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Our Favorite Places in Penang

Our recent post describes the general pro's a con's of living in Penang. This post focuses on some of our favorite places to visit, shop and eat on the island. We stayed in Tanjung Tokong, and spent most of our time there, on Gurney Drive and in the center of Georgetown - most of our recommendations are for these areas.

Restaurants / Cafes
China House, Georgetown  is an incredible building very close to the tourist hub of Armenian Street. It's not just a cafe, restaurant, bar, coffee shop or art gallery - it's all of those things. Expanding an entire city block from Beach St to Victoria St with a Koi Pond in the courtyard in the middle, there are a number of spaces that make up an entire compound. We tried the Kopi-C bakery/coffee shop during the day for an impressive selection of cakes, tasty breakfasts and lunch. At night we tried the BTB restaurant for eastern / western fusion, and the Canteen Bar which has live music every night.

Mediterranean style ampler platter at China House

We mainly found ourselves at the Olive Kitchen in Georgetown because of the multiple high definition TV screens that showed Formula One qualifying and races live, but we were also wowed by the quality of the food. Some of the tastiest Indian fare we have tasted (outside of the UK anyway!).

For something a bit different, with a kind of California vibe the Real Food Cafe in Straits Quay has farm to table vegetarian food, including homemade pizza in the evening.

Generally we didn't spend much time in the tourist enclave of Batu Ferringhi but if you are based there or fancy a visit we found the Ferringhi Garden to be the best fine dining spot. They offer meticulously kept gardens and friendly service along with an extensive menu with something to suit everyone's palate. Although you will be paying fine dining tourist prices here.

Street Food
Line Clear, is a famous Nasi Kandar spot which has been in operation since the 1930's. It's popular with locals and visitors alike. It's easy to see why when it's so delicious. Visit Pulau Tikus Market in the morning for some great offerings, we snacked on all kinds of treats here including the Penang traditional Char Kuey Teaow. We found Red Garden food court in Georgetown to be too touristy for our taste and the food was at best mediocre. Gurney Hawker Centre is better but also touristy although we did enjoy the Rojak there.

Places for Coffee
Iain is the coffee drinker in our family, I can't stand the stuff. He claims that Coffee Journey in Tanjung Tokong, and Urban Coffee in Gurney Plaza had the best coffee (He drinks a Long Black / Americano). Notable mention to Brown Pocket in Gurney Paragon for being a very cool place to hang out too although it's hard to find.

Drinking spots
Penang and Malaysia are not known for drinking and beer that is not light and fizzy (Tiger, Carlsberg etc) is practically impossible to find. There are a few wine bars of note, like Georgetown Wines or That Little Wine Bar. By far our favorite place to hang out was popular ex-pat spot Healy Macs - an Irish bar with excellent food and the friendliest staff you could ever meet. There is a great atmosphere pretty much every night in the otherwise sleepy Straits Quay development.

Places to Shop
Gurney Plaza is the best shopping center in our opinion. Here we could indulge in some UK nostalgia and stock up on undies from our home favorite Marks and Spencer. Other favorites were Uniqlo - the incredible Japanese clothing store; we may never shop anywhere for clothes again. Also Daiso - another Japanese store, this time a dollar (well RM5) store that stocks every little thing you could ever want. There is a Daiso in the upscale Paragon Mall next door too.

For electronic nick-nacks Komtar in Georgetown has a lot of choice, but the mall is shabby. Also in Georgetown are Prangin Mall, a lower end mall and 1st Avenue which is newer and has more western brands. You will find multiscreem movie theaters in a lot of these malls too showing new release English language movies.

Places to Visit
We don't often do the tourist stuff, we just don't enjoy a lot of the "packaged for visitors" attractions on offer. But we had heard that the Peranakan Museum was highly recommended and it didn't disappoint. It is a restored mansion with an amazing collection of artifacts from the community of Chinese immigrants. A century ago they settled in Penang and mixed their heritage with local Malay traditions and elements of British colonial culture. There is an impressive jewelry and costume collection and an English speaking guide included in the modest US$4 admission price. The museum is a much more interesting visit than The Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Zee mansion) which, as a working hotel, gives very little access to explore the property.

We enjoyed visiting the botanical gardens. It's a great spot for people watching early in the mornings with locals taking part in daily exercise walking laps around the park. We enjoyed a few exhausting hikes that start from here until my sprained ankle made us have to explore less strenuous activities.

Other places that were worth the effort to see included the Khoo Kongsi clan house in Georgetown, the Kek Lok Si temple and the Thai Buddhist Temple with the Reclining Buddha. Once you are templed out you can admire all the street art that is littered around the city and also the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre.

Hin Bus Depot
The Thai Buddhist Temple houses an impressive Reclining Buddha


  1. Such a beautiful place to visit.

    1. We've enjoyed it every time we are there. A good mix of cultures, excellent food and very easy living!!