Bound by beaches and laced through with trees, Penang is as relaxed as KL is frantic, though the infamous traffic that crawls across the bridge may have you thinking otherwise. In Batu Ferringhi, public beaches thrum with activity – water sports, seafood stalls and day-trippers form the bulk of the action, while further inland George Town attracts crowds of hungry visitors throughout the day and night.
In a country so devoted to food, to be known as a culinary epicentre is a prize distinction, and one that Penang does well to hold on to. The state’s trading and port-town history has meant that unique dishes have taken hold here and continue to be celebrated. Queue up for a steaming plate of char kuay teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles) or slurp a bowl of cendol in (shaved ice dessert topped with green jelly and coconut milk) the midday sun. Pile up a plate of rice with dozens of curries at one of Penang’s famous nasi kandar (steamed rice dish served with a variety of curries and side dishes) stalls, or duck into a hole-in-the-wall Nyonya joint for a taste of Malaysia’s original fusion food. Outside, installation art and genteel graffiti line George Town’s streets, while floating villages at the Clan Jetties are a reminder of Penang’s trading port past.