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Penang is a one-of-a-kind mix of European and Asian influences with an irresistible tropical allure. Known as the "Pearl of the Orient," Penang made a name for itself as a vital trading post for the British East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the state is a popular vacation destination, lauded for its innumerable and idyllic beaches, delicious Malaysian cuisine, and rich and diverse heritage. Explore the historic center of the capital George Town, or treat yourself to relaxation at Penang's many pampering spas and paradisiacal shores.
Penang's booming tech industry has positioned it at the crossroads of its old-school heritage and modern future. Hop between its multi-faceted personality by checking into its frozen-in-time neighborhoods and rapidly evolving city center.
George Town - The second largest city in Malaysia and the capital of Penang, George Town is a mix of historic and modern sights. Its old city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring an attractive number of pre-war buildings and landmarks like Fort Cornwallis, the Penang State Museum, and the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.
Bayan Lepas - Once an agricultural village, Bayan Lepas is now a thriving commercial center in Penang, home to the Queensbay Mall, the largest shopping mall in Penang. But history isn't far from name brand stores. Nearby, the 19th-century Snake Temple's incense-filled halls lure visitors to explore the city's heritage. As for the name, the temple's collection of live pit vipers should clear up any confusion. And for history buffs, the Penang War Museum offers an intriguing look into Penang's role in World War II.
Penang National Park - The Penang National Park was previously called the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve and is home to a wide variety of native plants and animals, as well as some of Penang Island's most spectacular beaches. Explore the park on the 820-foot-high (250-m) Canopy Walk, or hike along the Muka Head or Pantai Kerachut trails. You can catch sight of native monkeys scouring the sands for crabs at Teluk Duyung Beach (Monkey Beach), while the camping grounds at Teluk Bahang Beach are ideal for family outings.
Penang Island's George Town is home to many museums showcasing the diverse culture of the area. Visit the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, which documents the history of Penang and its people, or the Sun Yat-sen Museum Penang, which is housed in Sun Yat-sen's former residence and highlights his role in the Xinhai Revolution. Time your visit right and you could catch the colorful celebrations of Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Vesak, which Penang celebrates every year with unbridled enthusiasm. In February, the Penang Hot Air Balloon Festival promises to fill the sky with colorful balloons any photographer would be lucky to capture.
Penang's beautiful beaches are among the loveliest in Malaysia. The popular sands of Batu Ferrenghi in George Town is lined with high-rise resort hotels that offer a variety of water activities in addition to swimming and sunbathing. Architectural aficionados can stop by Tanjung Bungah, where the Penang Floating Mosque draws visitors to its buoyant entrance. If you're looking to get out of town, take a day trip to Pulau Payar Marine Park, a sanctuary where you can snorkel among endangered fish and marine species. And at night, markets make the city a foodie haven with mouthwatering street food and traditional cuisine at every turn. Visit hawker centers like Gurney Drive for a taste of dishes like spicy asam laksa noodles, stir-fried char kway teow ricecakes, and Malaysian kopi (coffee). Weary travelers can relax at one of Penang's luxurious spas, where professionals pamper you with organic treatments, and budding anthropologists can swing over to Langkawi for a look at traditional crafts just steps away from even more stunning beaches.