Just a short flight from Hong Kong, Penang is beautiful city bursting with bold flavors and rich in history as an anchor in the Spice Trade of centuries past. Come with an empty belly and your walking shoes to explore this vibrant town and all it has to offer.
Stay: Eastern & Oriental Hotel
With its intricate white facade and tall arched windows, the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang is a colonial style dream in the heart of the city. This airy establishment is teeming with tropical greenery and old world charm that transports guests to an era of bygone grace and glamour. The E&O also offers use of facilities at its beautiful sister property The Lone Pine Hotel on Ferringhi Beach if you're keen to feel sand between your toes.
Eat: Get Ready for Seconds...and Thirds
1) Penang is well known to be a foodie capital so break out those elastic waistbands and go to town. There are tons of food stands and markets to choose from but my favorites were Penang Road Famous Laksa and the Air Itam Market. Make sure to try a bit of everything, especially the Asam Laksa, Hokkein Mee and of course Char Kuey Teow.
2) If you're aching for a caffeine fix after all that feasting, you're in luck because Georgetown is full of eclectic cafes. I loved Moontree 47 which was every bit a tropical bungalow full of greenery and plant life, not to mention home to a very tasty latte.
3) For those looking for dinner with a side of history, Kebaya is a must visit. Located in the Seven Terraces heritage hotel, the restaurant is well known for its modern twists on classic Peranankan cuisine and for its beautiful dining room setting. Although it was hard to pick a favorite dish, the Tamarind Beef was definitely a standout.
Experience: Hitting the Streets & Exploring Spices
1) A main attraction for many visitors, the Street Art in Georgetown is a unique part of the city's culture. Commissioned in 2012, the project called "Mirrors George Town" features murals by Ernest Zacharevic that reflect what used to be every day street life in this historic part of town.This map marks where each mural can be found and is easy to follow. When plotting out your route, remember to expect some lines for the more popular murals like "Kids on Bike" and "Old Motorcycle" which incorporate an actual bicycle and motorcycle respectively.
2) A museum and unique photo op rolled into one, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a window back in time into the lives of one of the wealthiest families in colonial Penang. Built in the late 19th century by a prominent spice merchant, the glamorous mansion, known for its bright blue hue is now a heritage hotel with parts of the common area open for guided tours and viewings. Be sure to book a viewing in advance as they only have a few openings a day and dress for contrast to take advantage of the beautiful indigo walls if an impromptu photo shoot is on the itinerary.
3. Just off the shores of Ferringhi Beach, the Tropical Spice Garden was one of my favorite finds in Penang. This beautifully landscaped garden is home to more than 500 spices and plants, the perfect backdrop to an evening of leisurely exploring and even cooking classes if you'd like to see those spices in action. You can opt for a guided group tour or go solo with a complimentary audio guide. The trail is easy to follow and should take about 1-2hrs to complete. The Big Swing station overlooking the middle of the garden is possibly the most serene part of the park and definitely worth a few extra minutes to fully take in the beauty of it all.