There are a hundred ways for you to enjoy and explore George Town, Penang. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has transformed tremendously over the last decade into an impressive town with cultural highlights, a plethora of local hawker delights and a refreshing art movement that began with the Boy on Motorcycle by mural artist, Ernest Zacharevic in 2012.
Over the years, Penang has gained overwhelming traction from visitors all over the world. If you’ve done the usual Peranakan museums, eating at Gurney Drive, sunbathing in Batu Ferringhi’s resorts and mural trails, it’s time for something fun and new.
Stay at Hotel Jen Penang
Ask the local Penangites and they can tell you that the Hotel Jen Penang building is an iconic landmark since the late 1980s, first as the Shangri-La in 1986 and then taken over by Traders Hotel in 2006. Today, the 17-storey landmark located in the heart of George Town is a hip and trendy hotel decked out in Peranakan-inspired interiors following an extensive refurbishment in November 2017.
Jen is located right smack in the centre of town (next to Komtar), making it a strategic starting point to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also within walking distance to shopping malls including First Avenue Mall, Times Square and Prangin Mall if you’re in the mood to splurge.
Boasting 443 rooms that are individually designed with strong Peranakan colours and influences, guests are able to immerse in the vibrant culture of the Straits Chinese in Penang. Each room guarantees a commanding vista of the island, including an immaculate sunset view across the Straits of Malacca.
Upon check-in, take some time to dip in the pool that boasts a resort-like atmosphere within the bustling town. Before heading out for dinner, drop by at the Club Lounge for free flow of wines and spirits, alongside small bites. If you’re lucky, the seasonal otak-otak samosas would be the one to try.
Eat like a local
Check out Tek Sen, one of the most popular dai chow spots for both locals and tourists, known for its traditional Chinese and Peranakan dishes. Expect a long queue (as this place is always full) so do come early before dark to get yourself a table since no reservations are allowed.
If you’re up for some local Penang hawker food, the food stalls along New Lane offer pretty decent local delights including Hokkien mee, lor bak, koay teow th’ng and the irresistible char koay teow. Another popular hotspot for street food is along Kimberley Road. During the day, check out Joo Hooi Coffee Shop for its cendol and asam laksa. At night, this place turns into a hunting ground for handmade koay chap served with rich duck broth.
Desserts and Drinks
Forget the overrated China House please. Walk along Magazine Road to find unique bars and coffee joints that are fairly new – each with its own story to tell. Narrow Marrow finds itself sandwiched in a tight space between two prewar shophouses. From what used to be a centre for piles treatment, Narrow Marrow is a charming café serving an indulgent selection of artisanal (and alcohol-infused) cakes including the Matcha Rum and the Coconut Clitoria Cheesecake.
Right opposite Narrow Marrow is Secret Door, a popular hidden bar in Penang known for its Insta-worthy walkway design. But if you’re up for a challenge, try and locate Magazine 63, another hidden bar along the same road with no signage or whatsoever to help you locate the place. What we know is that you keep a lookout for the collapsible metal gate and allow the ‘light’ to show you the way.
Don’t miss the famous street murals dotting the corners and hidden nooks of the historical town. Another recent hotspot would be the Clan Jetties, which is part of Penang’s heritage trail. The floating fishing village is famed for its breathtaking sunrise and sunset views. Be mindful when you take pictures here as there are people still living in this area.
Spare some time to check out Chowrasta, one of two community markets in Penang that has been in operation since the late 1800s. It is an interesting place to search for all kind of things from fresh produce to an assortment of jeruk (pickles), old school knickknacks as well as pre-loved books. Walk two streets down from Chowrasta market and find the original Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol cart parked at the corner of the street. Order a bowl or two to cool down, especially on a sunny day.
If you have some time after lunch, head over to Mano Plus. This new concept lifestyle store is the place for clothes, stationeries, candles and ceramics that are curated and made by local artisans. Check out Buku Buku for indie magazines and books by local authors. And since you’re here, relax for a while in the Japanese café inspired Fuku Eatery & Desserts tucked at the back corner of Mano Plus. Get your daily dose of coffee.
Hotel Jen Penang is only a mere 20 minutes ride away from Penang International Airport. It is easy for international tourists to head to town by car along the coastal highway. Otherwise, it is very easy to navigate yourself around George Town by car. But we’d recommend you to walk to immerse in the rustic colonial charm of the Straits Settlement.