Top 7 Places in Penang to Visit with Your Family

Pack Your Bags for A Far East Journey to the Pearl of the Orient – With Your Family in Tow

In October, 2016, I had the opportunity to explore the Malaysian state of Penang, while centralized in the urban hub of George Town. One day, after striking up a conversation with a young woman, traveling with her husband and 5-year-old son, I began to think about some of the unique challenges that parents face when traveling with an entourage.

Since Penang extends beyond George Town, encompassing beaches and jungles and fishing villages, I thought I would compile a list of the most child-friendly places and activities, for those families planning to visit this region in the near future.

Sunbathing in Batu Ferringhi
This is a vibrant beach, which has a little bit of something for everyone. For the adrenaline junkie, this stretch of white sand boasts a number of water activities, like banana boating, parasailing and jet-skiing for a medium fee, which you can usually barter down with the operator to get a better deal. If rest and relaxation is what you’re after, then head for one of the great little massage/reflexology huts scattered along the top of the beach, which offer a cushy place to watch the sunset. There are plenty of good local street food and drink stalls nearby, and areas of the beach are enclosed with buoys as barriers, so that children can swim freely.

Summiting Penang Hill
In order to visit Penang Hill, you need to board a cable car or tram, which will bring you to the summit for a spectacular, panoramic view of George Town and surrounding area. Once you’re on top of the hill, you can enjoy an espresso or order a dish of your favorite tropical fruit at one of the many food stalls overlooking the point. Children will enjoy the owl museum, the 5D Cinema, the kiddie train ride and the super pythons. If you follow some of the hiking trails, you may even be lucky enough to spot a dusty leaf monkey or a giant black squirrel. Just make sure to keep in mind that this is a popular attraction, and in peak season, you may have to queue for awhile unless you’re willing to pay double (RM 60 per person) for the fast lane.

Jungle trekking in Penang National Park
While I wouldn’t recommend jungle-trekking for families with young children, especially along tracks that are often steep, wet and tricky to maneuver, Penang National Park is a beautiful place to visit, and located around 35 km from George Town. If you do decide to brave the 1.5 – 2 hour hike to Turtle Beach, you can visit a small turtle sanctuary before catching your boat (pre-registered at the entrance for around RM 80) back to your starting point. You can also take a boat directly to and from Monkey Island, where many families spend a night or two camping. Make sure to pack lots of water and food, since there are no vendors on site.

Finding Adventure in Teluk Bahang
I don’t usually advocate for visiting amusement parks as part of any travel itinerary, but I’m willing to make a special exception for Escape AdventurePlay in Teluk Bahang. As an avid climber, I enjoy developing my hand-eye coordination wherever possible, and this park is second to none when it comes to getting a little bit tactical. With slack lines, wobbly bridges and a zip line, there are a number of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you’re flying high above the trees, free falling from a 20m jump platform or taking a swing at the inner-tube slide, you can find adventure here at this thrilling amusement park.

Hitting the pavement in George Town
One of my favorite things to do in George Town when I was visiting was just to walk, one foot in front of the other, without purpose or destination. With its eclectic mix of colonial architecture, modern cafes, time-worn shop houses and art-adorned city walls, there is something to discover around every corner. If you have young children, or just want to try out the novelty of local transportation, you might like to hop aboard a trishaw for a breezy tour of the city. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even rent your own trishaw to tote the family around. There are also many child-friendly attractions in George Town, which include the “Made in Penang” interactive museum, the clan jetties and the Penang 3D trick art museum.

Exploring Kek Lok Si in Air Itam
The Kek Lok Si Temple, situated in Air Itam, is a well-known Buddhist temple, with an interesting blend of Burmese, Chinese and Malaysian architecture. The temple is located on a fairly steep incline, which is challenging to climb, but once you’re at the top, the views are outstanding. If you can part with RM 6 per person, you can also take an inclined lift to see a large bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. There is also a tortoise pond and a wishing tree, which seems to be a big hit with the kids.

Boarding the Ferry to Butterworth
Taking the ferry from Penang Island to Butterworth is a wonderful outing for the whole family. On the way to the ferry, there are many kiosks that sell fresh fruit and other Malaysian snacks, so the kids won’t go hungry. The ferries have a nostalgic feel, a remnant of the old mode of transportation used to get on and off the island. Once you arrive in Butterworth, you can either make your way to the train station, or you can check out Tow Boo Kong, a Chinese temple surrounded by many vegetarian food stalls.

Thank you to our guest writer :
Claire Horwood, Victoria, Canada.

5 Must Visit Places When You are in Georgetown

Don’t Miss This 5 Places When You are in Georgetown.

When you arrive in Georgetown, you will immediately be taken over by the old-world charm. From fragrant spice shops, to narrow lanes, to busy hawker stalls and a flourishing street art scene, Georgetown has something for everyone.

It’s quite a pedestrian-friendly city with lots of random goodness at every corner. From colourful street art caricatures to centuries-old temples and clan houses, from arts and antiques to flavourful street food.  You’ll love the town because although almost everything is within walking distance, you do not have to walk if you don’t want to – simply hire a brightly-coloured trishaw and be delivered to the entrance of each temple and art-filled street! No matter the length of your stay, every visit to George Town I believe should include the following 5 activities:

1.) Explore the Weld Quay Clan Jetties

This was one of my absolute favorite things to do in George Town because I love taking pictures of old boats, and there is no shortage of these colorful wooden structures docked along the pier. While George Town itself is a busy hub, stepping out onto the creaky platform of Weld Quay feels a bit like going back in time. As you make your way along the narrow passageways between the stilted houses, you will find a niche of affordable souvenir shops and an assortment of well-priced food stalls, perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.

2.) Eat dinner at a hawker stall

One of your first stops along the beaten track should be at one of Penang’s many hawker stalls. Serving up a variety of cuisine that is richly flavored and dirt cheap, these open-air centers, boasting cafeteria style eating, are very popular with locals and tourists alike. I visited two of George Town’s hawker stalls during my stay in the city: New Lane Hawker Centre, which occupies Lorong Baru street after 4:00 p.m. each day, and Gurney Drive, which is home to the largest variety of street food in Penang.

3.) Discover George Town’s Street Art Scene

Since there are many art murals in George Town, along with some cast-iron installations, it is easy to spend a whole day searching the streets for these creative creations. If you’re a planner, like me, you can print an online map showcasing the popular graffiti pit stops, and if all else fails, there are typically brochures outlining the most desirable route to follow at most of the hotels and hostels in the city. If you’re pressed for time, you can always rent a bicycle to get around the city, or jump on a trishaw for a wind-swept tour.

4.) Experience Nyonya cuisine at Penang Homecooking School

George Town seems to be a hub for foodies, and many travelers come to the island to experience the local food culture. The Penang Homecooking school is run by a local named Pearly, who specializes in traditional Nyonya cuisine. A day with Pearly starts out with a visit to the wet markets, where students learn about the various types of ingredients they’ll be using in their dishes, with a chance to taste-test many local snacks and fruit varieties. After the market, the group heads to the cooking school, which is run out of Pearly’s home, and students, working at covered outdoor cooking stations, learn how to cook dishes like Sambal Goreng, Curry Kapitan and Otak Otak. The dishes are easy to make and this class seems to receive rave reviews from all who partake.

5.) Take a traditional handicraft tour

When I was in George Town, I was interested in local artisanship, and was lucky enough to find a free brochure in the Tourist Information Office, which highlighted several traditional handicraft shops. These artisans make everything from incense, to Muslim hats, to rattan furniture to traditional noodles and sweets, and you can see firsthand how they make their wares. You can also do a Hop-on Hop-Off city bus tour, if you prefer to tour the artisan nooks from an air-conditioned section on the top deck of a two-story bus, with additional information about the history and culture of George Town provided in English.

Signing off for now!
Izz Idris 🙂

p/s If you think there are more interesting places to add, leave them in the comment section below!

Top 9 Picks of Hotels in Penang for Under US$100.00 per night

Fancy a hotel with something different and one that doesn’t burst your budget?

Penang is an island full of cultural sights blending with its natural sceneries. There are plenty of options when you are deciding where to stay in Penang when you visit. . These hotels which I have picked here are definitely better than backpacker hostels in terms of comfort and privacy. Squeamish about sharing your space?  Or you’re just looking for something a little more lavish, you might like to check out my top 9 picks for budget hotels under $100.00 per night in no particular order.

Le Dream Boutique Hotel

While rooms run for around $79.00 per night, Le Dream offers a wide selection of “freebies”, unprecedented for a budget hotel, which include a buffet breakfast, a mid-afternoon high tea offering an array of sandwiches, cakes, sweets, tea and coffee and even a free movie night on the rooftop, with popcorn and an all you can eat ice cream bar. In the evening, travelers can also enjoy free flow wine between 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. There is a small but functional gym, a free taxi service between 10am – 3pm, and this hotel is widely praised for its first-class service, all around.

East Indies Mansion

If you’re looking for a lavish feel with a budget price tag, then this hotel may be right up your alley, with standard rooms running around $59.00, breakfast included. The building itself is a traditional merchant’s house boasting an internal courtyard, large common areas and a variety of room sizes, all with vintage décor. East Indies Mansion is just a few steps away from little India, and is conveniently placed, nearby to ferry te$inals and the bus station.

Hotel Chulia Mansion

Ringing in around $48.00 per night, the Chulia Mansion is impeccably clean, well located and affordable. You can hire a bike at the shop across the road, and spend the day perusing the streets of George Town. There is a very good breakfast included in the price (eggs made to order) and a rooftop bar, which is a lovely place to sit for a few quiet drinks in the evening.

Coffee Atelier

Just under budget, at around $93.00 per night, this lovely boutique hotel has plenty of cha$ing ambiance, along with a friendly staff and, you guessed it, delicious coffee! Guests enjoy a taste of open concept living in big, spacious and comfortable rooms, and can learn more about the history of the building by exploring the on-site coffee museum and art gallery.

Nam Keng Hotel

If peace and quiet is what you’re after, then the Nam Keng Hotel might be just the ticket. This hotel is located on a quiet street, but within walking distance of many attractions within the historical enclave of George Town. The rooms are cozy and clean, with basic amenities, and breakfast is simple and self-served in the elegant courtyard. As a character hotel, Nam Keng features 8 beautifully appointed guest rooms, decorated with traditional Nyonya style furniture. At around $79.00 per night, this hotel drives a hard bargain.

Museum Hotel

Ever fancied spending a night at the museum? With period style rooms, antique furnishings and rustic common areas, this storied hotel is bound to bring you back in time. Well priced at around $64.00 per night, the Museum Hotel also offers a free continental breakfast, a 24-hour gym and a rooftop terrace.

Spices Hotel

Brick archways, retro chaise-lounges and rain showers are just some of the small touches that go a long way in this wonderful boutique hotel. The rooms are small but tastefully decorated, with high ceilings. Breakfast is served at the café next door, and includes both local and international dishes. Strategically located at the center of George Town, Spices Hotel is worth a visit, with standard rooms averaging around $65.00 per night.

Armenian Street Heritage Hotel

Located in the historic part of town, near the famous Armenian Street, this hotel is very central and well within budget, with standard rooms averaging around $30.00. While the building and lobby retain a colonial feel, the rooms have been renovated and provide for all the basic amenities. The low price-point, and the convenient location, are the biggest draws for this heritage hotel.

Yeng Keng Hotel

Just under $100.00 per night, the Yeng Keng hotel is a traveler favourite. Renovated from a 19th century 2-story heritage building, this hotel is an oasis of tranquility, set back from the main road, with many lounge areas, including an outdoor lap pool and a courtyard. This hotel is walking distance to many of George Town’s most sought after attractions, and includes a large buffet-style breakfast at the café next door.

There you have it, my top 9 picks of hotels you can stay in Penang for under $100.00. Hope this list has made it easier for you to decide on your accommodation. Come visit Penang. It’s capital Georgetown is made for walking and eating thanks to its collection of historic buildings in various styles, from old English colonial mansions to classical Chinese shophouses and Islamic mosques and food outlets and stalls at every corner.

If you have any comments or questions, leave them below.

Don’t like to use the public bus or taxi in Penang – well, here’s another option, GRABCAR!

How to Get Around Penang Using Grabcar

The best alternative to Penang’s public transport is’s Grabcar!

It’s fairly easy to use public transport in George Town and surrounding areas. However this isn’t always feasible if you’re carrying luggage, or trailing a handful of children. Long bus rides can be tiresome for the little ones. Bus schedules are sometimes unreliable. If you’re staying in George Town, and don’t have much need to go outside of the city, then you can probably get by on foot. If you’re wanting to explore some of the natural areas outside of George Town, like the jungles of Penang National Park or the pristine beaches of Batu Ferringhi, and are not quite ready to brave public transit, then Grabcar may be just the way to get around the island.

Yeay to Grabcar!

Grabcar is a downloadable app (free from the Google Play Store or Apple Store).  As long as you have a smart phone, you can take advantage of this useful service. You should try to use it when in Penang. I use it all the time and it’s very efficient, fast and cost-effective. All you need to do is key in your pick-up and drop-off locations. You’ll get your estimated fare. Grabcar will find you the nearest available driver, and the app will track your driver. You can see in real time as your driver approaches your location and his ETA.  This service is really useful for vacationers who have a jam-packed itinerary, and can’t afford to waste time getting from one attraction to the next.

To give you an idea of the fare from George Town to Penang National Park is RM 25 for a 12 km ride. This works out to about RM 2 per km. A one-way trip from George Town to Batu Ferringhi, an 8 km distance, is just RM 14. You can also use Grabcar to get to and from the airport. That’s around RM 26 one way. This is often far below the cost of a regular taxi.

But if you are discovering just Georgetown, booking a Grabcar may not be necessary. You can walk and cover the attractions on foot. If the need arises, this service is a safe and convenient way to get from point A to point B. Grabcar is superb for solo travelers especially after dark and the streets start to empty. Women travellers – if you don’t feel comfortable walking alone then use Grabcar.  One of the things I like the most is that, for safety reasons, your driver’s ID number is attached to your ride, along with their contact information, should any issues arise. Another perk is that besides paying in cash , you can also pay by credit card, and book at any time of day or night.

Why Grabcar?

In my experience, if you’re going to opt for a taxi, it’s best to travel with a pre-registered service like Grabcar, because you’ll find that many taxis hailed off the street in Penang will haggle for a fixed price which is often much higher than what you’ll pay with a service that estimates your metered fare in advance and locates a driver nearby. On average, a trip from one end of George Town to the other with Grabcar is only around RM 7, and if you’re looking to do a short trip, just in the central hub, it may only cost you a fraction of that price.

If you’re a budget traveler, you can also search online for a Grabcar promo code, as they will often advertise sales. If you’re really lucky, depending on the size of your group and the length of your trip, booking a GrabCar can also be less expensive then individually paying for bus fare.

Have you had any experience with Penang’s Grabcar? Click the share buttons or Leave your comments below 🙂

Izz Idris / My Adventure Host


Penang for the Nature Enthusiast

Penang for the Nature Enthusiast

There is more to Penang than the beaches and Georgetown.

While Penang is home to a bustling metropolitan city, there are plenty of nature-based activities to enjoy here for the nature enthusiast. Jungle trekking in Penang National Park, the world’s smallest national park, is a popular activity among tourists and locals alike, with well-marked trails leading to both turtle and monkey beach. Both hikes take around 1.5 – 2 hours, and both beaches are accessible by boat. Many travelers enjoy the National Park so much that they stay for a night or two to camp. Wildlife in the area includes monkeys, monitor lizards and even migratory birds, frequently sighted at the mangrove swamps and mudflats in the park.

There are also 3 recreational parks that I know of in Penang: Teluk Bahang, Sungai Tukun and Bukit Mertajam. Teluk Bahang has a good network of hiking trails, along with well-maintained camping areas. Sungai Tukun is relatively small, and attracts a variety of wildlife, which visitors can observe, along with panoramic views, from the park’s observation tower. Bukit Mertajam, the largest of the parks, sprawls over 37 hectares of hilly terrain, and its 4 km hiking trail, which runs from the base of the mountain to its peak, is a favorite among joggers.

The beaches in Malaysia are a large draw for eco-tourists as well, and Batu Ferringhi, the most well-known, is a hive of activity from sunrise to sunset. For the adrenaline junkie, this stretch of white sand boasts a number of water activities, like banana boating, parasailing and jet-skiing for a medium fee. Further down is Teluk Bahang Beach, which is home to a traditional fishing village, and beyond that, Pantai Kerachut and Pantai Mas which are accessible via the trails in the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve from Teluk Bahang.

Some travelers may want to encounter a variety of wildlife without straying too far from George Town. If this sounds like you, I would recommend checking out the Penang Bird Park, a 5-acre track of land that hosts over 300 species of birds from all over the world for breeding and conservation purposes. The Bird Park also houses numerous other species, including deer, reptiles and tortoises.

If you’re a bit of a foodie, and you want to learn how some of the local spices are grown, you can pay a visit to the Tropical Spice Garden, an artfully recreated tropical rainforest oasis outside of George Town, with spice garden terraces, walking trails and small trickling streams and waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of monkeys jumping through the tree tops overhead. While I didn’t manage to get to the spice gardens, I did take a tour of the tropical fruit farm in Teluk Bahang. The orchard covers 25 acres and it is brimming with rare and exotic fruit trees. At the end, there is a fruit and juice buffet, included in the entrance fee, which I found delightful.

While it can be a little bit intimidating to venture out into the wild on your own, it can also be extremely rewarding, and there are many areas in and around Penang that are well worth a visit. If you’re a bit more tentative, there are also many eco tours that can be booked for a nominal fee. These will typically include an informative guide, as well as pick up and drop off from your hotel.