Take 5: Pastimes in Penang

1 Georgetown Heritage
The lowdown: On the Unesco World Heritage list since 2008, George Town brims with history, a bustling trading free port under the British that drew a melting pot of people from all over Asia and a former capital of the Straits Settlement. That past is explored during the walking tours by Joann Khaw, a certified Cultural Heritage Specialist Guide endorsed by Unesco (the only one in Penang) with more than two decades of indepth knowledge of the city.

For groups: Each walk is customised, and usually lasts three hours, with group sizes capped at 20. They can cover topics as diverse at nutritional immunology, history, culture, architecture and street art. Some walks take visitors into local shops like a medical hall, sarong store, or sign maker, and notable sites like Khoo Kongsi clan house, the Sun Yat Sen Museum, the Kapitan Keling Mosque and the Sri Mariamman Temple.

2 Habitat Penang Hill
The lowdown: Opened in 2016, Habitat Penang Hill is a rainforest experience less than 10km from George Town. Highlights include a nature trail first built in the early 1800s by the British East India Company, a canopy walk set 30 metres off the ground, and wraparound views of Penang and the mainland from the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk.

For groups: Expect an immersion in flora and fauna like tree ferns, flying lemurs, and rainforest giants, such as the Damar Minyak and Rhu Bukit conifers. There are also thrills to be had, including a zipline course that allows elevated views of the rainforest canopy. You’ll also get to sample medicinal plants and wild ginger flowers. Night walks uncovering the foraging habits of nocturnal mammals, like the Sunday Colugo, add a novel element to the experience. Groups can host meetings in the 130-million-year-old rainforest or hold cocktail functions for up to 150 people at the treetop walk.


3 Gravityz
The lowdown: Part daredevil excursion, part leap of faith – in some cases literally – this hair-raising, spine-tingling adventure opened on the 65th floor of the Menara Komtar tower in George Town a little more than a year ago. It is a high-ropes challenge course taken to the extreme, with platforms, bridges and a zipline 240 metres above the ground given imposing names like X-Point, Z-Wire, and G-Rocky.

For groups: Not for the fainthearted or those scared of heights, this is a great way to push your team’s limits while members build confidence. Courses are broken up into one-hour time slots, with the first half taken up with preparation and a safety briefing, the second half out in the elements strapped onto wires and points with safety harnesses and cables. Participants in groups of 10 are entitled to discounted admissions, but this requires scheduling at least two weeks in advance.

4 Food Tour Penang
The lowdown: Considered the food capital of Malaysia, Penang lures ravenous foodies from across Asia for its scintillating street fare. During the brunch and dinner tours offered by Food Tour Penang, guests will not only eat what locals get to enjoy every day, but also learn about the diversity of the food, customs, and culture of the ethnic and religious groups that call George Town home.

For groups: This is a personal experience, so groups are kept small, a maximum of eight people, accompanied by a guide and transported in an air-conditioned car. Guests will see food prepared the traditional way, and sample the city’s famed Assam laksa soup, the noodle dish char kway teow, and the dessert chendol. With four to five stops per tour, expect the full food experience.


5 Pinang Peranakan Mansion
The lowdown: A fascinating window onto the rich customs and opulent lifestyles of the Peranakan – descendants of Chinese that married local Malays during the time of the British – also known as Babas (for men) and Nyonyas (for women). Here, a typical home of a rich Baba from a century ago is recreated to show modern-day visitors how the community lived, with more than a 1,000 antiques and collectibles from the era proudly exhibited.

For groups: Groups can also rent the venue in the evenings for dinners or events, with a maximum head count of 150. Entertainment might include traditional dancers (audience participation is encouraged), a re-enactment of a lavish Baba-Nyonya wedding, and a tour of the mansion led by the museum director.

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