Exploring the Gastronomic and Natural Wonders of Penang with Philippines AirAsia

June 01, 2016 Travel

In Penang, aimless wanderings can lead travelers from Chinese shops to Little India districts, from restaurants housed in colonial-era mansions to iconic street food stands. One can stroll from a street that draws Penang’s four major religions to another that features its most popular street arts. But wait, there’s more. Skirting this vibrant city is a landscape of beaches and forests.

This multitude of experiences sums up my recent Penang escapade, made possible by Philippines AirAsia and Penang Tourism.

Our trip was primarily a food tour of Penang, renowned as the food capital of Malaysia. In 2004, Time Magazine recognized it for having the best street food in Asia. Over our four-day escapade, we indulged in Chinese, Nyoya, Indian, and some of its popular hawker food.

Our Chinese seafood feast was courtesy of Taitong Seafood. This restaurant raised the bar on our Penang Food Trip. Their three-layer tea is the best, and their mantis prawn with salted egg is a must-try.

Our Nyoya sampling at Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine, which combines Chinese, Malay, and other regional influences, was equally delightful.

I have to say that Perut Rumah Nyonya Cuisine’s interior is impressive, featuring a cupboard of Nyonya antiques, floor tiles from the olden days, and a charming foyer.

Our Indian lunch at Gem’s Restaurant was undoubtedly the best of our entire gastronomic adventure in Penang. It was so good that I kept craving rice and curry even days after.

Our home in Penang, Sunway Hotel, not only served superb breakfast and cocktails (hooray for free beers!) but also sits right in the middle of the best Penang street food at New Lane Hawker Centre.

We tried the chicken wings, char kwey teow, satay sticks, and oyster omelet, and none disappointed. It was the perfect way to celebrate our last night in Penang.

Nature Exploration:

We also spent a full day exploring the outskirts of Penang, experiencing its natural wonders up close. We frolicked as butterflies flew all around us, swung like Tarzan, and explored a forest.

Our first stop was Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm, home to more than 15,000 butterflies, along with different species of insects, invertebrates, small reptiles, and plants. The facility features waterfalls, ponds, and other surreal garden features.

This multi-storey tropical sanctuary comprises Natureland and The Cocoon. Natureland serves as a shared ecological space for various species, while The Cocoon is an indoor discovery center featuring exhibitions and other indoor activities.

Adjacent to Entopia is Escape, an outdoor theme park that aligns perfectly with my idea of a playground. It offers thrilling activities such as zip-lining, bungee jumping, tree swinging, slacklining, and other adrenaline-pumping experiences.

The park also provides tents for rent, catering to those seeking a complete outdoor experience.

The rest of the day was spent exploring Penang Hill, a hill resort with a group of peaks, the highest point being 833 meters above sea level, located 6 kilometers away from George Town.

We reached the peak via the Penang Hill Railway, a funicular railway. The ride was one of the most picturesque journeys I've experienced, and the scenic ascent was capped off with a magnificent panoramic view of Georgetown.

The highlight of our visit to Penang Hill was the exploration of its nature reserve, Habitat. Our guide, Shakira, had an infectious love for nature. She taught us how to guess the age of trees, shared the local names of their flowers, and let us enjoy the giant swings.

I am eagerly anticipating a return visit when their canopy walks are completed.

A Harmonious Walk

Of course, we couldn't be in Penang and not explore its colorful and multi-cultural capital, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We strolled along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, otherwise known as the ‘Street of Harmony,’ which brings together the town’s four main religions. We started at St. George’s Church, the first Anglican Church in Southeast Asia. Then, we walked to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, the spiritual center of the Chinese community. Our journey continued to Kapitan Keling Mosque.

We also visited two clan houses. The more elaborate and grander of the two is The Khoo Kongsi, which was featured in the movie "Anna and the King."

Our quest for Penang's renowned street art followed. I wasn't entirely successful due to time constraints and nearby shops. However, I did manage to see one of the most famous pieces, "Little Children on a Bicycle," created by London-trained artist Ernest Zacharevic for the 2012 George Town Festival.

The next destination we visited was the Penang Peranakan Mansion, offering us a glimpse into Peranakan culture. The museum showcases the opulent lifestyle of affluent Peranakan families in the 19th century. Every item inside exudes elegance and finesse. Additionally, they house a jewelry and textile museum within.

Our final stop before indulging in some shopping was the Chew Jetty Floating Villages, established in the mid-19th century. This village on stilts also accommodates souvenir shops and restaurants.

Wondering how to get to Penang?

Philippines AirAsia offers convenient fly-thru services to Penang via Kuala Lumpur, making your journey hassle-free. With just one ticket, you can seamlessly collect your baggage at the final destination. For more details, visit www.airasia.com.

Terima Kasih to Philippines AirAsia, Penang Tourism, and Sunway Hotel!

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