Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top 10 places to see when you visit Penang

All the major heritage buildings
and clanhouses in the George Town
inner city!
Be impressed by the unique charms of Straits eclectic architecture and colonial past that has earned George Town a place in Unesco’s heritage site listing and be humbled by the grandeur of a priceless religious and cultural legacy - here, every building represents a page of our history and every street corner has a tale to tell.

Thee Kong Tua (Jade Emperor’s Temple)
in Air Itam
The Jade Emperor's Pavilion is a stone’s throw away from Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill Railway Station in Air Itam. The temple is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, who according Taoist believe, is the supreme ruler of heaven. This temple is the only one in the country built specifically for devotees to pay homage to Thee Kong.

After undergoing massive renovation work, the 140-year-old temple is applying for Unesco heritage conservation recognition. During Chinese New Year, devotees throng the temple to pay homage to the deity on his birthday (which falls on the ninth day of the celebration).

Penang Hill
At 821m above sea level,Penang Hill visitors will be privy to some of the grandest colonial mansions (which are now restaurants and guests houses) while enjoying the cool, refreshing air and bird’s eye view of the island.

The hill (originally known as Strawberry Hill) was first cleared by Captain Francis Light (who first established Penang as a British colony) to plant strawberries – hence its original name.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Construction for the temple started in 1890 and to date, is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss, Kek Lok Si ranks as among the best known temples in the region. Overlooking the town of Air Itam, the best time to visit Kek Lok Si is during Chinese New Year because thousands of lights are switched on to mark the celebration, transforming the place of worship into a brightly-lit fairyland at night.

Reclining Buddha
Located in the quaint Pulau Tikus town, Wat Chayamangkalaram was built in 1845 by a Thai Buddhist monk. It houses a 33-meter gold-plated reclining Buddha that attracts devotees from all over the world (especially during the Sonkran and the Loy Krathong festivals). Dragons, mythical serpents, elaborately decorated shrines and Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes dot the temple grounds.

A small Malaysian-Thai community lives around this temple. Right opposite Wat Chayamangkalaram is the Dharmikarama Burmese Temple.

National Park (Muka Head)
While Penang’s National Park in Pantai Acheh may be the smallest in the country, it is by no means less impressive. Eco-attractions like the pristine Pantai Kerachut beach and meromictic lake (a body of sea water and fresh water that do not mix) provide the perfect spot for picnics and fishing, swimming and trekking. Boat rides can also be arranged or those who want to visit the nearby islands. Also, do look out for the old lighthouse which was built in 1883 – it is still operational and visitors are welcome!

Toy Museum
The Penang Toy Museum in Tanjung Bunga is no kid’s play! With more than 100,000 toys, dolls, models and other fun collectibles, it is the largest museum of its kind anywhere in the world and the first in Asia. Featuring life-size models of super heroes to tiny action figures, this is one playground both kids and adults won’t want to miss!

Tropical Spice Garden (it’s the only
spice garden in South East Asia)
Having the distinction as being South East Asia’s only dedicated spice sanctuary, the Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang is indeed paradise on earth. Nestled among lush green foliage, exotic ferns and flowering plants, the garden’s cafĂ© overlooks the pristine blue sea and is the ideal setting for an afternoon drink. Spread over a sprawling 3.2ha, the garden boasts of more than 500 varieties of flora from Malaysia and other regions.

Oh, and the souvenir shop is a one-of-a-kind boutique that carries some very interesting items made from the most popular local spices!

Snake Temple
The Chor Soo Kong Temple (as it is known among locals), is “guarded” by green Wagler Pitt Vipers believed to have slithered to the temple to protect the deity. Although these snakes are believed to have been rendered harmless by the sacred joss stick smoke and incense, their venom has been removed so visitors can heave a sigh of relief!

Butterfly farm
This tropical butterfly farm in Teluk Bahang is so famous that it was visited by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife when they came to Penang for a private holiday in 2008. A live museum with winged beauties fluttering about as well as a breeding research centre, the farm is an eco-tourism gem indeed.

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