Penang, Malaysia Travel Guide
The island of Penang, off the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, probably doesn't rate too high on the list of the world's luxury destinations, but for those looking for something less 'sterile' in their destinations, the island is certainly worth considering. Coupled with the neighboring island of Langkawi, with some gorgeous beaches and fantastic resorts, this part of Malaysia makes a great escape that's just a little bit off the beaten path for luxury travelers.
What puts Penang on our POSH list is, firstly, the presence of a couple of fantastic hotel options. Add to that one of the best preserved colonial-era cities, with old European, Chinese and Malay buildings standing side-by-side. Then there's the food. Malaysians come to vacation in Penang just for the food. While it's the "hawker" street food that attracts the locals, you will find several nice, if not fancy, restaurants to choose from as well.
This guide will give you just a brief overview of what Penang has to offer the luxury traveler. For all the details on what to see and do, see my full Penang travel guide at AsiaForVisitors.com.
Getting to Penang
The easiest way to get to Penang is to fly there. The island's Penang International Airport is the second-busiest in Malaysia. There are, of course, domestic flights from Kuala Lumpur as well as other parts of the country, and also flights from a number of neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Singapore.
You can also use the train to travel from as far south as Singapore or as far north as Chiang Mai, although the trains in both Thailand and Malaysia leave a bit to be desired. Of course, there is the luxury Eastern Oriental Express train, which runs from Singapore to Bangkok.
Penang state consists of the island of Penang and a thin slice of the mainland around Butterworth. There is very little to see on the mainland, so you don't really need to visit there. The state original colonial settlement, Georgetown, is on the northeast corner of the island, and this is where you'll want to stay if you want to be close to the sights of the old town.
The island's airport is near the southern tip of the island, about a 30 minute trip from Georgetown. West of Georgetown is a developed beach area around Batu Feringgi. There are several hotels here, but none of them really rate as luxury resorts, and the beach here is not that great. If you want a fabulous beach resort, then take the short flight to Langkawi.
The main reason to visit Penang is to enjoy the elegant colonial buildings of old Georgetown . You can simply wander around at your leisure, enjoying not only the architecture, but the shops within as well. You'll find traditional Chinese tea shops where patient owners might educate you about tea drinking traditions and help you select the right tea for your tastes. There are also several art galleries.
Outside of the old historic area, there are only a few sights really worth seeing. One is Penang Hill , the old hill station where colonial residents used to go to escape the heat.
Penang really isn't a 'beach' destination, but if you fancy some time with sand and sea at your doorstep, the developed beach area is called Batu Ferringhi, which lies on the north shore of the island west of Georgetown. There are some rather nice resorts here, although the beach really isn't that fantastic.