Many people coming to George Town, Penang, think that two days is more than enough to see the highlights of the city, well known for it’s amazing street food and interactive street art. But there’s more to Penang than these two things, and if you really want to see all that George Town and Penang have to offer, you might be better off extending your stay for one more day!
Here’s my ultimate itinerary for maximizing your three day stay in George Town, Malaysia.
Side note: While George Town is the name of the city, Penang is the name of the state, and comprises a much larger area than just George Town. The state of Penang includes not only the island of Penang but a part of the mainland as well.
Day 1: Street Food, Street Art and the Clan Jetties
Start your trip off in Penang on the right foot by exploring the things Penang is most famous for: cheap yet delicious street food and creative 3D street art. On Armenian Street you’ll find a multitude of famous street art murals, including Penang’s most famous and well known mural, Two Children on a Bike. Make sure to get here early though, as the crowds arrive as early as 8 am to line up and take pictures.
Take your time wandering up and down the side streets around Chulia Street, and you’ll be sure to find many a mural. Not all of the murals are shown on the tourist pamphlets, and during my stay I noticed two new murals spring up out of nowhere – so the street art is constantly changing!
When you’ve finished your hunt for street art, you’ll find the historical clan jetties not too far away. The jetties form an important part of Penang’s history with the oldest jetties built in the late 1800’s. The Chew Jetty is the most tourist friendly (and therefore most crowded) with several souvenir shops along the walkway. If you get hungry, try the White Curry Mee, which the Chew Jetty café is famous for.
The Lee Jetty is better when explored at night, when the lighting makes for great photographs.
Later on, head over to Love Lane for some street food (Wantan Mee and Char Koay Teow are two great choices if you’re unsure of what to try). Love Lane is well known for their budget backpacker guest houses and bars and is a great place to end your night.
Day 2: Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill and Air Itam Laksa
On Day 2, it’s time to leave the city of George Town and explore another part of the island! Wake up bright and early and take the 104 bus over to the Kek Lok Si temple, Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist temple complex. Plan for at least 1-2 hours of wandering through the complex, as there are a multitude of things to see here! When you’re finished, stop off at the World Famous Air Itam Laksa for a bowl of Assam Laksa, a dish that Penang is famous for. Buy 1 or 2 popiah (spring rolls) to dip in your laksa for an extra hearty meal.
Once you’ve had your fill of laksa, you can walk over (it takes about 15 minutes by foot) to the bottom of the funicular tramway that takes you up Penang Hill. The cost is 15 RM for foreigners. (Another option is walking up the Jeep Trek or hiking from the Botanical Gardens, but budget in at least 2-3 more hours if you’re planning on this).
Snap a few shots up at the top of Penang Hill and treat yourself to a good bowl of ABC Ice Kacang on top!
Then catch a bus back to George Town to try a different Penang-famous dish (Hokkien Mee anyone?).
Day 3: Batu Ferringhi and/or Monkey Beach/Turtle Beach
On day 3, what you do will depend on your energy levels.
If you’re up for a challenge and enjoy a good trek, wake up early to take the 101 bus over the Penang National Park and hike the Turtle Beach Trail. Budget about 3-4 hours for the trek (there and back), plus an extra 1 hour or so if you feel like lazing around on the beach or checking out the turtle sanctuary. Unfortunately, swimming is not permitted at Turtle Beach due to poisonous jellyfish in the area. There is no food or drink at Turtle Beach, so make sure to pack sufficient water as the trek can be challenging.
Another alternative for trekking is the more popular Monkey Beach. Many tourists come here and you should be able to find some food and drinks upon arriving at Monkey Beach. Due to the greater number of tourists here, there is also a greater amount of garbage. You will be able to cool off after your trek by taking a dip in the ocean, and jetskis and ATV’s are also available for rental. You also have the option of taking a boat back to the National Park entrance if you’d rather not trek back.
A more detailed post on these two treks will be coming soon, so stay tuned :).
And if trekking is not your jam, then Batu Ferringhi might be the best option for you. You can reach this popular beach by taking the same bus as for the National Park, the 101. Here you can find souvenir shops, restaurants, beach side massages, jetski rentals, and paragliding.
If you’re making your way back after 6 pm, stop off at Gurney Drive, another area well known in Penang for its street food.
If you decide to extend your stay …
There are so many things to do in Penang that you may feel that 3 days is not enough (although many of the travelers we met at the hostel were trying to do and see everything in only two!). If you do have a few more days to spend in this lively city, here are a few more things to add to your list:
The Peranakan Mansion is absolutely breathtaking, and I would definitely recommend visiting here if you get the chance! It’s a perfect rainy day activity and will keep you occupied for hours (if you have hours to spend). The cost is 21.20 RM per adult. Make sure to ask if you can join a tour, because otherwise there is limited signage for many of the items inside the mansion.
The Blue Mansion is less impressive than the Peranakan, but is still a lovely place to take photos, especially of the beautiful blue exterior. The cost is also about 20 RM, but is much smaller than the Peranakan. 1 to 2 hours is probably more than enough time to visit the Blue Mansion, including the tour.
The clan houses make up a very important part of the history of Penang, as many wealthy Chinese families emigrated to Penang Island shortly after the British had set up their trading post in the early 1800s. Both of these clan houses cost about 10 ringgit to enter.
Other options include:
- Visiting one of the many wacky museums in George Town (Upside Down, 3D, Wonderfood, etc.)
- Trekking and/or mountain biking the numerous trails all around Penang Island
- Take the ferry to Butterworth (on the mainland) and back for great views (it’ll cost you less than a $1 CAD!)
- Renting a scooter for a day to ride around and explore Penang Island
- Shopping in Gurney Plaza
- Taking a stroll in the Botanical Gardens
- Visit the National Museum of Penang and learn about the interesting history of and culture of Penang Island.
How do you like to explore a new city? Do you prefer to see as much as possible in a short time period, or schedule a few extra days just to give yourself time for the unknown? I have to say, I’m definitely more of the ‘extra days’ and ‘taking it easy’ type when I travel.
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