Greetings from the island paradise named Penang!
It is a land laden with food, food and more food. In the past decade, it has also attracted people far and wide thanks to the gorgeous murals painted in the heritage city of George Town. Many visitors come into the island to snap pictures at different locations as if to say, “Been there, done that!”
But have you scoured the goodies that Penang has to offer? Because last I checked, Penang does not just consist of George Town, food and murals.
Of course, those are amazing tourist sights, but let me give you extra juice on where to visit the next time you come over for a holiday because these non-mainstream places might make your friends go, “Wah, where is this?”
1. The Habitat, Penang Hill
Source: Dji Malaysia Instagram
Want to walk in a 130 million-year-old rainforest? Then you’d have to visit The Habitat at Penang Hill. It is just a stone’s throw away from the top station (no, you don’t need a buggy to get there) and once you enter the vicinity, it is like you’ve entered the green lung of the hill. The general ticket is priced at RM55, but if you want a more exclusive experience, opt for a guided walk, forest bath (called shinrin-yoku in Japan) or get the premium pass that includes refreshments.
When you are here, take time to enjoy the scenery, relax on the giant swing, take pictures at the canopy walk and Curtis Crest (treetop walk). If you are lucky, you might just catch the stunning sunset!
Why is Habitat considered a non-mainstream place to visit? Because most people prefer not to fork out money to pay the entrance fee. But in my opinion, it is one of the most pristine and gorgeous places on the hill. You could opt to take a jeep or the funicular train up, but for those who want a sweaty adventure, I suggest you take a two-hour hike up!
2. Hin Bus Depot
Source: Chan Chee Wah Instagram (Hin Bus Depot)
If you don’t want to be hopping around George Town hunting for murals, head over to Hin Bus Depot, where murals are painted on almost-dilapidated walls. Want 20 different Instagram shots? Honey, they have got you covered. However, Hin Bus Depot is so much more than just an Instagrammable place!
Check out the latest art exhibitions on display, shop at the art and craft stores inside the vicinity, eat at the kopitiams, cafes and restaurants around its periphery, and attend workshops.
Hin Bus Depot becomes alive on Sundays when they have the Hin Pop Up. It is a weekend market where locals and expatriates sell their craft, local products, and super delicious food. There are about 70 stalls for you to patronise. Make sure to visit in your fashionable yet comfy clothes (maybe a picnic cloth too so you can camp out here while you take in the lively atmosphere!).
Best of all, admission is free. But please bring money with you or you’ll regret kao kao!
3. Guar Petai
Source: Onedot.my Instagram
Unlike the first two locations, Guar Petai is located on the mainland of Penang. Often visited by cyclists and bike riders, this location is an off-road adventure. First, you’ll have to drive through mounds of orange dirt, thanks to the brick factory close to it. After wondering if there could be anything nice to see here, pools of turquoise “accidentally” created after the quarry was abandoned, will be a feast for your eyes.
Climb up a little hill to get a fantastic vantage point.
You might see some locals somersaulting into the pool, but it may not be such a good idea as we don’t know how deep these pools truly are. It is just amazing to see how Mother Nature changes what we left behind to something so beautiful.
Swing by in the morning because the sun can be scorching hot once the sun is high. Because of the type of soil, there are no trees at the hill to provide shade. There are no facilities of any sort too, so be sure to relieve yourself at a petrol station nearby.
4. Kampung Agong
Source: Desi Hotniar Instagram
We have seen Bali’s swings and bird nests fill social media, but now, we have it in Penang too!
Head up north after your Guar Kepah adventures to Homestay Kampung Agong, and you’ll find a Bali lookalike. It is actually a village with coconut groves, situated beside a paddy field. Now, the 10-hectare land is revamped into a park, dotted with locations for you to pose for a photo op.
If you want to experience the #kampunglife, fetch yourself a bicycle and traditional costumes (both available for rent). A big plus? The entrance fee is only RM8!
Source: Aenn Yusoff Instagram
Have you ever done something for all the wrong reasons? Like frequenting a cafe because a cutie works there and not because of the food, or calling someone up to show concern but actually, it is to get them to spill the tea on something?
Well, at this BookXcess, you might be visiting for the wrong reasons. Other than books, it features a two-storey bookshelf that is 10 metres high. To reach the highest rack, there are stairs for you to go up and up and up. Because of its open-concept design, you can take really good photos here. Perfect lighting and perfect setting equal a perfect Instagram shot!
It also holds the record of having the longest bookshelf in Southeast Asia, measuring 70 metres from one end to the other. There are also two cafes where you can sit and browse your books that you are unsure if you should buy.
This massive bookstore is located within Paragon Mall, a shopping mall along the famous Gurney Drive strip. Therefore, you can makan and shop in the same building!
6. Art and Garden
Source: Fernschmecker Instagram
The name of this place speaks for itself. Privately owned by a man known as Mr Wong, you’ll see the work of his hands as you step into this garden. He fuses two of his passions, plants and glass to create his own Garden of Eden. The glass art he makes are intermingled with his real plants, and you might just second-guess yourself and ask, is that real or is that glass? If you are a plant enthusiast, you’d recognise the range of bromeliads, aroids, bamboos, air plants, pitcher plants and many others.
It’s located at the hilly part of Teluk Bahang, so, be prepared to scale the tracks! But I think the pretty mosaic steps inspired by foliage will encourage you forward (and upwards). If you are looking for a good spot for photographs, well, look no further!
At RM30 per entry, this place had me going WAAAHHHHHHH!
So, that is it for my list of six non-mainstream places to visit when you come to Penang, my beloved state. Have you been to any of the spots stated above? If you have, let us know where in the comments. If not, share this with a friend and make sure you have it in your itinerary for when all of us can freely travel again – because ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got to up our domestic travel game, okay?