Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pulau Pinang

Approximately 112km south of Langkawi, lies the island of PENANG the 'Pearl of the Orient'. When first discovered by Captain Francis Light in 1786, the island was filled with lush tropical vegetation. The betel nut palm was a common sight all over the island - a fact which gave rise to the name of Pulau Pinang (Island of the Betel Nut). Penang has come a long way from its early beginnings as the first British trading post in the Far East. Its capital Georgetown is a bustling metropolitan city with a unique blend of East and West.
By contrast, the famous beaches of Penang - Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang offer all the scenic delights of tropical island paradise - stretches of golden sandy beaches, clear blue seas and tiny secluded coves enclosed by clusters of rocks. Penang is a resort island in full bloom with numerous hotels of international standard fronting the sea along the beaches on its northern coastlines. The range of facilities and amenities available here makes it an ideal playground for worshippers of the sun and the sea.
But there is another side of Penang that still remains to be discovered. Along the northwestern coastline are some of the fine beaches on the island. Imagine a sparkling sea, powdery white sand, sunlight filtering through coconut groves - the scene of perfect tranquillity. These beaches remain as Penang's best kept secrets because they are relatively inaccessible except by hiking through jungle trails. The rewards would make the effort really worthwhile.

By Air :
Penang is easily accessible by air with daily flights from major capitals of the region. It has direct links with Singapore, Bangkok, Nagoya, Medan, Xiamen (China) and Madras, operated by Malaysia Airlines. The airlines also operates more than 20 flights daily between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
The Penang International Airport is about 20 km from the city center. Taxis plying the route follow the coupon system by which fixed fares are charged between the airport and various destinations in Penang. Limousines charge higher fares.
The Penang Yellow Bus Co. operates an hourly service between the Airport and Weld Quay in the city between 6.00am to 10.00pm daily (Bus No. 83).

By Road :
Penang Island is accessible by road via the Penang Bridge. A charge of RM7.00 is levied on all classes of cars using the bridge at the toll plaza in Prai on the mainland. No payment is required for the return trip form the island to the mainland.

By Ferry :
From Butterworth, it is necessary to take the ferry to Penang Island. Operated by the Penang Port Commission, the ferry service is available around the clock for both passengers and vehicles. Fares for passengers and vehicle charges are collected at the Butterworth terminal. No payment is required for the return journey.

By Rail :
The train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth takes approximately 6 hours and affords the opportunity to view the scenic countryside of Peninsular Malaysia. Comfortable air-conditioned coaches are available for first and second class passengers. Malayan Railway or Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) also operates regular services to Alor Setar, Padang Besar, Haadyai and Bangkok from Butterworth. For enquiries regarding train services or fares, contact the KTMB offices at Port Weld in Penang (Tel: 604-261 0290) or Butterworth (Tel: 604-331 2796).

[ Pulau Pinang Attractions ]
♥ Penang's Famed Beaches ♥
Penang's northern shoreline is famous for its beautiful beaches of golden sand and deep blue seas. The Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang beaches offer expansive stretches of glittering sand interspersed with secluded coves within the shelter of gigantic rocks. It is along this famous coastline that resorts of international standard have sprouted up, offering a host of water-based recreational facilities.If you crave for privacy, head for Teluk Duyung, Monkey Beach, Pantai Keracut and Pantai Mas accessible via the trails in the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve from Teluk Bahang. The Pasir Panjang Beach at the southwestern tip of the island is a good clean stretch for swimming and can be reached after a 25-minute hike over hilly land from Betong.
Batu Ferringhi Beach (Northern Coast of Penang Island)
Batu Ferringhi has the drawbacks of a large resort, it can be crowded and much of the greenery has been replaced by concrete, but also the advantages (plenty of restaurants, watering holes and recreation facilities). It has quite a lively resort feel, and there is a good night markets on the main road selling trinkets. The big hotels offer good deals at times and cheaper accommodation is available if you want a few days by the beach.
Tanjung Bungah Beaches
The closest beach to George Town is Tanjung Bungah beach. The shoreline here is packed with lush greenery and dotted with large boulders. You can also sunbathe in the shadow of the overhanging cliffs.
The ocean view at Tanjung Bungah beach is said to be one of the best on the island! Even better yet, visitors do not need to forgo luxury while visiting Tanjung Bungah? beach as there are many world-class resorts and hotels here.
♥ Penang Hill / Bukit Bendera ♥
Malaysia's first hill station, Penang Hill is 830 meters (2730ft) above sea level, visitors can ascend to the top by either hiking up or by the funicular railway which has been operational since 1922. Apart from the cool, refreshing climate and the fantastic view at the summit, visitors can also view the picturesque bungalows, a beautiful flower garden and a bird park.There are bungalows for rent and a hotel for those who want to stay for more than a day. Visitors can also indulge in refreshments and snacks at a convenient tea kiosk located on top of the hill.There is a good walking track up the hill. It takes 4 hours to reach the top and is recommended only for the more energetic. The jungle trail begins at the 'moongate' at Jalan Air Terjun, approximately 300m from the Botanical Gardens entrance. The most popular way up the hill is via a funicular train, which takes about half an hour. Walking up the hill takes about four hours.

♥ Batu Ferringhi's Sidewalk Bazaar ♥

Batu Ferringh is a haven for a string of world-class resorts including rows of specialty restaurants and shops. Business is often brisk here, and one particular business that's currently thriving and attracting the tourist mass is the sidewalk bazaar that's held every evening. As the sun sets, the sidewalks facing the Batu Ferringhi road become cluttered with makeshift stalls. The string of stalls stretch all the way from Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang Hotel to the Casuarina Hotel, offering tourists a variety of cheap merchandise especially of the 'bootleg' sort. While there's a wide assortment of 'Penang' handicrafts, there's an even bigger selection of imitation goods ranging from designer apparel, leather bags, watches to CDs, VCDs and computer games. Nearly every stall has them and the prices are more or less the same from stall to stall. You can try haggling but it's always wiser to compare prices first before buying. In that way you'll know you're getting a good deal or not. For those who prefer to shop in a less congested setting (minus the hurly-burly sales talk) will find a handful of curio shops nearby more suited to their taste. These shops mostly offer handicraft souvenirs at nett but affordable prices.

♥ Botanic Gardens ♥

The Penang Botanic Gardens, more popularly known as "Waterfall Gardens", was established by the British way back in 1884 from an old granite quarry site. It lies in a deep valley, at the foot of 366 feet jungle clad hills, bound by evergreen tropical rain forests, divided by a cascading stream that meanders through a sprawling 29 hectares of prime and undulating grounds.
Its lush greenery and tranquil setting makes it a favourite park and a popular tourist attraction. It is Penang's unique natural heritage, being the only one of its kind in Malaysia. Besides, being a repository of flora & unique to the country and to the region, it serves as a "green lung" for Metropolitan Penang.The Penang Botanic Gardens is Penang's unique asset, being the only gardens of its kind in Malaysia. Various floras unknown to many are found in these gardens. Besides being a botanic centre, the garden is a popular recreational spot.
Early in the morning, many people come to the Gardens to jog, exercise and enjoy clean fresh air. As the day goes on, hundred of visitors come to sit at the lawn, by the stream or underneath the shade of trees.

♥ City Hall , Esplanade ♥

The City Hall (Dewan Bandaraya) building opened in 1903 and, together with the adjacent Town Hall, constitutes a handsome pair of colonial architectural relics framing the edge of the historic Padang Kota Lama (green field). Visually feasting over its pretty Victorian facades leaves one with the feeling that perhaps it deserves better than serving as the periodic meeting place of the Council Chamber of the Penang Municipal. Nevertheless at least it is being preserved.
Next to Fort Cornwallis is the Esplanade, a popular waterfront promenade which stretches from the hawker stalls at one end to the clock tower at the other. Central in the Esplanade is the Padang, a huge square of town green. Standing proudly beside is the City Hall, a stately colonial building which is a fine example of British palladian architecture featuring magnificent Corinthian columns and huge windows. It was once the seat of local government.

♥ Clock Tower ♥

A clock tower at the junction of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah and Lebuh Light. The clock tower built to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The 60 feet high clock tower is divided into four tiers. The first tier is octagonal, followed by square base. Second and third tiers and finishes by arched and domed cupola. Moorish design elements such as the dome and arches, the balconies on the second tier with horse shoe arched openings, battlemented parapet of the first tier and etc. were used in the design. The clock placed on the third tier. From a far the clock tower look more like a minaret of a mosque.

♥ Dharmikarama Burmese Temple ♥

A pair of elephants guard the entrance to this Burmese temple. within the pagoda grounds is a Boddhi tree and a wishing pond. It is the scene of many festivities during the water festival in April.

♥ Fort Cornwallis ♥

Fort Cornwallis is situated at the spot where Captain Francis Light was supposed to have landed in 1786. Originally a wooden structure, the fort was rebuilt between 1808 and 1810 with convict labour. It was named after Charles Marquis Cornwallis, a distinguished Governor General of India, and designed to protect the harbour from possible French attacks.
Today, much of the old fort remains, but its precincts have been converted into a public park and an open air theater. It is still guarded by old cannons, which were retrieved by the British from pirates who had captured them from the Johore Sultanate.
The most famous of the cannons is Seri Rambai, which dates back to 1613. Local beliefs have it that childless women can become fertile by placing flowers in the barrel of the cannon and offering special prayers.

♥ Gurney Drive ♥

Considered the best vantage point for sunset on the island this coastline stretch that is popular time-out spot for families and lovers, just outside of Georgetown proper. The area is one of the upmarket residential areas, which in no way dampens the lively night market or lowers the numbers of that Penang speciality - hawker stalls. Ten minutes from Gurney Drive towards the beach area is the Hokkien Mee stall where hokkien mee (prawn noodles for the ignorant) are sold, opposite the Pulau Tikus police station. These tasty noodles are a speciality on the island, and pretty popular for breakfast – be there before 9.30am as stock runs out quick.The stalls operate from about 6.00pm to 12.00am daily.

♥ Kek Lok Si Temple ♥

One of the finest Buddhist temples in South-east Asia. Stands majestically on a hill in Air Itam, this temple built in tiers culminates the beautifully crafted ''Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas''. It took more than 20 years to build which features gardens, a turtle pond, shrines and beautiful sculptures. There are many souvenir shops leading up to the temple which offers good buys. And as for food lovers,famous hawker food are lined up near the Air Itam market.
The temple was begun in 1890 and, from all appearances, construction really hasn't ever stopped. And it's still going on! The temple is supposedly the largest in Malaysia.
The Kek Lok Si project was inspired by the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple of Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Manchu Emperor Kuang Hsi, who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

Without doubt the largest and best known temple in Penang, the Temple of Supreme Bliss, better known as Kek Lok Si, staggered on the hillside overlooking the town of Ayer Itam.
Since the olden days, the hills of Ayer Itam are regarded as important geomantically. Known as He San, or Crane Hill, they are recommended as a retreat for Taoist practitioners striving for immortality.
Construction of the temple started in 1893, but it was only in 1930 that the Pagoda of Rama VI, named after the Thai king who laid the foundation stone, but better known as the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddha's, was completed. This pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown, reflecting the temple's embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

♥ Snake Temple ♥
Built in 1805 in the memory of the renowned Chinese monk Chor Soo Kong, the Snake Temple is situated in the small town of Bayan Lepas and is famous for the fact that it has pit vipers living on the temple ground. Legend has it, that Chor Soo Kong, who was also a healer, gave shelter to the snakes of jungle. After the completion of the temple, snakes appeared on their own accord. Today the snake population of the Temple of the Azure Cloud is very small, due to the urbanization of the area, but you can still see them coiled up on the altar tables, and touch them if you are brave enough. Originally the snakes were said to be rendered inoffensive by the smell of the incenses, but just for good measure, today the resident vipers are devenomed.

♥ St George Church ♥

Saint George Church, is reportedly the oldest Anglican church in Malaysia. Built by convicts, at the corner of Lebuh Farquhar and Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, it has been faithfully holding services since its conception in 1818. The grand Francis Light memorial that rests in front of the church is a reflection of Penang's tribute to Francis Light, who established the island in 1786. Stroll through the grounds and if you are lucky, you might just hear sweet strains of the church choir practising. Services in English are held on Sundays at 8.30am.

♥ Wat Chayamangkalaram ♥

The Reclining Buddha of the Wat Chayamangkalaram is the 3rd largest of its kind, with its 33 meters length. This gorgeous traditional Thai temple complex would be well worth a lengthy visit even without the Reclining Buddha, but no doubt most visitors come to pay homage and admire the majestic golden Buddha. In the main shrine in front of the Reclining Buddha there are smaller shrines of different Buddhas and Buddhist and popular Thai deities. On the fantastically ornate temple grounds the visitors can see many beautifully carved and lavishly colored statues of Devas and other mythical creatures. The temple was built in 1845. The first monk was a Theravada Buddhist monk from Thailand, Phorthan Kuat, also known as the "Powerful Monk" Legend has it that he was very fond of laksa, a local specialty and even today devotees bring a bowl of laksa as an offrand to his shrine.

By Suet Teng , 5 Alpha