Penang is a small tropical island off the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is a former British colony, so English is widely spoken. Its population is just over 700,000 with a majority of the people living in its capital, George Town. Penang is a multicultural island with about 60% of its inhabitants being Chinese, 32% Malays, and 7% Indian. Culturally it’s a mind-blowing place to live.
With a mix of these cultures, the food is touted to be the best in all of Southeast Asia. In 2014, Lonely Planet deemed Penang to be the top foodie destination to visit in the world. The most incredible food in Malaysia is not found in high-end restaurants, but at thousands of food stalls that serve one signature dish—often a family’s secret recipe passed down through generations.
Penang has been one of the top expat destinations in Malaysia for years. It is not a bustling city like Kuala Lumpur yet it still has all the comforts of home. There is everything from beaches and shopping to great food and a vibrant culture. You can go shopping at Gurney Plaza, or Queensbay Mall, and find the same high-end stores you would in the U.S. You can walk through the jungle, laze about on a secluded beach, take a food tour and a cooking class, or even drive a few hours to visit an Orangutan shelter.
George Town is a bustling, colorful UNESCO World Heritage City, which is fascinating to walk through. Its well preserved, colonial buildings and Chinese clan houses are living testaments to what life was like centuries ago. You can still feel its multi-cultural heritage as you wander through Chinese and Indian temples, and smell incense burning throughout the streets. Getting lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways makes you feel like you are in another world, one that existed long ago.
For a small island, there is no shortage of arts and culture to take part in; from the month long George Town festival that celebrates the arts in every form imaginable, the Jazz and World Music festivals, and the International Film festival. Add to that all of the inherent cultural and religious festivals, loads of art galleries with ever-changing exhibits, and the street art scene, and you’ll never be at a loss for something to do in Penang.