museum: Located in Batu Maung, this former WWII military fortress has been converted into a museum, offering a unique blend of history and eeriness.
- Penang Batik Factory and Art Gallery: While not necessarily bizarre, witnessing the traditional batik-making process and exploring the art gallery can be an unusual experience.
- The Habitat Penang Hill: This ecotourism attraction offers a walk through the rainforest canopy on an elevated walkway, providing a unique perspective of the forest.
- Penang Bird Park: While not strange, this bird park features a diverse collection of bird species in a tropical setting, offering a unique opportunity to get close to exotic birds.
- Penang Bridge: While not bizarre itself, Penang Bridge is an iconic landmark, especially the nighttime view, when the lights create an almost futuristic atmosphere.
- Penang Hill Owl Museum: A museum dedicated to owls, featuring various owl-themed exhibits, artwork, and sculptures.
- Made in Penang Interactive Museum: An interactive museum that combines art with technology to create playful and amusing exhibits.