Just off Malaysia’s west coast, on the Straits of Melaka, Penang island is a key Southeast Asian crossroad that historically brought together traders, armies from across the world and created a huge repository of culinary delights.
4pm: Drop your bags off at one of the stylish boutique hotels in Georgetown, Penang’s historic commercial heart, where temples, 19th- century shophouses and British colonial government buildings compete for space.
6pm: Do as the British colonials did. Gather at the Eastern & Oriental hotel’s Farquhar bar to escape the humid weather, sip a gin and tonic and soak up some history. Built in 1885, the hotel was among the finest in the British Empire.
7pm: With nightfall, Penang turns into a street-food paradise. To take it all in one go, make your way to Lorong Baru with its huge sprawl of food carts.
9am: Go for a classic Hainanese coffee-shop breakfast at the Toh Soon Cafe, on Campbell St: thick, black coffee and charcoal grilled toast with lashings of coconut jam.
10:30am: Trot over to Lebuh Armenian and soak up Penang’s budding arts scene. Private galleries dot the street of two-storey shophouses.
Noon: Lunch at Mama’s Nyonya Restaurant, on Lorong Abu Siti, specialising in the spice-rich cuisine of the Peranakan community – descendants of intermarriages between ethnic Chinese and Malays in the 15th century. The family-run restaurant dishes out old-time favourites such as curry kapitan (dry chicken curry) and otah-otah (spicy prawn paste baked in banana leaves).
2pm: Visit the very haunted Penang War Museum in the fortress of Batu Maung. Built by the British in the 1930s, it fell to a surprise attack by the Japanese in World War II and was turned into a place of torture.
4pm: Take in a bit of the Penang countryside in Balik Pulau, with its picturesque Malay kampung houses on stilts and lush orchards that bear durian in June and July.
6pm: Look for Chew Jetty, a centuries-old waterfront settlement that is home to the Chew clan, whose fore-fathers came from China’s Fujian province and are mostly fishermen. Wander around the wooden houses, temples and boats. Have a few beers on the stilted boardwalks and ease into the cool night.
9am: Hang out at Batu Ferringhi, or Foreigner’s Rock, for some rays or water sports on a beach strip of big-name hotels, seafood restaurants and cafes.
2pm: Check out Swatow Lane, which used to be home to striptease joints and cabaret shows in the 1950s but now has a variety of restaurants and hawkers jostling for your attention. Cool off with ais kacang, an indulgent concoction of ice shavings, rose syrup, condensed milk and sweet corn.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Will at [email protected]