(Feature image from here)
According to Forbes, George Town aka Penang’s city is one of “The 7 Best Places To Retire Around The World”. In fact, it ranked #3 on the list, right after Portugal and Ecuador, way before France and Colombia. Not that being Malaysian automatically makes us bias but we can’t even dispute that. Why? Well, Penang may be only 1,048 km² but the island is rich with history, epicurean delights, sunshine, and above all, hidden gems.
Would you be shocked if we told you that the wonders of the island goes beyond just Gurney Drive alone? Nevermind the night market along Batu Ferringhi or any of its shopping malls because believe it or not, there are more things to feast your eyes (or your appetite) on!
This place is so awesome, it deserves a category of its own. Situated on a hill right by the Tropical Spice Garden overlooking the Batu Ferringhi coastline, Tree Monkey checks all sorts of awesome qualities that you can imagine. Its decor draws inspiration from traditional Balinese aesthetics, with imported hardwood tables and chairs complemented by an attap-covered gazebo and lounge. As for their menu, it’s a mixture of Northeastern Thai, Asian, and Western cuisines, complemented by a great selection of beverages to suit every palette.
Location, awesome. Food, awesome. Ambience, awesome. We’ll leave it up to you to find some equally awesome company to go with.
The Cafe Culture
Want to experience food beyond just Gurney Drive? The good news is, Penang has quickly picked up on the coffee/breakfast/brunch culture and we love it. If you’re looking for places where you can kick back, relax, sip on that latte, wolf down some baked eggs, and take pretty pictures, what say you hit up the likes of China House, Coffeesmith, Joyeux Cafe, Love & Latte Cafe, Secawan ‘n’ Such, De Moonlight Cafe, and 55 Cafe, just to name a few. We could go on and on but there are simply way too many to name!
You best experience ’em on your own when you get to Penang.
Move aside, overly pricey 5-star hotels, you’re a thing of yesteryear. These days, we’re all about refurbished heritage buildings and boutique hotels, and it just so happens that Penang is host to some of the prettiest accommodations such as Ren I Tang, Seven Terraces, Eight Rooms (Macalister Mansion), 23 LoveLane, etc. Sure, these accommodations could be quite pricey too but keep in mind that you’re paying for more than just a bed with clean sheets, hot water, air-conditioning, and other amenities – you’re also paying for the experience of staying in a hotel with character.
Just remember that rooms are probably limited, especially so during peak holiday seasons. Time to make those bookings early and fast!
Street Art Galore
Alright, we’ve admitted this before – we can’t get enough of street art. Even more so if quirky artworks are spotted in our own country! It just so happens that Penang falls under the category of “places in Malaysia that are a street art galore”. More often than not, people queue up under the sun to take pictures of the below artworks. Well, either take pictures of or take pictures with, because the artworks are that ah-may-zing. The collage below will speak for itself, we reckon.
Wondering where in Penang exactly to find them? We’ll save you the trouble and tell you now that you’d definitely find some of Ernest Zacharevic’s work along Armenian Street or Ah Quee Street!
So, this isn’t really a “hidden gem” per se but for an island as small as this one, they sure have it good going for them when it comes to partying. They say that the Penang crowd is a “tough crowd” but maybe it’s because when they party, they really party. Hard. You’d be amazed by the amount of nightlife on the island – from quiet bars with live music to clubs jam packed with partygoers such as QE II, Soju Room, Straits Quay Retail Marina, Sixty9ine Mansion, BED, etc. Some Penangites might even agree that the nightlife in Penang could easily match up to that of Kuala Lumpur’s.
The question is not whether it’s happening – the question should be whether or not you can handle it.
There’s a new entertainment hub in Penang called Nagore Square! Positioned as a lifestyle destination with a mixed use of retail, arts & cultural, F&B and entertainment area, Nagore Square is located along the intersection of Jalan Burmah and Jalan Nagore and stretching up to Jalan Bawasah. The row of shops were apparently bought over by a Singaporean company that decided to turn it into a hybrid of indoor and outdoor spaces while retaining the beautiful heritage buildings. A walk down the shop lots will find you a showcase of heritage designs of old world such as the Little Shanghai heritage against a modern world backdrop.
Expect to see lots of hipster cafes here because vibe.
Bits, Bobs, Etc, Etc
Other sights, sounds, and unique experiences (such as shopping) should never be overlooked. Shopping in Penang, especially, is a unique experience because not only does it have huge malls (read: Gurney Plaza), it’s also home to some traditional bazaars and street markets. Looking for something special? Lebuh Armenian (China Joe’s 41 Living Story, Studio Howard) or the Little Penang Street Market are the places to go.
Not into shopping?
Then check out these other attractions:
To give you a little “push”, here are some upcoming Malaysian public holidays for the rest of 2014 and 2015. Go ahead and take that time off! Happy Penang trip planning, you guys.
If you have any suggestions, holler ’em at us in the comment box below!