For many on their way from Thailand to Singapore, Penang is a huge highlight. There's something for everyone; foodies, street art lovers, culture vultures and backpackers alike. But after enjoying the cheap delights of countries like Thailand and Cambodia, Malaysia can be a little shocking on the pocket. Here's a guide to where to head to get the most out of your time in Penang and save your money for some of the delicious cuisine options.Â
1. Hit the National Park
Incredibly the National Park is free to enter. To get to the National Park take the 101 bus from KOMTAR (RM8) and take it to the last stop. There are a number of trail options open to you and these can be discussed with staff when you get there. For safety you'll have to sign in at the main desk. The park can be explored on foot, but if you've got a spare 50RM, my advice is to walk to Monkey Beach (1.5-2 hours, maps available at the entrance) and then get a boat back to the entrance. A boat can be easily arranged at the entrance and just guess how long you'll want on the beach before being picked up.Â
2. Find the Street Art
This was one of my most enjoyable days in Georgetown. The famous street art is spread out over the UNESCO World Heritage site and it's very easy to create your own walking tour. Street art maps are available online so your route will decide itself. Most of the famous examples of street are are by Ernest Zacharevic and they're slowly deteriorating, so see them while you can!
3. Walk up to Penang Hill
Warning: this is not for the unfit. Take the #10 bus to the Botanical Gardens (also free) and then it's possible to walk all the way up to Penang Hill. You'll save some money and be rewarded by a wonderful view from the top. The trail starts just to the left of the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and does look very steep at the start. It levels out at around the 1.3km marker, but it's still a tough 1.5-2 hour walk: You have been warned.Â
4. Get some sand between your toes
They're not the best beaches you'll find in Asia, but they're free and it's a great free way to chill out during your stay in Penang. The #101 bus to Batu Ferringhi takes about 30 minutes from central George Town.
5. Â Take a walk in George Town
As you start to move from street to street in George Town the neighbourhoods start to become apparent. Little India, Chinatown and the Muslim communities all peacefully coexist and have their individual charms. There are a couple of big shopping malls if you want to take some time out to window shop. If you're lucky enough to secure a room during Chinese New Year then the streets are full to the brim with free presentations, martial arts demonstrations and lion dancing among many other highlights throughout the day. Â
George Town is very easy to find your way around, but it's important to take care crossing the road as there isn't necessarily a pavement on all streets - it's all part of the the experience.Â