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 Q: I heard that Chinese New Year (CNY) goes on for 15 days.  When is the best day to visit Penang to experience CNY?

A: In 2011, the best day to visit is February 12th (3pm - Midnight) for the "Chinese New Year Cultural and Heritage Celebration 2011", which takes place throughout the UNESCO World Heritage site in George Town.  We also recommend February 10th (7pm - Midnight) for Thni Kong Seh (Jade Emperor God’s birthday), at Chew Clan Jetty in George Town.  Click here for photos.

As CNY approaches, we will update Capturing Penang and our Twitter account with more information on when and where events will be held. 

Q: Is the Penang Hill train open? 

A: The historic Penang Hill funicular railway is currently in the process of being replaced by a new train system, which will not be open to the public until May 2011.  You can still reach Penang hill by either a jeep service or by hiking up. 

Q: Is Penang safe?

A:  With regard to crime, we find Penang safe.  We walk everywhere and never had any problems.  Probably best to walk with someone else, and keep your bag on the shoulder away from traffic (there are reports of motorcyclists snatching handbags from pedestrians, but we have never seen this happen). If we need to choose a danger in Penang, it would have to be careless driving.  Because the five foot walkways are unfortunately blocked, pedestrians are forced to walk on the street.  Important rule for Penang, and many other places in Asia – look both ways before crossing a one way street.

Q: How are the beaches?

A:  While the sandy beaches are still there, the water has become too polluted to swim.  It is still nice to stay in a resort in Batu Ferringhi, but stick to the pool for swimming.  If you want to swim in the ocean, consider heading up to Langkawi Island for a few days. You can reach Langkawi by a three hour ferry from Penang, or you can take a short flight. 
Q: Does everyone in Penang speak English?

A:  Pretty much, so you shouldn’t have any trouble communicating during your stay.  But we encourage you to have some fun and pick up a few Malay, Hokkien, and Tamil words before you arrive.  You can go to our Penang Languages section to get started.

Q:  When’s the best time to come?

A: With regard to weather – anytime!  It’s hot year-round, and you get the occasional rain storms.  If it rains, it is usually for a few hours, so you rarely have a wash out day. 

The best time to come is during a festival, and luckily Penang has many of them to experience.  

Q:  What if it rains?  What is there to do in Penang?

A:  Here's our list of Top 10 Things to Do in Penang on Rainy Days

Q: How do I get around in Penang?

A:  We get around by walking and taking the bus, which is all you need in Penang.  The bus system was revamped in 2008, so all the buses are new and most importantly, air-conditioned.  There are taxis, but they do not run on a meter, so you need to negotiate a price (Don’t pay more than RM12 for a ride in and around George Town).  You can rent a car or motorcycle, but be careful on Penang roads.  For a slower ride, take a trishaw for a ride around the UNESCO area, or a bicycle to explore on your own.   

Q: Is street food clean?

A: Generally not. That will probably be the first observation you make when you arrive in Penang.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not safe to eat.  If you stick to popular stalls that serve cooked food, you will be just fine.  If you want to protest popular stalls by not eating there because of a lack of cleanliness, we are here to support you.  Many “famous” stalls have no incentive to clean up bad habits since they have a line of customers every day.   

Q: Where can I bring kids?

A: We haven't brought any small kids around Penang, but since Mark is basically a big kid, here's a few places that Mark enjoys:
  • The Chocolate Boutique - a chocolate shop on Lebuh Leith (next to Red Garden Food Paradise and Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion).  You go in and they let you try every chocolate in the store.
  • Butterfly Farm - basically an indoor zoo of butterflies and insects. Perfect for rainy days.
  • Penang National Park - there is a short treetop walk good for kids.
  • Botanical Gardens - what kid doesn't love monkeys running around?
  • Youth Park - big playground and lots of open space for outdoor games.  
  • Kek Lok Si Temple - especially fun for kids during Chinese New Year when the entire complex is lit up in colorful lights.
  • Air Itam Dam -lots of space to run around and the path is paved, so easy to use a stroller.  You will need a car to reach the dam. 
  • Jelutong night market on Friday nights - Depending on the age of the kids (I wouldn't bring a stroller) and how easy going they are, you can try taking them here.  Lots of toys and food and busyness to keep them entertained.  You can also go to Batu Ferringhi night market (open every night), which is setup for tourists, so it's easy to take kids to.