From fish head curry to 15 types of durian, the mainland side of Penang State is an urban food hunter’s dream.
Penang – the proud and beloved state located in the northwest coast of Peninsula Malaysia, anointed as the Pearl of the Orient – comprises two primary sections: the island itself, as well as Seberang Perai, a large district located on the mainland of the peninsula. A flight into Penang International Airport, followed by approximately an hour’s drive, with traffic, along the Penang Bridge or the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge will get you to Seberang Perai, once known as Province Wellesley in British colonial times.
One iconic structure that tells you that you’re in Seberang Perai is the distinctive blue Prai River Swing Bridge, built in 1964 over the scenic body of water. The bridge not only connects the northern Butterworth Railway Terminal to southern destinations in Peninsula Malaysia but also swings open when larger barges and ships need to pass through. With its strategic location adjacent to Penang Island and approximately one hour south of Lembah Bujang in Kedah – the site of Southeast Asia’s earliest human civilisation – Seberang Perai is a popular destination for urban food hunting and a spot of hiking in between to burn off the many meals!
6am – Fitness with a view of Penang Island
Start your day bright and early with a morning walk or jog along the coastal road of Pantai Bersih as the sun rises. Literally named “clean beach”, this stretch of coastline in Butterworth offers sweeping panoramas of Penang Island that are especially pretty on sunny days. Pantai Bersih, 13000 Butterworth
8am – Hearty breakfast
After a vigorous workout, it’s time to rest and refuel. At Restoran Noor Mohamed, tuck into a flavourful plate of mee goreng sotong, a popular dish of yellow noodles stir-fried with dried cuttlefish, boiled potatoes, egg and tofu. 3227, Jalan Kampung Benggali, Kampung Benggali, 12000 Butterworth
For lighter fare, visit Tong Kok Kopi Café where Malaysian breakfast delights such as nasi lemak, free-range half boiled eggs, butter cake and Bengali roti with homemade kaya (coconut custard) are served alongside aromatic local brews. The menu also presents a selection of local noodle dishes. 1, Jalan Bukit Tambun, Taman Bagan Tambun, 14100 Simpang Ampat
10am – Hiking and fruit farm visit
Once you’ve filled your belly, take the 40-minute hike up Suling Hill – also known as Bukit Langkap – in Kubang Semang, Bukit Mertajam. The trail offers postcard-perfect views Bukit Mertajam city and its surrounding villages, the Mengkuang dam, as well as Penang Island in the horizon. At the top is a private meditation retreat. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds – meditation pavilions sit beside small ponds amidst banana and palm trees – without disrupting any ongoing meditation sessions. There’s even a fruit farm, where you can enjoy purchasing a wide selection of local fruit, including rambutan, mangosteen and 15 varieties of Malaysia’s “King of fruits”, the infamous durian. Suling Hill Bukit Langkap, 14400 Bukit Mertajam
Still raring to go and ready for a second hike? Head to Bukit Berapit, a 4.7-km loop on the northern side of the Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest. The trek can be done in a single loop or split into two trails: one takes you to a majestic Thai-Burmese Buddhist temple built into the hillside, and the other leads to the colourful 328 Rainbow Stairs. Google Map: Berapit Hill Hiking
12pm – A seafood lunch
There’s a reason why Ong Cheng Huat is so popular with visitors – this frills-free restaurant in Butterworth serves up an array of local delights that are both tasty and affordable. Tuck into mouthwatering dishes such as deep-fried spring chicken, heh piah (prawn fritters) and blanched baby octopus. Wash it down with a refreshing glass of fermented coconut water. Closed on Mondays, 6093, Kampung Pokok Keras, 13400 Butterworth
3pm – Street art spotting
A visit to Seberang Perai is incomplete without popping by the quaint Bukit Tambun town. The laidback fishing village is lined with heritage shophouses, some even embellished with murals featuring movie stars like Bruce Lee and Chow Yun-Fat, alongside characters from Toy Story and SpongeBob SquarePants. There are also murals depicting local life – including a large artwork of a fisherman on a boat reeling in his net, and quirky ones like a horse carriage strategically painted to look like it’s breaking through a real-life hole in a wall. Bukit Tambun Street Art Murals, 24, 149, Bukit Tambun, 14100 Simpang Ampat
4pm – Local treats for afternoon tea
Onde-onde with gula melaka (rice cake balls with coconut flakes and palm syrup filling), and the pulut tekan with kaya (glutinous rice cake with coconut jam) at the spacious double-storey Dua Sua Ka X De Antique Cafe make for a yummy teatime treat. 49, Jln Arumugam Pillai, 14000 Bukit Mertajam
7pm – Dinner in a Beatles-inspired bistro
Located in the Sunway township of Seberang Jaya, Abbey Road Bistro Restaurant is a themed restaurant dedicated to the Fab Four. Its menu presents delectable bistro classics as well as a wide selection of premium wines. A definite must-try for seafood lovers is the Signature Lobster Thermidor (pre-order). Complete your meal with their Iconic Blue Box – this chocolate sea salt cake tied with a white marshmallow ribbon is a nod to the signature blue gift box from Tiffany & Co. Fans of the iconic British band will also get a kick out of seeing framed photos of John, Paul, George and Ringo on the walls and imprinted on the front of the menus. Closed on Sundays, 6-GF, Lebuh Tenggiri 2, Pusat Bandar Sunway, 13700 Seberang Jaya
9am – 11am – Shopping for local snacks
Soon Seng Heang is a traditional bakery that specialise in tau sar piah (mung bean biscuit) and hiong piah (brown sugar biscuit). Baked fresh daily, these flaky, buttery goodies make for great gifts. Soon Seng Heang Bakery, 23, Jalan Besar, Taman Tangling Jaya, 14100 Simpang Ampat
12pm – Final pit-stops for lunch
Before you leave, indulge in a sumptuous lunch at the atmospheric De Pauh Garden Restaurant. The signature dish here is the claypot kari kepala ikan, a rich and flavourful fish head curry dish, but they also offer a wide variety of Thai and Western fare. Closed on Tuesdays, De Pauh Garden Restaurant,1618, Jln Permatang Pauh, Taman Pauh, 13500 Perai
Over the decades, the Tambun Prawn Village Restaurant – which is certified Halal – has scored points with locals and visitors alike for serving fresh and delicious seafood. Must-try dishes include the baked tiger prawn with cheese, steamed fish and chili crab. 672, Jalan Bukit Tambun, Bukit Tambun, 14100 Simpang Ampat