TROPICAL ISLAND WITH PRISTINE BEACHES, WILD NATURE AND A SYMPHONY OF CULTURES; PENANG, MALAYSIA
Day 1 – Arrive Penang, Malaysia
There are direct flights to/from Penang, Malaysia from the Asian cities, such as Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. We arrive at the Penang International Airport and use private transfer services provided by our resort. Upon arrival at the resort, we relax, visit the property and have an early dinner.
Note: We organize our excursions with the assistance of the concierge at our resort (private transfer and a guide).
Day 2 – Batu Ferringhi Beach
Today, we spend a day at our resort and at the Batu Ferringhi Beach. We sunbathe along the long stretch of white sand beach, surrounded by large coastal rocks and tropical vegetation. At the time of our visit, the ocean waters surrounding Penang Island are polluted with jellyfish, hence we decide to swim in the swimming pool in our resort. After lunch, we spend an afternoon at the salt water pool and enjoy an Afternoon Tea at the Rasa Lounge. We degust Malaysian cuisine for dinner.
Day 3 – George Town
Our excursion to George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes a private transfer and a guide. We drive half an hour to George Town and begin a guided walking tour. We discover colorful streets, colonial architecture, Buddhist temples, mosques and churches. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is a 19th century Indo-Moorish structure built by Indian Muslim traders. The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Penang. We visit traditional Chinese buildings, such as the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple, the Hainan Temple and the Seh Teoh Kongsi Clan Temple. The Clan Jetties is the waterfront Chinese settlement, while the Armenia Street is dedicated to the Armenian settlement. George Towne has a collection of buildings constructed during the British colonial rule. The Eastern and Oriental Heritage Building is an elegant colonial-style resort. Fort Cornwallis was built as a defense system in 1786 by the British colonists. The Anglican St. George’s Church was built in 1817 by the East India Company. While in George Town, we stop for lunch, enjoy afternoon snacks and sample local specialties. Afterward, we drive back to our hotel for dinner.
Day 4 – Beach Day, New Year’s Eve Celebrations
Today is another relaxing day at the beach and the swimming pool. We enjoy the adults-only saltwater pool, an English Afternoon Tea and cocktails at the Rasa Lounge. At sunset, we stroll along the beach, admiring the colorful sky and the hills of Penang. Our New Year’s Eve celebrations include a seven course dinner and a music and dance performances, followed by a midnight toast and dancing.
Day 5 – Penang National Park
Our day excursion to the Penang National Park encompasses a private transfer and a guide. We follow a 15 minutes’ route from our hotel to the fishing village of Teluk Bahang, entryway to the park. We follow the hiking trails across the rainforest and the rocky coastline. We hike along the eastern coast to Teluk Duyung, a white sand beach and natural habitat for Macaques monkeys. The hiking trails to the western coast arrive to Meromictic Lake and Pantai Kerachut, a white sand beach and the location of the Penang Turtle Sanctuary. We pause for lunch and eat sandwiches we brought from our hotel. A day in the Penang National Park offers a chance to discover exotic trees and plants, and different species of birds, butterflies, mammals and marine life. After the visit, we drive back to our hotel and have dinner.
Day 6 – Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill
Our day excursion to the central part of Penang Island includes a private transfer and a guide. We drive around 45 minutes to the Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia situated in Air Itam. We visit the expansive temple complex, including its main attractions: the seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI and the enormous statue of Kuan Yin. Afterward, we drive a short distance to Penang Hill to have lunch and enjoy panoramic views of the island. After our visit, we drive back to our hotel.
Day 7 – Relaxation Day, Batu Ferringhi Night Market
We spend a relaxing day in our resort. Early evening, we walk to the nearby Batu Ferringhi Night Market, running on the main street near Batu Ferringhi Beach. The night market has many stalls selling a wide variety of handcrafts, souvenirs and traditional snack foods. We buy a few souvenirs, then walk to the nearby seaside restaurant to degust local seafood. After dinner, we walk back to our hotel.
Day 8 – Penang, Malaysia Departure
We spend a relaxing half day at our hotel, swimming and having lunch. We use a private transfer to the Penang International Airport and take a late afternoon flight home.
Penang Island – The Malay Peninsula, a peninsula in the Southeast Asia, is encircled by the Andaman Sea in the northwest, the Singapore Strait in the south, the South China Sea in the southeast and the Gulf of Thailand in the northeast. Malaysia comprises the two noncontiguous territories of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia is bordered by Thailand in the north, Singapore in the south, the Malacca Strait in the southwest. East Malaysia, located in the northern part of Borneo Island, comprises the Malaysia’s states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the federal territory of Labuan. Penang, an island and a Malaysian state in the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is separated from the mainland by the 11-kilometer Penang Strait and connected by the Penang Bridge. Penang, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Orient”, is an ideal tropical getaway with pretty beaches, a national park and the historic capital city of George Town. Penang, established by British merchants in 1786, became a profitable spice trade center. The Strait of Malacca, the shipping route between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, connected many countries’ economies. An influx of merchants coming from Asia, Europe and Arabia to Penang, influenced the island’s culture and cuisine. A multi-ethnic population, consisting of Malaysians, Chinese, Malays, Indians and other ethnic groups, promotes religious tolerance and embraces foreign cultures. Visitors to the island can enjoy a bit of everything: lovely beaches, a historic town, a protected rainforest and a warm equatorial climate all year long. An interesting place to visit is the Penang Tropical Fruit Farm, growing a variety of tropical fruits, including durian and mangosteen. Situated atop the slopes of Air Itam in central Penang, the Kek Lok Si Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The temple complex encompasses a magnificent seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI, an impressive statue of Kuan Yin - the Goddess of Mercy and well-manicured gardens. Another popular tourist attraction is Penang Hill, a group of forested peaks, comprising the Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill, Government Hill and the highest peak Western Hill. The Penang Hill Railway, a funicular located at the base of the hill, takes the visitors on a journey to the top of the hill to enjoy breathtaking views of the island.
George Town – Penang’s colonial history and multi-ethnic culture are on display in its capital city of George Town. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, George Town was founded in 1786 by the merchants of the British East India Company. George Town is a historic enclave preserving and cultivating Malay, Indian, Chinese and European cultures and traditions. The town’s cultural heritage can be explored by foot or by riding the trishaw. A walk through town reveals a collection of colonial buildings, two-storey shop houses, lively and colorful streets, Buddhist temples, mosques, shrines and churches. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is an impressive Indo-Moorish structure built in the 19th century by Indian Muslim traders. The mosque’s interiors have high ceiling, white arches and a remarkable chandelier. Situated at the juncture of Lebuh Buckingham Road and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling Road, the mosque is an important place of worship for the local Muslims. A short distance from the mosque, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Penang. The temple’s elaborate façade features a colorful wall tower with sculptures of gods and goddesses. It was founded in 1833 and serves as a place of prayer for the Indian community in George Town. The Chinese community, the largest ethnic group in Penang, erected numerous traditional Chinese buildings. The Han Jiang Ancestral Temple is a 19th century spiritual symbol built by Teochew immigrants from China. It showcases a traditional Chinese architecture with its central courtyard, remarkable Yu Gate and beautiful sculptures. The nearby Hainan Temple, founded by Chinese immigrants from the Hainan Island in China, is dedicated to the Taoist Deity Mazu. There are stone carvings in front of its entrance, while its interiors are embellished with shrines dedicated to the Goddess Mazu and the Goddess Shui Wei. A multitude of Chinese Clan Houses decorate the streets of George Town. The Seh Teoh Kongsi Clan Temple is the headquarters of the Teoh Clan, constructed as part of a community defense system. The Clan Jetties is the waterfront Chinese settlement, with stilt-houses built over the water in the 19th century. The Armenia Street, dedicated to the Armenian settlement in Penang, is a narrow street lined with shophouses, street art and cafes. The Armenia Street, following the Chinese settlement, became a center for the political movement of Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China in 1912. A collection of impressive buildings were constructed in George Town during the British colonial rule. The Eastern and Oriental Heritage Building, a symbol of the British Empire, is an elegant colonial-style resort with gardens, overlooking the Strait of Malacca. Situated along the Esplanade is Fort Cornwallis, the remaining outer walls, prison and storage structures built in 1786 by the British colonists as a defense system. Near the fort stands the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, a 60 feet high tower commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Anglican St. George’s Church, built in 1817 by the East India Company, is a noteworthy Victorian style structure. George Town is a fascinating quarter with lively streets, colonial architecture, old shophouses and multi-ethnic religious and cultural sites.
Pristine Beaches – Penang Island is a popular tourist destination and a weekend getaway for the residents of mainland Malaysia. The northern part of the island is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and lovely coastal scenery. The Batu Ferringhi Beach is a white sand beach, accentuated by large coastal rocks and coconut trees along the calm coves. Beachfront resorts, numerous dining venues and water sports shops are situated along the beach. It is an ideal place to swim, sunbathe, ride a Jet Ski, windsurf and watch eagles flying overhead. At the time of our visit, the ocean waters surrounding Penang Island were polluted with jellyfish, hence we decide to only swim in our resort’s swimming pool. A sunset stroll along the beach reveals colorful sky and peaceful hills of Penang. An excursion to the Penang National Park offers a chance to admire secluded white sand beaches. Teluk Duyung, known as “Monkey Beach”, is a white sand beach on the eastern coast of the park, accessible by boat or hiking trail. The national park is the natural habitat for the Macaques, a species of monkeys native to Southeast Asia. Pantai Kerachut, a white sand beach on the west coast of the park, is the location of the Penang Turtle Sanctuary. Green Sea Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles come to the shore to lay their eggs. This beautiful and remote beach, reachable by boat or hiking trail, offers relaxation and tranquility. In the south-western part of the island, the Gertak Sanggul Beach and the Pulau Kendi Island offer a reprieve from the bustling city life.
Taman Negara Pulau Pinang – The Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang) is situated in the northwest corner of Penang Island. The park comprises rainforest, mangrove swamps, pristine beaches, rocky coastline, beach sanctuary for the nesting marine turtles, the Meromictic Lake and diverse species of flora and fauna. The entrance to the park is in the small fishing village of Teluk Bahang. Inside the park, many hiking trails, across the forest and the rocky coastline, lead to remarkable natural sites. Teluk Duyung, known as “Monkey Beach”, is a white sand beach on the eastern coast of the park. The national park is the natural habitat for the Macaques, a species of monkeys native to Southeast Asia. In the north-western part of the park, the Muka Head Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse standing 227 meters above the sea, built in 1883 by the British colonists. The west side of the Penang National Park encompasses the Meromictic Lake, a natural lake with two layers of different waters: sea (salt) water and fresh water. Visitors to the lake between March and August can observe the two separate layers of water. Pantai Kerachut, a white sand beach on the west coast of the park, is the location of the Penang Turtle Sanctuary. Green Sea Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles come to the shore to lay their eggs. We explore Penang National Park with an experienced guide, trekking through the jungle, visiting the coastline and admiring the panoramic views. At the beginning of the rainforest, we encounter a family of Dusky Leaf Monkeys gathered on the trees. The wetlands, springs and rainforest create ideal conditions for thriving plants and exotic trees, such as mangroves, pitcher plants, fungi, screw pine, coconut palms and red Gelam trees. Inside the park, there is a Canopy Walkway, a 250 meters long walkway above the rainforest, connecting different hiking trails. The lush forest and surrounding waters are a rich natural habitat for different species of birds, butterflies, mammals and marine life. Traversing the forest, we observe beautiful birds, snakes, turtles and an army of ants. The Penang National Park preserves the biodiversity of the ecosystem of Penang Island.
Malaysian Night Markets – Night markets, essential part of the Chinese culture, grew in popularity in Southeast Asia and Asian communities across the globe. The Malaysian Night Markets, called Pasar Malam, define the country’s multi-ethnic culture, diverse culinary culture and way of life. Open spaces and pedestrian streets become lively gathering places at special celebrations, the festivals and as part of daily life. The night markets are a popular nightlife destination, an after work activity and a tourist attraction, bringing locals and travelers together. Diverse communities cultivate these non-permanent markets, selling a wide variety of handcrafts, clothing, fresh produce and traditional snack foods. Many bazaars across Penang Island tempt visitors with an extensive variety of artisan products, souvenirs and culinary delicacies, sold at bargain prices. The Batu Ferringhi Night Market runs on the main street near the Batu Ferringhi Beach. The market is an amazing bazaar featuring an array of souvenirs, accessories, jewelry and food stalls. Numerous restaurants along the main road, serve Malaysian, Chinese and Indian specialties. The Macallum Street Night Market, located in George Town, is another interesting place with a collection of local products and food specialties. Tanjung Bungah, a suburb of George Town, hosts its own Tanjung Bungah Night Market. The Farlim Night Market, located in the residential neighborhood of Bandar Baru Air Itam, is very popular with the locals, offering a wide range of local products and favorite food snacks. After sundown, Penang’s open-air markets become fascinating places with scattered stalls across the streets, creating amazing atmosphere for the locals and the visitors.
Fauna and Flora – The Penang National Park is blessed with picturesque hiking routes, guiding visitors to its spectacular natural sites. The lush forest, wetlands, pristine beaches and the Meromictic Lake serve as a rich natural habitat for diverse species of flora and fauna. At the beginning of the rainforest, we encounter a family of Dusky Leaf Monkeys gathered on the trees. The Dusky Leaf Monkey is a beautiful primate species that has a grey or brown fur and an interesting appearance. These monkeys have distinct white circles around their eyes and a white patch around the mouth. We catch a glimpse of these adorable creatures as they relax and move effortlessly on the trees. The national park is the natural habitat for the Macaques, a species of monkeys native to Southeast Asia. The Macaques, also known as Crab-Eating Macaques, have long-tails and are social animals that live in groups. “Monkey Beach”, reachable by boat or by hiking trail in the Penang National Park, houses a population of Macaques. The lush forest and surrounding waters are a natural habitat for different species of birds, mammals and marine life. Traversing the forest, we observe beautiful birds and the remarkable White-Bellied Sea Eagle flying above the trees near the coastline. While jungle trekking, we notice a small stream where an organized army of ants crosses our pathway and the tiny Green Tree Snake, utilizing the branch of tree as a camouflage. The wetlands, springs and rainforest create ideal conditions for exotic plants and magnificent trees. A dipterocarp forest, a coastal mangrove forest, coconut palms, red gelam trees and pandanus tectorius (screw pine) are all found in the national park. Exotic plants include sea morning glory, pitcher plants, fern-allies, oak leaf fern, wild orchids and fungi. The Penang National Park is a splendid natural heritage of the island.
Malaysian Cuisine – A medley of multi-ethnic cultures shaped the Malaysian cuisine. The Malaysian cuisine encompasses the culinary traditions of Malay, Chinese and Indian communities as well as British colonial settlers. Penang Island is a top culinary destination with a collection of multi-ethnic specialties, abundant seafood and diverse tropical fruits. We have a chance to degust Penang’s diverse seafood in our hotel, at the Spice Market Café that serves a superb Seafood Buffet for dinner. A splendid selection of fish, lobsters, crabs and crawfish is prepared in Malaysian, Chinese and Indian culinary styles. Some lobster tails are served chilled in their shell with a wasabi cream sauce while others are sautéed with a chili sauce. Seafood lovers shall sample the delicious razor clams, the uniquely flavorful shrimps served with dried spices, the fresh sashimi prepared with a Malaysian twist and the Flower Crabs prepared with a chili and bean paste. Penang’s tropical climate ensures an abundance of different varieties of tropical fruits. The fresh young coconut is refreshing, nutritious and soothing during the hot days on the island. The hilly terrain of Penang is an ideal habitat for a variety of tropical fruit, including durian, mangosteen and our favorite, the dragon fruit (Pitaya), a widely cultivated tropical fruit in Southeast Asia. The Malaysian cuisine preserves multi-ethnic culinary styles, creating an incredible variety of flavorful, colorful and aromatic dishes.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa – The beautiful tropical gardens with century-old rain trees surround the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa. The resort is situated along the Batu Ferringhi Beach and encompasses the Garden Wing and the Rasa Wing. The Rasa Wing offers elegant accommodations with a private patio or balcony with soaking bath, access to the adults-only saltwater pool and complimentary English Afternoon Tea and evening cocktails at the Rasa Lounge. We recommend the higher floor rooms of the Rasa Wing that overlook the expansive gardens, the saltwater pool and the nearby hills. The Spice Market Café serves a superb breakfast and an excellent dinner buffet featuring Malaysian, Chinse, Japanese and Indian specialties. The Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa is set along a beautiful white sand beach, boasts elegant Asian style décor and provides a convenient access to the island’s cultural and natural sites.