Always wondering on how to spend your long weekends? Don’t worry, we got you covered. Read on to find out how you can spend three days in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, while ticking off the must-visits along the way.
DAY 1 – PENANG
Penang is, arguably, the most popular destination in the north. It is home to one of Malaysia’s UNESCO world heritage sites and is famous for its gastronomic offerings.
Touring with Link Bike
Grab a set of wheels and explore the city with a bike sharing system (BSS) offered by Link Bike, which allows travellers to pick up or drop a bike at any of the 25 stations across the city. The sharing system is easy to be used and extremely cheap too; the pass costs merely MRY2 per person for a day. All interested travellers need to do is to download the app, register and then use the QR code to release the bicycle from the station. Cycling makes your exploration speedier and more convenient, and you could even follow the popular Penang Heritage Trail, which includes a long list of heritage sites such as the magnificent Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi and the century old Chew Jetty.
Lose yourself in an urban sanctuary filled with beautiful butterflies, that flutter freely in a well-manicured indoor garden complete with artificial caves and waterfalls. The farm comprises two sections, the first being ‘Natureland’, a shared ecological space where visitors get to get close to more than 15,000 species of butterflies and common garden residents. The second section, ‘Cocoon’section, is a state-of-the-art indoor facility where visitors get to learn about the invertebrates through various engaging edu-stations.
Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak (KOMTAR) has been one of Penang’s major landmarks since its inception in 1985. In 2015, a revitalisation plan gave the building a facelift and added three more storeys on top of it, making it the 10th tallest building in Malaysia. It now houses various offerings ranging from shopping, wellness, dining and amusement parks fit for visitors of all ages. The open-air Rainbow Skywalk on Level 68 is the highest glass skywalk in Malaysia that boasts unobstructed views of the city. For all Will Sawyers out there, experience the world’s highest rope course at The Gravityz, where visitors take part in a series of obstacle challenges at the exterior of the skyscraper 65 floors from the ground!
A trip to Penang without trying nasi kandar would be the ultimate let-down to your gastronomic experience. This dish is synonymous with the state that plenty outlets have been mushrooming around the city and its outskirts. For authentic flavours endorsed by the locals, do eat at Hameediyah Restaurant, located on Campbell Street, which also happens to be the oldest nasi kandar restaurant in Penang. The menu is extensive, the portion is generous, and prices are generally reasonable. Kick the whole dining experience up a notch by ordering murtabak, a decadent fluffy meaty pancake that goes absolutely perfect with hot ginger milk tea – oh so heavenly!
Kedai Mamu Roti Canai Terbang
Feast your tummy as well as eyes at this restaurant, where patrons are treated to delicious light and fluffy roti canai together with fascinating ‘flying roti’ demonstration as the staff prepares the said dish, from kneading, rolling, flipping to folding the dough – instead of flipping the dough like usual, two employees take turn to flip and pass between each other, making the whole process spectacular to see.
Modern and comfortable, this hotel takes advantage of its prime location in the heart of George Town where plenty of tourist attractions are merely short walk away. All 231 rooms are spacious, and equipped with the necessary amenities that one expected from a 4-star hotel. Those who prefer air-conditioned spaces can take the hotel’s complimentary shuttle bus to Gurney Plaza and M Mall.
DAY 2 – KEDAH
Apart from being a convenient stopover between Penang and Langkawi, Kedah abounds with old-world charm, particularly Malay legacies, which grant visitors a more laidback experience far from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
A major landmark in the state, the mosque has been around for over a century and is dubbed as one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia. This magnificent beauty was designed by the then state engineer, James Gorman, who drew inspiration from Azizi Mosque in North Sumatera. It boasts five striking black domes and magnificent Moorish-inspired facade. Today, the mosque is still used by the public, and the ‘State Quran Recitation’ programme is held here every year.
Balai Besar (Great Hall)
This state heritage asset that is replete with traditional Malay craftmanship was built in 1735 by the founder of Alor Setar (the state’s capital), Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Abidin. The building experienced multiple damages due to enemy invasions over the years, yet it survived until now and designated as the venue for state coronation. There is also a royal gallery that displays the history and heritage of the Kedah Sultanate.
Started as a weekly open-air market since 1920s that only opened on Wednesdays, Pekan Rabu or ‘Wednesday Market’ was the brainchild of the late Tunku Yaacob Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid, who wanted to encourage more Malays to take part in commerce. In fact, Malaysia’s fourth and seventh Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir was one of the merchants that used to trade here when his studies were disrupted due to the Japanese Occupation. Over the years, the market has expanded into a multi-storey complex and now opens from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, offering visitors a wide range of traditional delicacies such as bahulu and pekasam, handicrafts and apparel like ‘Tun’s songkok style’, made popular by none other than Tun Mahathir.
Tun Mahathir Mural
Paying homage to the birthplace of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad with the support of the state government, a group of local artists namely Mustakim Ismail, Abdul Qoyyum Mohd Nadzri and Mohd Zulfadli Ahmad Nawawi created an eye-catching 30.48-metre wide mural of Malaysia’s ‘Father of Modernisation’ along Jalan Pekan Melayu. Along with his portrait, these young artistes also depicted Petronas Twin Towers and Malaysia’s first car called Proton Saga onto the mural, both being Tun’s brainchild. The mural was created based on true life images by Malaysiakini photographer, Lim Huey Teng, and took a month to complete.
The hotel sits right smack in the centre of the city, offering quick access to multiple points of interest. There are 235 comfortable rooms, outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre and the popular Dao Sheng Chinese Restaurant that offers halal-certified Cantonese and Szechuan cuisines.
DAY 2 – PERLIS
Perlis is meant for those who enjoy roads less travelled, complete with picturesque sceneries, endless serenity and way fewer crowds.
Functioning as an open-air ‘herb museum’, the garden features over 1,000 species of herbs and spices such as mengkudu, tongkat ali, cekor and selasih across its vast land. Most species are grown in the wild (in-situ) and some even brought from other countries to diversify the types of herbaceous plants grown for potential future benefits. Besides touring the garden, visitors can also have their feet massaged and soaked in herbal foot bath for MYR30 per person. For those preferring little more adventurous experience, there are also wild cycling tracks that travellers can traverse at the price of RM150 per person. The garden opens every day except Mondays.
DAY 3 – LANGKAWI
With beautiful stretches of white sand and crystal-clear waters, Langkawi is a renowned tropical paradise, ideal destination for memorable outdoor activities.
Kilim Geoforest Park
Listed as UNESCO’s geopark since 2017, the first in Southeast Asia, this is one of the three geoforest parks located within the Langkawi archipelago – the other two being the Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park and the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park. Expect to see pristine mangrove and limestone forests, including dramatic karstic landscapes formed hundreds of million years ago. The best way to explore the park is by taking a day tour that costs MYR250-MYR300 per boat, bringing travellers along the mangrove’s river system with few stops along the way such as the Bat Cave and the Crocodile Cave. On top of these, travellers can also witness majestic eagles swooping down to catch food at one point along the cruise!
By taking the casual ride on a cable car called SkyCab up to the peak of Langkawi’s second highest mountain in Langkawi named Mount Machinchang, enjoying the experience of being on a mountaintop while taking in the breath-taking surrounding scenery has never been easier. Travellers can alight at the Top Station too and walk along SkyBridge, the world’s longest curve suspension bridge. But if riding cable car sounds too easy, test your stamina by trekking along the SkyTrail between the Middle Station and the Top Station to admire the wondrous Mt. Machinchang forest reserve.
The Seashells @ Laman Padi
Try traditional dining amidst verdant paddy fields, which are synonymous to Kedah. A fusion of Malay and Western delicacies are served here; highlights include nasi kukus ikan siakap (steamed rice with fried sea bass) and nasi kukus itik (steamed rice with fried duck) that go well with ulam-ulaman (raw salad). There is also paddy museum and herb garden within the premises should travellers decide to walk around before or after their meals.
With sustainability at it its core, The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa offers more than just a secluded sanctuary for wary souls. Guests may join in the award-winning Eco-Walk at the resort, where they can learn about various green initiatives such as waste management and energy conservation.
Indonesia–Malaysia–Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Initiative
Gaya Travel Magazine’s trip to the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia was in conjunction with the IMT-GT Tourism Forum, hosted by Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The forum was attended by more than 170 participants ranging from officials and industry players from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. This initiative was first established in 1993, as part of the involved governments’ effort to accelerate economic and social transformation in less developed provinces in these three member countries.
To reach such goal, the Malaysian government, which chairs this initiative from 2017 until 2019, has developed the ‘IMT-GT Tourism Packages’ offering unique tourism experiences in the sub-region along the themes of culture, eco-adventure, heritage and gastronomy. The information on these packages will then be distributed through various marketing channels, including IMT-GT and ASEAN websites and social media platforms.
Gaya Travel Magazine would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia and Penang Global Tourism for hosting and making our trip smooth.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 14.1.