48 hours in Penang: the gateway to Asia

George Town over Penang hill 2If you’re thinking of visiting Asia or planning a personalised Malaysia holiday, make sure you make time to visit Penang. This thriving intersection encapsulates everything that is wonderful about the East and West, treating every one of your senses. If you have 48 hours to spend in Penang, here’s a sample itinerary to ensure you don’t miss out on any magical highlights.

Day one

Spend your first day exploring George Town, Penang’s liveliest hub. This city is a fascinating blend of old and new. One minute you’re looking down tree-lined streets adorned by traditional Chinese shophouses and colonial-style buildings. The next, you’re shopping up a storm in a chic designer mall or admiring the city skyline as the skyscrapers glisten in the morning sunlight. George Town is not just a beautiful place, it is also packed with cultural gems. You’ll find a dazzling array of museums and galleries here, and there’s no risk of getting bored. Highlights you won’t want to miss include Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, Camera Museum and the Batik Painting Museum. The ancient temple of Kek Lok Si is also well worth a visit. For the best views of the city, make your way up Penang Hill.

As night falls, head to one of George Town’s many restaurants or grab some delicious street food if you’re in a hurry. Popular dishes include Char Koay Teow (a signature noodle dish) and a rice noodle broth known as Penang Koay Teow Th’ng. Once you’ve eaten, you’ll find a broad spectrum of bars and clubs on offer if you fancy a drink before you retire.

Day 2

Escape the busy, winding streets of George Town and get into the great outdoors with a trip to Penang National Park. This may be Malaysia’s smallest national park, but they do say that good things come in small packages. Once you arrive at the national park, there are various ways you can explore. Guided bus tours and walking tours are very popular, and there are countless hikes if you fancy getting off the tourist tracks and doing your own thing. The beauty of this park is its diversity. Not only can you enjoy views of verdant treetops and bright blue skies. You can also soak up the sun of some of the island’s quietest and most alluring beaches.

Teluk Tukun beach is a perfect spot to rest weary legs after a challenging hike. It’s also an excellent base for exploring the tiny pools dotted off the coast. If you’re an animal lover, make for Teluk Duyung, which is affectionately known as Monkey Beach. If you’re feeling fearless and you have time, make the 30-minute journey to Muka Head, where you can scale the outcrop and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views.

Everyone visiting Malaysia should try and fit in a visit to Penang. This small but perfectly formed island has something to offer everyone. Soak up the sun and splash around in the clear pools. Enjoy the high life in George Town and embrace the charm of the old quarter. Get to grips with gruelling hikes and reward your hard work with a rest on the golden sands.