15 Facts about Penang, Malaysia

by Celine Grace Yap

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This is my first ever blog about a place, any place!  This is also my simple answer to a friend’s request to write some 15 facts about the place I now refer to as my third home; Philippines being my first, and Vietnam my second. As this week only marks my 9th week here, this is probably not as extensive as I would want it to be.  Nevertheless, wherever one is, there is always something new to discover.   I hope you’d enjoy reading through my version of 15 Penang facts. 


1.       Penang is a food haven! In fact, it is referred to as the food capital of Malaysia.  Being Filipino, it is common to eat more than 3 meals a day. Thus, I came to the right place.  From my own observation and I may exaggerate a bit, there is probably a hawker place or  food carts every other block in Penang so there is no chance to go hungry.  Some of my favorites are Char Koay Teow (a fried noodle dish with shrimp, oyster, eggs and bean sprouts), Poh Piah (what I refer to as the Chinese lumpia), and Ais Kacang for dessert (similar to the Philippine halo-halo). 
2.       While we are on the topic of food, hawker stations are the best places to grab your taste of Penang food.  They are cheaper at these food carts too and offer a wide variety from Malay, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and even Western food or some fusion of cuisines.  If you are a bit sensitive on the tummy, just pick the ones that go through heat and you should be fine, most of the time anyway.
3.       Penang is definitely a melting pot.  I learned just last week (and I may only be slow) that there is a new generation of Chindians, a product of intermarriages between the Chinese and Indians. There are Dutch, British, Australians and a lot of other mixtures.  Foreigners can easily fit no doubt about it.
4.       Penangites are linguists J Most speak at least 2 languages.  Most common are Bahasa, Chinese, Tamil and English.  Many of my friends speak 3 and a few of them learning 1 more.  OK, now I feel……..below standard haha…
5.       History-wise, Penang is known to be the home of quite a few firsts for Malaysia and Southeast Asia.  It is the home of the first Anglican church in SE Asia which is the St. George’s Church, one of the many landmarks of the state.  It also became the first  British outpost in SE Asia, reason why one would see many British-inspired structures especially in the island.  Among its other firsts in Malaysia are: George town – first town to become a city, Penang Botanic Gardens – first botanic garden in Malaysia, and the Penang Hill Railway – first funicular hill railway in Malaysia.  
6.       George town which is Penang state’s capital city is one of only two cities in Malaysia to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One can have your fill of art and culture by just walking around.
7.       Some must-see places in Penang are the Kek Lok Si Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, Khoo Khongsi clanhouse, Penang Hill, Penang Botanical garden and Tropical Spice garden, Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Thai temple, Weld Quay Clan Jetties, Penang road for the foodies, and the streets of George Town where you can go find some 20+ famous street art.
8.       There is an abundance of 24-hour clinics because most folks in Penang go to these places to get checked up for common aches and pains.  Hospitals, as it seems, are for more critical and sensitive sicknesses.  This is merely a personal observation; thus only a Celine-fact.
9.       If you love taking several baths a day or washing loads and loads of laundry, Penang is the place for you.  Water tariffs are very low as they are subsidized by the government.  I paid 5 Malaysian Ringgit for my 2 months which is not even 1 USD. 
10.   Gasoline is pretty cheap too.  I believe this is because Malaysia has its own source of oil and the government subsidizes a portion of the cost.  A liter of unleaded 95 gas is priced at 1.90 Malaysian Ringgit (roughly 63 cents US).
11.   One more thing you might consider buying when you are in town are bed sheets.  Yes, bed sheets!  I don’t know why but I just find good quality beddings, 400 thread count and up at cheap-er prices over here. 
12.   Another surprise is that I find Apple products sold here at about the same or even slightly cheaper prices compared to US.  Or is it just my conversion? Hmmm…
13.   There are so many malls and groceries around this second smallest state in Malaysia; from Parkson, First Avenue, Prangin, Komtar, Bukit Jambul, Queensbay, Plaza Gurney, Sunway, Tesco, Jusco and more. One thing is for sure, there is no lack of places to go spend your money at.  To add to that, there are year round sales.  Just make sure you keep some for the rainy days J
14.   For the most part, Penang is an easy place to live in.  What I don’t like though is the traffic.  From my perspective, there is no seriously efficient means of mass transportation.  There is Rapid but then it only services main roads and you will have to wait forever (well, give or take 15-20 minutes) before the next bus comes.  This does not really cut it for most folks so this means that most families own 2 or more cars. When you have them all on the road at the same time, traffic! Big time! I try to avoid going out on the road at rush hours  and especially avoid George Town and Gurney areas on Friday afternoons.  This is where the night life is at.
15.   Last but not the least, Penang is definitely a charm of its own.  It is a modern state albeit not quite Kuala Lumpur.  But then again, I wouldn’t like for it to be (if it were only left to me).  I just like how it is modern but still much rooted to its traditions, where a mixture of races can freely practice their beliefs and live harmoniously; where state-of-the-art buildings rise up alongside old time Chinese shop houses. It is simply a unique place that could only be Penang.


Am glad she submitted an entry! I have never been to Penang so this info would be very useful on our first visit to the place.

This is Celine’s contest entry for ’15 Facts about __________’ .

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