Recently, I made another visit. And yet Penang never fails to amaze. We started the day at the Kek Lok Si Temple (Temple of Supreme Bliss) in the town of Air Itam. Construction of the temple began in 1890 and still continues today as more structures are added to the complex. The main landmark of the temple is a seven-story pagoda completed in 1930 with a Chinese octagonal base, Thai middle tier design and Burmese crown.
A 30 meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin was added in 2002, and an ornate shelter built over it in 2009. So yes, the temple continues to expand.
From Kek Lok Si, we proceeded to historic George Town, which was inscribed in the World Heritage List together with Melaka in 2008. I remember walking down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, smelling the incense from the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy Temple and flowers from the Hindu garland makers right beside it. A small shrine to Lord Ganesha was just a few meters away. As I walked down the street, I could hear calls to prayer echoing from the minarets of mosques. Further down the street is the Anglican St. George's Church and the Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption just meters away. Indeed, the racial harmony in Penang was evident.
At one end of the street is the Kapitan Keling Mosque, built by Indian Muslim traders in the 19th century. Just a stone's throw away was the Mahamariamman Temple.
Penang's prominent families also have their own temples and clan houses. The grandest and most elaborate of these clan associations is the highly-ornamented Khoo Khongsi built in 1906. Also in the area are the Cheah Kongsi and Yap Kongsi.
Amid all this Chinese architecture is the Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh.
Being a British colonial city, one would expect monumental colonial architecture as well, which includes the City Hall, Town Hall, the War Memorial, Fort Cornwallis and the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Clocktower among others.
There's so much heritage in Penang, a day around will never do justice. And don't ever forget that Penang is a foodie's paradise as well! Here are some Penang dishes you should not miss and traditional trades you might find interesting. Here's more information and notes on how to reach Penang by bus from Kuala Lumpur.