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Vibrant Penang in Malaysia

Vibrant Penang in Malaysia
Highlights

A friend and I were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise from Singapore. The first port that our cruise ship ‘Mariner of the Seas’ touched was Penang in...

A friend and I were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise from Singapore. The first port that our cruise ship ‘Mariner of the Seas’ touched was Penang in Malaysia. We had booked the Penang Round Island Tour from the travel desk on board and disembarked after leaving our passports behind.

Penang, the food capital of Malaysia, is also called the Isle of the Betel Nut. It is an island off the North West coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008. Nicknamed as the Pearl of the Orient, Penang is famous for its soft sandy beaches.

Some of the most interesting sites of Penang include the beautiful beaches of Tanjung Bungah, Penang Hill, the vipers in the famous Snake Temple, the gorgeous buildings of Georgetown and the Tropical Spice Garden. It is a Shopper’s Paradise with its many flea markets, modern shopping malls and night markets.
The tour coach took us through the city, past scenic coves, bays and the beautiful old buildings of Georgetown. The historic city of George Town is a World Heritage Site.

Our first halt was at the Entopia Butterfly Farm. The aviary hosts 120 species of live butterflies in the farm’s beautifully landscaped outdoor gardens which were filled with flowering plants that attract butterflies by the thousands. We were told that there are at least 5,000 butterflies there at any given time.

There were yellow, blue, large and small ones, monarch butterflies and even one unique butterfly that looks like a woman’s brightly painted lips! Slices of pineapple and hibiscus flowers were also strategically placed to attract the delightful insects. There is a slide show, an insect museum and a display of other insects and their medicinal uses too.

The next halt was at the Craft Batik Workshop where we were given a demonstration of the various stages of the intricate art of printing cloth with wax and dyes by the skilful craftsmen and women of Penang.

Penang is also famous for its Street Art. Three-dimensional art objects bring the old streets of George Town back to life, whilst reflecting Penang’s history. The Upside Down Museum is worth a visit if you have ever wondered what it was like to live life upside down. The staff will guide you and take your pictures for you. The Chocolate and Coffee Museum has a huge range of chocolates to sample for free and a quick tour of the chocolate and coffee making process.

The 3D Trick Art Museum is a fun place to take photos. This museum has a similar concept to the upside down museum and staff will assist you with photos. The Penang Wonderfood Museum gives you a chance to have a look at the city’s unique food culture with large displays of the local Malaysian dishes. The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a museum that gives you a glimpse back in time as to how the rich Straits Chinese settlers once lived. The mansion has beautiful antiques.

The main reason most tourists visit Penang is the food. There is a very wide range of cuisine and places that serve them, from street food carts in hawkers’ centres to fine restaurant dining. Food critics call this city foodie heaven. Local specialities reflect the blend of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisines.

It was evening by the time we reached the lively Batu Ferringhi Night Market. Must buy here are fragrant spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon and the world famous spice paste mixture called Sambal which is used so effectively in cooking. Many of the salesmen here were Bangladeshi. Artistic paintings of Penang were being sold and I bought a watercolour to remind me of my trip.

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