Penang Island has always been a favorite retreat for those familiar with its beauty. Situated in the northwest of Peninsular Malaysia, this little Pearl of the Orient is sought after by both the locals and foreigners. It is no more than a jet-hour away from most major capital cities of Southeast Asia. It is now linked to the mainland by the 13.5 kilometer-long Penang Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world. It has become another prominent landmark of the tropical isle.
The island, also known as Emerald Isle, is unique in many ways. For those who love a quiet holiday, it offers world-renowned stretches of clean golden beaches and cool jungle walks high up in the hills. For those who fancy exotic food, the island is a gourmet’s paradise where they can sample almost all the best delicacies of both east and west. The hub of the island, Georgetown, is a city of half a million people. Here, history and culture are represented by a fascinating mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian and British colonial art and architecture. This little metropolis of the east with centuries of trade and commerce has all the excitement and amenities to offer for a perfect holiday.
For a start, the visitor could get to know Penang Island better by taking a drive round the island, a distance of about 64 kilometers. Proceeding from the city and traveling northwest, the first stop could be Tanjung Tokong, a small fishing village. This is also the start of a twenty-kilometer stretch of fine golden beaches, notably Tanjung Bunga, Batu Ferringghi and Teluk Bahang. Secluded between rocky promontories and shaded by coconut palms and casuarinas, these beaches have made Penang one of the most renowned holiday islands in the sun.
From Teluk Bahang, the visitor can proceed southward and visit the ever-popular butterfly farm. The next stop is Balik Pulau, a small town famous for nutmegs and cloves. If it is during the fruit season, the whole town will be flooded with durians, rambutans, mangosteens and others. There is a crocodile farm near by. En route back to the city, the visitor may wish to drop by the popular snake temple at Sungai Kluang. At the temple, you will find harmless snakes coiled on incense burners, altars and beams in the temple. A daring visitor would want to have a picture taken with a snake coiled around his neck or hand.
Back in the city, you can get something excitingly different by eating out. There are the spicy Indian curry and rice, a sumptuous Chinese dinner or the simple char kway teow, or the Malaysian delicacy of satay as well as Penang’s specialty, the laksa and a range of seafood. Besides eating, you can also shop to your heart’s content. Penang Island has developed a big trade in watches, cameras and similar articles. A wide selection of curios as well as oriental goods are available in a large number of shops.
There are a few other places of interest which are a must for the tourists. If you have enough time think about a Penang Island tour package so you can see the most exciting destinations in Penang. They are, namely, the Penang Hill, the Kek Lok Si Temple and the Botanical Gardens, all within a ten-kilometer radius from the city center. The Penang Hill, 701 meters above sea level, offers a magnificent panorama of sky, sea, beaches, steamers and the whole city. A funicular train takes visitors up to the top, where the temperature drops to about 18 degrees Centigrade. The Kek Lok Si Temple is a seven-storeyed pagoda situated at the foot of the Penang Hill. The Botanical Gardens contain fascinating flora collected from various parts of Malaysia. Set in a valley surrounded by rolling hills landscaped with flowering plants, it is just ideal for family outings.