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  • Vivian Teo

Did you know Penang is great for a holiday with kids? Here's why & 8 things to know

With a good mix of activities for kids and adults, Penang is a great for a family holiday. Here are 8 things to know when planning your trip.

Penang Batu Ferringhi Malaysia beach

So, I finally got round to summing up our family's Penang trip that we did late last year! I remember when I told people we were going to Penang for a week, some reactions were along the lines of "A week? Are there that many things to do there?". Turned out a week was just right for us.

I think most people's impression of Penang is that you go there for the food, temples and museums. Well, at least I had that impression in the past and that didn't seem very appealing for my kids. But after I starting researching on family-friendly places in Penang to see if it was the kind of place we could enjoy as a whole family, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Penang has lots to offer to both adults and kids!

I wouldn't say I'm an expert on Penang because we don't go there often and I didn't do as much research compared to when we went to Osaka, Japan, but I thought I share some tips and reviews which hopefully would be helpful for anyone going there for the first time and/or if you're wondering whether you should go to Penang for your next family vacation.

So, here are 8 things to know if you're planning to visit Penang with kids:

1) What activities are there in Penang for the whole family?

The thing about travelling with kids is that the holiday is quite likely centred around our children's interests, so usually I would research ahead on the attractions there to see if they are what my girls would enjoy. Here are a list of places we visited in Penang, and for a few of them, I had already written detailed blog posts. Those that I felt didn't need a lot of details, I had posted in Instagram. But to sum up:

i) Escape Penang

Escape Penang theme park Malaysia Batu Ferringhi

This is an exciting and unique theme park with wet and dry activities that are great fun for kids and adults. This is definitely the highlight of our trip. We had so much fun I'm glad we went there for two days! More details in blog post:

ii) The Top

Penang George Town Malaysia The Top

This is an indoor theme park at Komtar, which includes Rainbow Skywalk that gives you a bird's eye view of Penang. Though the attractions are not huge, they are novel and interesting enough to keep kids and adults entertained. More deets in blog post:

iii) The Upside Down Museum

Upside Down Museum Penang Malaysia George Town

The Upside Down Museum is a whimsical museum that creates the illusion of being in an upside down world. Though it's called a museum, you don't have much time or space to roam about and admire exhibits. Staff will tell you how to pose and help you take photos with your phone. So it's a chop-chop take-photo affair. We treated this as a family photoshoot opportunity, enjoyed the experience and love how the pics turned out!

Entry costs RM36 for adults, RM26 for children age 5-12 years old for non-Malaysians. Do see my reel for the pics we took and more visiting tips!

iv) BookXcess at Gurney Paragon

BookXcess bookshop bookstore Penang Gurney Paragon Malaysia

There is no way we're going to Malaysia without visiting BookXcess! So it's really great that Penang has a physical store on the 7th floor of Gurney Paragon Mall and we spent some time browsing at the huge bookstore. More pics and deets in my IG post:

v) The Habitat at Penang Hill

The Habitat Penang Hill Malaysia

This is a lovely rainforest trail that gives you a bird's eye view of Penang Hill's beautiful surroundings. Here's the blog post:

vi) Batu Ferringhi

Penang Batu Ferringhi Malaysia beach starbucks

Batu Ferringhi is known for its beaches. They are not the pristine clear blue type but still it's nice to visit for activities like water sports and horse riding. This is also where Escape Penang is located. More on whether you should stay in this area below. Here are the highlights of our stay at Batu Ferringhi:

vii) Kek Lok Si Temple

Penang Air Ayer Itam Malaysia Kek Lok Si

Arguably the most famous temple in Penang. There many temples in Penang but if like us, you only want to or have time to visit one, this is it. More pics and deets in my Habitat blog post and IG post:

viii) Armenian Street

Penang George Town Malaysia Armenian Street murals

This is where many of the famous murals of Penang are located. The street also has many shops selling souvenirs in traditional shophouses and is very instagrammable. More pics in my IG post:

ix) Corgi and the Gang cafe

Penang George Town Malaysia Corgi and the Gang Cafe

This is a dog cafe located at New World Park. My girls really enjoyed hanging out with the dogs at the cafe. More details here:

We also did some shopping at the fashion outlets and watched a 3D movie at Gurney Plaza. Given the favourable Singapore dollar-Malaysian ringgit exchange rate, shopping and eating in Malaysia is really quite the steal for Singaporeans.

There were also some other activities I had planned for wet weather purposes and in case we had more time. I would have loved to take the girls batik painting. A friend had recommended Craft Batik in the Batu Ferringhi area near Escape Penang.

Another place I thought would be nice to visit was Cheong Fatt Tze, the Blue Mansion which is a heritage building. It is a boutique hotel now but I read that they do tours as well. Do look up more more info online if you plan to visit this!

2) Do you really need a week?

Most people go to Penang for just a few days but the week we spent there actually felt just right. I didn't want a trip that was too rushed and packed, so I did budget more time for each activity, down to time to shop and R&R at the beach and pool.

If it's your first time in Penang and you really want to check out all the attractions I listed above, a week is really good as it won't be too rushed. But if I'm to go to Penang a second time, there are probably certain attractions we wouldn't visit again like Kek Lok Si, the Upside Down Museum and The Habitat. For me, these are places I only need to see once and it'd be good enough for me.

Attractions I would visit again would probably be Escape Penang and Corgi and the Gang. I would also do more shopping and cafe hopping if we are to visit Penang again (more on cafe hopping below!).

3) How do you find good food in Penang?

I enjoy my food but I wouldn't count myself a foodie. I wouldn't mind going to a renowned eatery if it is on the way but I wouldn't specifically go out of the way to eat at a certain place or join queues for food. Penang is a foodie haven but it's not a huge enough attraction on its own to make me visit it - there's only so much we can eat. But that said, I'm really glad that Penang is a foodie haven because you can easily find good food there.

You can find lotsa food recommendations for Penang on the internet - the blog, Penang foodie is one of them. But like I said, I wouldn't specifically go out of the way for a famous eatery. The places we dined at were those that were convenient and nearby to the attractions and hotels we stayed at. That said, we were still discerning and relied on Google Map and Google Reviews a lot. Basically if we're going to a certain attraction, I would use Google Map to check what eateries are in the vicinity, then I would see if they are well reviewed.

We discovered lots of gems this way. For instance, when we were headed to Kek Lok Si from Penang Hill, I checked ahead to see what eateries were close to these attractions or on the way to Kek Lok Si. And that was how we discovered a lovely cafe called Coffee Elements. This is really doable because there are loads of nice restaurants, cafes and hawker stalls in Penang and you're bound to find well reviewed ones.

Penang is famous for its hawker food but it also has lots of nice cafes with good food and beautiful decor, and they are great for chilling at after you had visited an attraction on a hot day. Also given the SGD-Ringgit exchange rate, dining at cafes and restaurants is really affordable. For instance, a decent dish at a cafe in Singapore could cost around S$20 but in Malaysia, it would be RM20. So, we really cafe hopped at lot in Penang.

Here are a list of cafes we visited. I wouldn't suggest you specifically visit them but this just to gives you an idea of what you can find randomly in Penang.

a) Coffee Elements at Air Itam (between Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill tram station)

Penang George Town Malaysia Coffee Elements Air Ayer Itam

This cafe with minimalist decor serves Asian and Western fusion fare, which I mentioned a bit in my Habitat post too. We thoroughly enjoyed our good and drinks!

Penang George Town Malaysia Coffee Elements Air Ayer Itam

b) Your Local Club at Beach Street (near Armenian Street)

Penang George Town Malaysia Your Local Club

This is a small and modern coffee bar and restaurant. The food menu is limited but it serves up some excellent drinks, albeit a tad pricey.

Penang George Town Malaysia Your Local Club

c) Urban Artisan Cafe at 122-C, Jalan Burma, George Town (near New World Park and Corgi and the Gang Cafe)

Penang George Town Malaysia Urban Artisan Cafe

This cafe is well known for its Penang-origin soft serve and desserts. We tried its signature sea salt valrhona chocolate soft serve and its was scrumptious!

d) Ferringhi Garden at Batu Ferringhi

Penang Batu Ferringhi Garden Malaysia

This is very well-reviewed on Trip Advisor and we decided to visit because it was on the way back to our hotel from Escape Penang. The decor and ambience are really lovely, and the service is good, though I thought the food was so-so and pricey. But you can tell that it is popular as more and more people started streaming in from 6pm onwards.

Penang Batu Ferringhi Garden Malaysia

e) Baba Phang at 17, Jalan Sri Bahari, George Town

Penang George Town Malaysia Baba Phang

This is a famous Nyonya restaurant our Penang friends brought us to. It is so good and popular you need to make reservations at least a week in advance. We heard it's almost impossible to walk in and dine without reservations.

Penang George Town Malaysia Baba Phang

And I have to say the food there is really scrumptious. Penang is known for its Nyonya food, so it was great to be able to be able to try something that is really good and renowned. We probably wouldn't have known or gone there for food since I'm too lazy to research ahead on food😅

Penang George Town Malaysia Baba Phang

f) Auction Rooms at 38a, Jalan Sungai Ujong, George Town (next too Kimberley Hotel)

Penang George Town Malaysia Auction Rooms

This is a beautiful and cosy cafe near to our hotel and we walked there for breakfast. It has breakfast sets at RM20 and a buffet breakfast around the same price. The food was was alright but for the price, it was still reasonable.

Penang George Town Malaysia Auction Rooms

g) Ipoh Onn Kee Tauge Ayam at 100A, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town

Ipoh Onn Kee Tauge Ayam Penang George Town Malaysia

This is another place near to our George Town hotel and arguably one of the best chicken rice I've ever eaten. The portion is a little small but everyone, especially my girls, enjoyed our meal so much, we ordered extra chicken. The restaurant is rather small, so you might want to arrive earlier if you want to dine in.

h) Swatow Coffee at 221, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town

Penang Malaysia George Town Swatow Coffee

Another place near our George Town hotel which we went for breakfast. Really love the very old school vibe of the cafe which served really good coffee and toasts.

Penang Malaysia George Town Swatow Coffee

I tried their Ho Kar Sai which is a mixture of coffee and milo. It was a little too filling for me but it was still something special! Their soft boiled eggs on toasts were really tasty too.

Penang Malaysia George Town Swatow Coffee

i) Yong Pin Restaurant at 59A, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town

Penang Malaysia George Town Yong Pin Restaurant

This is a dim sum restaurant near our hotel which we almost didnt get to go to because there was always a queue whenever we walked past. We tried our luck one morning and surprising there wasn't a queue and we got to try this well-known restaurant's dim sum.

Penang Malaysia George Town Yong Pin Restaurant

There is a good variety of dim sum here and we enjoyed most of them. We were really stuffed in the end as you're just so tempted to order when you see the variety!

Penang Malaysia George Town Yong Pin Restaurant

j) Oyster omelette and bubble tea

Penang Malaysia George Town food oyster omelette

The area near our hotel in George Town is really bustling at night with lots of street hawkers. This is the oyster omelette we bought from a random stall while the bubble is from many of the shops in the area.

4) How easy is it to get around in Penang?

Penang is very well served by Grab. So make sure you have the app when you go to Penang. Most of the time we didn't have problems getting a ride, only on a few occasions did the drivers cancel on us for whatever reason but it was relatively fast to get another ride.

5) Should you take Grab from Penang Airport?

Yes, you can do that and I heard that it is actually cheaper than taking the airport taxi. But we decided to take the airport taxi when we arrived as the stand was right in front of us. Rates are also fixed for airport taxis. You just need to tell the staff at the counter where you're going and you'll be given a slip stating the fare which you pay to the driver when you arrive at your destination. Our ride to our hotel at Batu Ferringhi cost around RM70. It's more expensive than going to George Town due to the distance.

Do note that peak hour traffic in Penang is generally around 7am-9am and 5pm-7pm. We started taking the taxi at 5pm and only reached our hotel after 2 hours. The driver told us in times of bad jam during peak hours, it can take 1.5 hours to reach Batu Ferringhi and this time round, it was the longest jam he had been in. So the lesson here is if you can, try to book a flight that does not arrive around these hours. Also, if you have to leave your hotel for the airport, you might want to go a bit earlier to avoid the peak hour traffic.

6) Should I stay in Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi?

We stayed 3 nights in Batu Ferringhi to be near Escape Penang and the beaches. While hotels here are pricier compared to George Town, it was still nice to stay here a couple days as the vibes and attractions are different from George Town.

Batu Ferringhi beach opposite Double Tree Penang Malaysia

We stayed at Double Tree at Batu Ferringhi which is slightly further from the night markets (compared to where hotels like Hard Rock and Shangri-la are) but its family suite which comes with two rooms and two toilets is amazing, probably the nicest and most spacious family room we've been to.

Penang Malaysia Batu Ferringhi Double Tree Hotel
Family room

If you're there for a week, I'd say stay a couple of days at both areas if you can to really experience Penang.

Penang Malaysia Double Tree Hotel Batu Ferringhi
Pool at Double Tree Batu Ferringhi

We then moved to The Ropewalk Piazza at George Town for the next 3 nights. The location is awesome, being walking distance to The Top, Upside Down Museum and being near street hawkers, restaurants and cafes. The family room we got is essentially the second level of a shophouse. So it can get a little noisy when people are talking loudly outside the ground level's entrance. But for the price we paid (around S$500 for 3 nights), I think it is pretty good, especially for its location. (Just realised I didn't take pics and only took videos of the place. But you can find it at Booking .com, which was where we booked from.)

7) What to buy in Penang?

I'm the last expert on this as we didn't specifically go to Penang for shopping. It was more of if we see something we like at the mall and night markets, then we'll buy it if the exchange rate makes it really worthwhile. So we did buy some clothes at the fashion outlets at Gurney Plaza.

There was one thing I looked out for - pastries. Penang is famous for its tau sar piah (bean paste pastry) so I wanted to buy some home. I heard that the brand Him Heang is a really good one, but we didn't have time to seek it out, so we bought whatever was convenient. You'll probably see this brand, Ban Heang, at lotsa places. We bought their pastries at Gurney Plaza and I guess it's alright, nothing to shout about but its pastries are all nicely and properly packaged which makes it great for gifting and transporting around.

We chanced upon this brand Ming Xiang Tai through Google Review when we were looking for places to eat near an attraction. Its pastries were really good, just that if you're transporting it in a plane, you will need to buy the sturdier boxes to hold the pastries. Also, unlike the Teochew-style tau sar piah, Ming Xiang Tai is Cantonese-style pastries. So if you are looking for the traditional Teochew tau sar piah, this wouldn't be it. But that said, I actually liked the Ming Xiang Tai pastries more than the Teochew tau sar piah. So I guess it depends on your taste and what you're looking for.

Penang Malaysia George Town Ming Xiang Tai
Ming Xiang Tai

8) Cash or credit card in Penang?

Cash and credit card are widely accepted in Penang. Of course the hawker stalls take cash only but generally, most restaurants, cafes and shops do accept credit cards. Also, if you didn't read my Osaka post about the credit card to use, you might want to check out Trust Card that I mentioned in the blog. I feel this is the best credit card for travelers as it does not charge foreign transaction fees. So we used our Trust Card in Malaysia too. More on this in my Osaka blog post.

Penang Malaysia George Town

OK, this should be the last of my Penang posts. Many thanks to my IG community too for sharing tips and ideas for our Penang trip! I hope you find this post useful, and that you and your family will enjoy Penang as much as we did!

Have you started planning your next holiday? Share with us in the comments below on where you'll be heading? 😉

Disclaimer: My opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family’s own.

©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.



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