Adventure, Culture, Nature and History… On the Island of Penang, variety is the spice of life…
When most people think of the Malaysian state and island of Penang, nature and culture instantly come to mind. But this destination, resolutely turned to the future, will surprise more than one sightseer with an extraordinary array of activities for a very broad range of visitors.
The island is a melting pot of Asian cultures due to its history. A port from its early days, then a free port during British times, the city attracted all kinds of communities, from Chinese, Indian and Malay to Thai, Burmese, Acehnese and Javanese, Europeans, Arabs and even Armenians.
This peculiar culture, which is particularly visible in the architecture of Georgetown (the capital city) and in Penang’s gastronomy, has been recognised by UNESCO, which turned Penang into a World Heritage Site in 2008.
“We have numerous cultural assets and we now work at improving the tourist’s experience as well as preserving the balance between tourism development and our own citizens’ daily lives. This is a delicate relationship as we want to keep Penang’s authenticity”, explains Ooi Chok Yan, CEO Penang Global Tourism, the State tourism agency.
Among the new initiatives are cycling products, with city bikes now being offered in Georgetown and the creation of cycle lanes. “It takes time, as we also have to deal with the Federal Ministry of Transport. But this is definitely coming!” adds Ooi.
Heart-Stopping Adventure at “The Top”
Where else in Asia (or the world) can you step out of the window of the 65th floor of a skyscraper? The Gravityz is the world’s highest ropes course challenge – a new attraction at “the Top” – the KOMTAR building in George Town, a legendary building which has recently been completely renovated, with the addition of three new floors and a number of spectacular attractions. The Gravityz Ropes Course Challenge is adrenaline-filled journey that the visitor will never forget, including the “Confidence Path”, the “Great Bridge” and the “Z Wire”.
George Town and its Heritage Architecture
George Town, the capital of Penang, is a large, bustling city, and while it has a futuristic veneer, it’s heart still beats to the rhythm of its rich historic past. Penang was the first British outpost in South-East Asia, founded in 1786, and the city centre is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site measuring 2.5 sq km.
The city features Malaysia’s best restored and readapted traditional architecture as well as a multitude of heritage trades and arts, and is a living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and traditions of Asia.
The city is a kind of “fusion” of a number of cultural elements that create a unique architecture, culture and townscape unparalleled anywhere else in the region. The true value of George Town’s historic aura is simply too unique to define. There is no other site quite like this in the world.
Asia’s Street Art Capital
Soon after George Town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, the state government began capitalising on global interest, branding itself through the arts. To this end, street art has become a huge draw card since the onset of Instagram and other social media, through which visitors “put themselves in the picture”.
The growing popularity of these works arguably makes George Town the Asian capital of street art.
New @ The Habitat
From city to tropical rainforest is just a short drive. The Habitat is a world-class eco-tourism facility located on the fringes of a 130-million-year-old virgin rainforest on Penang Hill. This rainforest is untouched and exists side by side with urban Penang and its environs.
Since the beginning of 2018, visitors have been able to get a “different” glimpse of the rainforest with a 230-metre canopy bridge entitled “Langur Way”, comprising two new suspension bridges 40 meters above the rainforest floor.
Setting the Taste Buds Dancing
Penang is renowned for its street food – a culinary adventure in the Seberang Perai district, where one can uncover local treats or classic menu favourites served at any time of the day, including, for the more daring, the local Durian fruit.
Meanwhile, those wishing to learn more about the delicious tropical spices that are the basis of delectable local cuisine are able to visit the Tropical Spice Garden, in a beautiful beachside forest location. Cooking lessons are also available allowing a veritable “hands on” experience in a paradise-like setting.