What to do in Penang with kids? Are they really interested in all those historical buildings? Penang makes learning fun with everything from a Fort to cooking classes. For more about Penang’s interactive street art see our previous post here.
Penang Cooking Class
We left it a bit late to book our class and some of the most popular ones were booked up. We ended up doing a private class with My Pintu Plate. Meant to be about 3 hours it was more like 4 and this was a bit much for the kids, especially as so much of the food was too spicy for them, but they really enjoyed the dessert dishes, the tea pouring, called Teh Tarik, and how interactive the class was. They were encouraged to have a go at everything. Some dishes we made were: Roti Jala, Penang Char Kway Teow ( a noodle dish) and Cokodok (banana patties.)
Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion
A stay in Penang isn’t complete without a visit to one of it’s beautiful mansions. We visited the popular ‘Blue Mansion’. Built in the late 19th Century with painstaking attention to detail and consultation with a leading Feng Shui master. Materials were shipped in from around the world, including as far away as Scotland. Guided tours are the only way to see this building unless you stay as a guest at the boutique hotel, or book a meal at the restaurant. The tours only allow you to see part of the building, the entrance, main courtyard, some upstairs space and you can peek into the side courtyards.
I suppose this is understandable when people are staying at the hotel but people on the tour were a bit disappointed with how little they could see. The guide was a very enthusiastic lady who spoke very quickly with a strong accent, so it was difficult to follow her non-stop 45 minute lecture. Overall I liked seeing the building but could have been in and out in 15 minutes. S and I liked looking at the traditional clothes and other items on display upstairs that were found in the building during its renovation.
The beautiful indigo blue colour of the mansion did provide some fantastic photo opportunities.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
Penang has some nice beaches, I personally don’t think they can compete with Thailand’s beaches and I understand Malaysia has nicer beaches on the West Coast. Staying in Georgetown we decided to do one beach day. After considering Monkey Beach, but discounting it because we heard it can be crowded with visitors and their rubbish, we decided to visit the main beach area where the resorts are located, Batu Ferringhi. This stretch of beach is about a 20 minute drive from the old town. It was developed in the 1970s, before that being just a small village. There are now many hotels and condominiums. Unfortunately this and the huge number of water sports has led to poor water quality and many jellyfish, so ironically a lot of the time the beach is not swimmable. This area was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami. As well as the resorts and restaurants that go with a tourist area there is well known night market here.
Some online research was making us nervous about travelling to the beach and not being able to swim due to jellyfish. I came across a blog that mentioned the Park Royal Resort offered day passes to use their pools and resort facilities. This was the perfect solution for us.
The day passes were about 200 RM for the 4 of us and we received about 130 RM in food and beverage credits. This was almost enough for lunch and couple of cocktails in the afternoon. Let’s not pretend there was anything educational about this, after a busy schedule in Borneo we were ready to just relax and enjoy the pool for the day. There was an American family there also and S enjoyed hanging out with their little girl in the pool and on the slides. We took a short walk on the beach but no one was in the water, which didn’t look the cleanest and the smell of fumes and noise from the jet skis spoilt it.
The day pass arrangement or one of the waterparks is a great compromise if you want to stay in Georgetown but you are also looking for some beach and pool time in your holiday.
A popular Penang attraction is to take the funicular up to the top of Penang Hill. We decided to give this a try, we’d also heard that it can be a bit cooler up the hill on a hot day, but on the day we went it was just hot everywhere! The lines going up the hill were not too busy, but coming back down was quite a wait, if you go towards the end of the day there are a lot of people heading back down so be warned you are in for a wait.
At the top of the hill there are restaurants and cafes, some tourist attractions, as well as some cute monkeys in the trees. The views were interesting and worth seeing, particularly the bridge from Penang Island over to mainland Malaysia. At this time of year we are finding many places we go are a bit hazy with the heat so views aren’t always clear.
I wouldn’t put a visit up the hill at the top of a must do list, especially if it is a very hot day, the funiculars are really crowded too, not much fun with small children. But if you have plenty of time in Penang its worth a few hours of your time.
Up next Fort Cornwallis and the Time Tunnel Museum, plus Penang Street Food!
In Penang we wanted to stay centrally in the UNESCO World Heritage zone of Georgetown and we needed to make up for some extravagance on accommodation in Borneo! We stayed at Chulia Heritage Hotel in a family room with a shared bathroom. This is the only time we’ve had a shared bathroom, and it worked ok. It was worthwhile as the room was just $55NZD per night. The room was basic but it was cleaned every day and the heritage building was lovely. If your budget can stretch a bit more there are many other lovely heritage hotels in Penang. Check out Agoda.