Visiting Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi in Malaysia
Rich colonial history, exotic food and a fascinating blend of old and modern make Georgetown and Penang one of the most desirable places to visit in Malaysia. Once part of the British Colony, Georgetown is home to a number of buildings dating to the eighteenth century. These richly decorated buildings give an insight into the booming historic past of the region. Georgetown has attracted various communities through the centuries who have left a deep impact on the history, architecture and cuisine of Georgetown. Georgetown was declared a UNESCO heritage State in 2008.
Summary of Visit to Penang & Batu Ferringhi
Here I am exploring details of my 4 day trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and Batu Ferringhi by road. During my visit, I stayed at 1. Eastern & Oriental Hotel 2. Bayview Hotel Penang
Explored the following areas: Penang Hill - Gurney Drive - Old Penang Town - Batu Ferringhi Beach
Visited following restaurants: Little Kitchen (Nyonya), Sarkies (@ Eastern & Oriental Hotel), Line-Clear, Kashmir, Golden Thai Seafood ( Batu Ferringhi)
Highlights: exploring Peranakan Culture, Fort Cornwallis, Views from Penang Hill
Georgetown is home to plenty of historical buildings dating from the colonial and pre-colonial eras. An influx of rich Chinese immigrants in the last century has brought about an interesting mix of Malay-Chinese culture called Nyonya (Peranakan) which is a part of the culinary as well as the architectural heritage of Penang. Nyonya food is very popular in Penang and there are a number of authentic Nyonya restaurants in the old part of Georgetown Penang.
Unique Nyonya Architecture of Penang
The shophouse desgined in Peranakan styled architectue are painted in bright colours and offers a rich insight into the history of chinese settlers in the region in early 20th century
Taste popular dishes in one of many Nyonya Restaurants in Penang
The richness of Peranakan culture can be seen in the architecture and design
Nyonya Food & Sweet
Enjoy a wide array of sweets and desserts prepared in Peranakan cafes and restaurants
What is the driving distance between Kuala Lumpur and Penang?
Georgetown is located approximately 280 km north of Kuala Lumpur. A network of freeways connects all major cities in Malaysia. Driving or catching a bus is an equally enjoyable travel experience in mainland Malaysia. Direct driving time between Kuala Lumpur and Penang is a little over 4 hours. There are plenty of well-maintained stopovers along the way with food courts and restaurants.
Like most major cities Georgetown is easily accessible by all modes of transport. You can travel to Georgetown Penang in one of the following ways:
Catch a bus from BTS Kuala Lumpur
There are a number of quality bus services operating from BTS, the main bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur. The ticket cost is around RM 40 and the travel time is 5 hours. The road network across Malaysia is world-class and the journey is quite comfortable with a number of stops along the way. For budget-conscious travellers, this is probably the most convenient way to travel to Malaysia.
Drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang
I have always preferred to rent a car and drive from KL to Penang as the trip can be broken down into a couple of stages. A direct drive is approximately four to 5 hours. You can stop at Ipoh or Butterworth if you have more time to yourself. The benefit of having a car is that you can explore most places within Georgetown with ease. There is the considerable driving time between downtown Georgetown City and Batu Ferringhi and other remote places on the Island. Click to book a car at KLIA or KLIA
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Georgetown Historical Quarters and Old Part of Penang
The northern-Eastern Tip of Georgetown has plenty of historical buildings and architecture giving a glimpse into the glorious past of this island. Because of its beauty and history, Penang is UNESCO-listed. This includes the area south and east of Lebuah Farquhar, Lebuah Cinta and Lebuh Melaya. You will mind a maze of streets and historical shop-housed some preserved and some marking the signs of time.
The 2.4 sq. km of UNESCO World Heritage Site area can be explored on foot and has over 1700 historical buildings. Most of the buildings are restored to reflect the original design and taste of early settlers coming from trading communities in China and Europe. The multi-coloured shop fronts are richly decorated with bright colours and motifs reflecting the aesthetics of early 20th-century designs.
The main street in the UNESCO area includes Lorong Carnarvon and Gat Lebuh Melayu. The "Street of Harmony" reflects the rich cultural mix of the region through the ages.
Cheong Fatt Tze Manion - Blue Mansion
The walls in the downtown historical quarters of the town are beautifully painted with historical murals giving an interesting insight into the rich cultural history of the region. Do not forget to visit Cheong Fat Tze Mansion and Pinang Peranakan Mansion (Blue Mansion).
Walking through the richly painted and decorated interior of the building takes you back to the time of the early settlement of affluent Chinese in this area. The cross-marriage between upper-class Malay and Chinese families brought about rich Baba-Nyonya Culture (Peranakan), with distinct living and cooking styles. A visit to a nice Peranakan Restaurant is a must to get a feel for the real flavours of Penang.
Notethat the centre of Georgetown is served by CAT Shuttle providing you with a free ride through most historical parts of the city including colonial district, Lebuh Mintri then taking you along Jalan Penang to Kotmar Building.
Visiting Penang Hill
Penang Hill is one of the major attractions in Georgetown built as one of the first hill resorts in Peninsular Malaysia. Located at 850 m above the sea, Penang hill is protected by dense tropical forest which makes it relatively cooler compared to Georgetown City. Also, known as Bukit Bendera or Flagstaff Hill, this amazing location must be on your list when planning a trip to Penang. The vantage point and a skywalk a the top of the hill command amazing views of Georgetown and its surrounding areas.
Tram on Penang Hill
Take a funicular tram for RM 15 (children) and RM 30(adults) up Penang Hill to get a breathtaking view. Ticketing starts from 6:30 am to 9:45 pm. Experience canopy walks, trails and zip lining in the rainforest at The Habitat, experience a magnitude 8 earthquake and level 12 typhoon at Earthquake and Typhoon Pavilion and explore the unique indigenous flora of Malaysia/Indonesia at the Monkey Cup Garden. There is a handful of eating places from David Brown’s colonial restaurant to a pushcart selling snacks.
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Staying at Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang
During my first stay in Penang, I stayed at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel on 1 Penang St. The hotel is a well-preserved reminder of the rich colonial heritage of Penang with 5-start comfort. The interior is richly decorated in colonial-era style furniture and decor. Even the doorman is dressed in the clothing worn by early Colonial Settlers.
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
5-Star Heritage Hotel is a pride of Penang and a dive into rich colonial history of Penang.
Enjoy the amazing views of the Ocean from Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Enjoy the cool ocean breeze while sipping Pina Colada at the pool area in Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Views of the Jetty and Gurney Drive from Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Boat tours are popular providing scenic views of Penang waterfront
New Wing of Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The new wings offers quality 5-star accommodation with easy access to some of the best places in Penang
Beautiful decor and interior at lobby area
The Lobby area has one of the biggest dome in Penang. You can hear the echo even speaking at normal voice,
Enjoy drinks at the bar
The bar is decorated in colonial style. I enjoyed a nice latte in the morning while listening to music.
The doorman deserved in traditional colonial outfit
The doorman reminds of the colonital khaki outfit.
Jetty at Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Swimming Pool area at Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Sarkies is popular for brekkie, lunch and dinner serving a mix of local and continental dishees
Polishing your shoes at the men's restrooms
Make sure to wear leather shoes what at Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The beautiful building overlooks the water and its own jetty. An outdoor pool faces the waterfront and provides great views of Gurney Drive.
Nightlife around Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang
At night time 1 Penang Street is packed with activities with tourists flooding to the top-end bars and night venues. Recently there are a number of new fine dining venues including Don Western & Grill Cafe, Olive Kitchen Bar and Kirishima Japanese Restaurant amongst others located within walking distance of Eastern and Oriental Hotel and Bayview Hotel.
Celebrities like Rita Hayworth, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad have graced the hotel with their presence. You will find pictures of Hollywood celebrities decorating the hall room. Enjoy local and continental food in cafes and restaurants on-premises. Sarkies offers a great lunch menu as well as a buffet dinner menu for around RM 100. Planters Lounge, Forest Canteen and Palm Court located on E&O premises serve coffee and snacks all throughout the day.
On a warm sunny day, you cool off the summer heat with a chilly lemonade while dipping in the beautiful pool overlooking the ocean. The overall atmosphere is relaxed and laid back. The service and facilities are great. The historical location is a must-visit if you want to enjoy Georgetown in style.
The lobby has one of the biggest domes in the region which will reverberate even a slight sound made in the lobby area. The decor and choice of furniture in the hallways and lobby area capture the richness and opulence of colonial design. E&O is definitely one of the finest establishments in Georgetown Penang.
Where to stay in Batu Ferringhi in Penang
Batu Ferringhi is ideal for a resort-style beach holiday. Enjoy water sports at the beach. The resorts have easy access to night markets and seafood restaurants in the area.
Here is a list of recommended hotels in different price ranges:
Gurney Drive is more interesting for nightlife, modern shopping malls, cafes and nightclubs. The spot is quite popular for night food markets where you can find plenty of local seafood and Malay restaurants. Gurney Drive has some uptown and modern apartment complexes and hotels. Gurney Plaza is a world-class shopping centre with leading fashion brands, food outlets, cinemas and banks etc.
Some luxury hotels likeG Hotel Gurney Drive are located on Gurney Plaza. Another interesting hotel is Evergreen Laurel Hotel which is very reasonably priced and located within a walking distance of the Shopping Malls. If you plan to stay in the Gurney Drive area this should be your first choice.
A night market is held near the roundabout in the Gurney Drive area. There are plenty of nice seafood restaurants with an outdoor sitting area located at the waterfront. There are plenty of fast-food chains and restaurants located at Paragon Shopping Mall on Gurney Drive.
Gurney Drive Georgetown Penang
Gurney Waterfront is well-lit at night time and offers a great sport to walk along the waterfront. You will see plenty of couples sitting along the balustrade enjoying the cool night breeze from the ocean. You can see Penang Bridge and Butterworth across the water. The place stays crowded till midnight and you can see lovers hanging around in the waterfront area till later hours of the night.
Interior of Gurney Plaza in Georgetown Penang
Restaurants & Bars in Georgetown Penang
An interesting and unique experience is finding a large number of restaurants located right next to each other for blocks at the end. Each restaurant specializes in a certain kind of food and cooking style from the region.
As the sun goes the whole area is lit up with brightly coloured lights and the restaurants are filled with hordes of people. Most Malaysians travel to Penang to enjoy the amazing cuisine of the region which makes it a unique culinary destination in Malaysia.
While exploring Penang you must try the following dishes:
Asam Laska: This is a delicious combination of noodles and spicy fish gravy, both sweet and savoury.
Nasi Kandar: Offering a good mix of meat and seafood dishes including prawn and squid curry served with a good mix of vegetarian dishes and fish cakes. Nasi Kandar is the food of Indian Muslims who migrated to Penang and the name comes from the food served at the ports of Penang at the turn of the century
Char Koay Teow: Flat rice noodles served with prawns, chilli, bean sprouts and Chinese sausages. The noodles are stir-fried in a wok over high heat to create a charred flavour.
Rojak: A dessert made from fresh fruit, cuttlefish slices, and fritters stirred in prawn paste and sprinkled with ground peanuts.
Hokkien Mee: The Penang Hokkien Mee consists of prawn soup and noodles garnished with fish cake, vegetables and shallots.
Exploring Nyonya Restaurants in Penang
While staying in this interesting location make sure you try out popular Nonya Food and some of the traditional family-run businesses. An interesting Nonya Food restaurant is Little Kitchen, 179 Lebu Noordin, 10300 Penang, ( 04-2616731).
The food is served in small portions in a very traditional manner. The ambience is cosy, the service very personal and owner Jay Loh takes pride in giving a brief overview of Nonya Culture and Food. You can also get a chance to peek into the guest room located behind the main restaurant.
Little Nyonya Restaurant is a 3rd Generation Nyonya Restaurant
Exploring Nasi Kandar Restaurant in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain
Georgetown is also famous for traditional Indian food like Nasi Kandar. Try out Line-Clear restaurant near Upper Penang Street. It is within walking distance from the Upper tip of Penang Road near the Eastern & Oriental Hotel.
The food is quite nice and you can try rice with plenty of meat dishes made with gravy. The spot is also explored by Anthony Bourdain in his travel adventures to Penang.
Anothony Bourdain visited Line Clear
Nasi Kandar Restaurant Line Clear
Plenty to choose from at Line Clear
Food served in traditional style
Line Clear near Penang Road
Paying my bill at Line Clear!
Line Clear Restaurant located at a walking distance from Eastern & Oriental Hotel
A Buffet Dinner at Sarkies @Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang
I enjoyed the buffet dinner at Sarkies at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. The ambience and decor of this restaurant are quite modern. The buffet is priced at around 100 RM and includes a wide range of Malaysian and Continental dishes. The dessert menu is also very impressive.
The coastal area of Batu Ferringhi in Georgetown Penang
Batu Ferringhi is the coastal part of Penang popular for high-end resorts with private beaches. Head over to Batu Ferringhi for a day excursion- a 3 km long sandy beach strip teaming with Luxury Beach Resorts and dining options. Kayak, jet ski, windsurf and parasail, and have water fun at Moonlight Bay’s Wet World Wild featuring inflatable rafts for jumping, running, propelling and climbing (RM 40 for adults, RM 30 for children).
Budget accommodation, however, is also available along the main drag where the night market is held on the weekends. Batu Ferringhi is also popular for some nice seafood restaurants including Golden Thai Seafood Restaurant which I visited for lunch. This restaurant boasts a large variety of seafood from across the world.
The beach area of Batu Ferringhi may not be the cleanest. Most people prefer to stay at the resorts and enjoy the pools and splash areas in the resorts. There are occasional incidents of bluebottle jellyfish in the waters of Batu Ferringhi. Most people prefer to enjoy the watersports and pool area at the lavish resorts located along the coast.
Ozasiatraveller at Batu Ferringi
I stayed at Hard Rock Resort druing my stay in Batu Ferringhi Penang
Watersports are popular at Batu Ferringi Beach
The five star resorts in Batu Ferringi have private beaches offering watersports to the guests.
Hard Rock Resorts at Batu Ferringhi is a great place to stay
Main entrance to Hard Rock at Batu Ferringi
Cafe on the main road in Batu Ferringi
Cafe located on the main road in Batu Ferringhi
A popular Thai restaurant in Batu Ferringi
Popular seafood restaurant in Batu Ferringhi
Enjoy seafood a local Thai Restaurant in Batu Ferringi
Beautiful Coastal views of Batu Ferringi
Floating Mosque at Batu Ferringi
A beautiful coastal floating mosque in Tunjun Bangah in Batu Ferringhi
Here are some other amazing places that must be on your list for this year's visit to Penang.
Kek LoK Si - Ayer Itam
Located in Ayer Itam Town this amazing temple has magnificent and stands out in its design and structure. It is hailed as the largest Buddhist Temple in South East Asia. The multiple-level pagoda borrows design patterns from Burmese, Thai and Chinese temple designs. Must-do activities at Kek Lok Si temple include:
Climbing at the top of the Pagoda
Browse the souvenir Stalls along the stairway
Visit the worship Halls
Penang National Park
Penang National Park offers a mix of outdoor activities for nature lovers and adventurers. The park is home to a number of unique plant and wildlife species with over 1000 plants available for display in the lighthouse built in 1883. The park is ideal for trekking and has a number of well-marked jungle trails. Here are some interesting things to enjoy at the National Park:
Trekking, hiking, bird watching and fishing
Explore Turtle conservation centre
Teluk Kampi has is ideal for campaing
Other amazing places of interest to explore include:
I have been exploring South-East Asia for over twenty years and have visited some of the best destinations in the region. Through my blog, I want to share some interesting travel tips, my experience of driving across Asian destinations and some of the best places to explore in this region. I have undertaken hundreds of road trips, across Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Most of the information in this blog comes through my own road trips and adventures in the exotic locations I have visited.
I have, in the past followed in Anthony Bourdain's footsteps and visited most of the restaurants his team explored in their shows. Join in on my adventures and follow my trails on Instagram & Facebook Page.