Penang is fast becoming one of the world’s premier running sites, and if you’re preparing to visit for an upcoming race, factor in extra time to see the sites, taste the food and relax at beautiful hotels and resorts in this tropical paradise. Sure, you’re coming to run, set a personal best or test your mettle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t collect medals and memories during an extended visit to Penang. To help plan your schedule around your race and training obligations, we focus our recommendations on the geographic area around George Town so you can maximize your free time enjoying as many experiences as possible in close proximity.
Name of location: George Town
Address: Start on Armenian Street to browse historic sites
Why runners should visit: If you can visit only one neighbourhood during your time in Penang, make it historic George Town. Take advantage of a highly concentrated hub filled with landmarks, shops, historical sites, restaurants, lodgings and attractions. Jog around the area first to take in the “flavour” of the community before choosing stop points so you take in as much of this area’s charm as time allows.
Don’t miss these highlights: Because George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sheer number of attractions, museums, historical spots and shops in one easy-to-traverse area is daunting. Pick and choose between authentic street foods prepared at stalls or frequent high-end, gourmet restaurants, but be sure to sample popular indigenous fare like assam laksa and chendol before you leave. Need lodgings located in George Town before, during and after your race? Check out Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as the Blue Mansion), built at the end of the 19th century. This lavish estate is one of the earliest examples of architecture designed around Feng Shui principles and no competitor are as unique.
Name of location: Batu Ferringhi Beach
Address: Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang
Why runners should visit: Need to condition your legs or keep up your training routine on surfaces other than pavement? Batu Ferringhi Beach offers a great location for staying in condition interspersed by eclectic recreational opportunities guaranteed to test every muscle of your well-toned body.
Don’t miss these highlights: Batu Ferringhi Beach provides everything you need to make your stay in Penang idyllic. Runs along Gurney Drive (see more below), at the edge of George Town, bring you into contact with eclectic eateries and the scenery is spectacular. Reward yourself with a cable car ride to the top of Tenang Hill once you’ve completed your running goal for the day. You will also find beachfront horseback riding, sailing and water sports along this beach. When night falls, you couldn’t pick a better place to sleep than the Lone Pine, Batu Ferringhi’s only vintage, luxury boutique hotel which has been lovingly restored from colonial days to become a contemporary haven of relaxation and peace.
Name of location: Gurney Drive Penang
Address: Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang
Why runners should visit: Lest you think that the only reason to hit Batu Ferringhi Beach is to get in some therapeutic leg conditioning or find a place to sleep, discover Gurney Drive, the area that is home to a wonderland of recreational opportunities, guaranteed to get your mind off your race long enough to relax.
Don’t miss these highlights: By day, browse flea markets. By night, celebrate crossing the finish line at nearby Penang area nightclubs, many of which stay open until the early hours for all-night partying. Reserve a hotel room of your choice in the area—but if you choose either the high-profile G Hotel (even if you don’t stay here, check out their lobby furnishings that include contemporary, museum-quality designer chairs) or the Evergreen Laurel, you are guaranteed luxe lodgings opposite the seashore. It’s just a short run to the Gurney Plaza Shopping Centre, Penang’s second largest mall and don’t miss seeing Plaza Gurney lit up by night! By the way, if the Gurney Plaza isn’t big enough to make you happy, jog over to either the Prangin Mall (where bargains abound) or First Avenue with your shopping list and have at it.
Name of Location: Wat Chayamangkalaram
Address: Lorong Burmah, 10250 Penang
Why runners should visit: If you understand that your running success has as much to do with your faith and confidence as the right kind of training you undertake, a visit to Wat Chayamangkalaram—where the famous Reclining Buddha greets worldwide travellers—deserves to be on your list of must-see sites before you leave Penang. The temple is impressive. Spot it on the road from George Town to Batu Feringghi; it’s right across from the Dharmikarama Burmese Temple, so take the opportunity to see this sacred site, too.
Don’t miss these highlights: Witness for yourself the Sleeping Buddha, known internationally for its size—around 33m long—and lavish gold plating. This is one of the most impressive and beautiful artifacts on the planet. Built in 1945 on land bestowed by Queen Victoria, this sacred temple is hallowed ground for Penang’s Thai community members, thus there’s also a small village and cemetery on the land. Light some incense and join other pilgrims to give thanks for your health and the fitness routine that keeps you in great running form!
Name of Location: Botanics Garden Penang
Address: Jalan Kebun Bunga 10350 Penang
Why runners should visit: Treat yourself to nature’s glory. Take in spectacular indigenous plants and flowers at a slower pace than you do when you train and run, catching glimpses of Mother Nature’s splendor on the fly because you probably set a fast pace for yourself when you focus on conditioning. This world-class botanical garden is so close to the George Town epicentre that you can walk the 2.1km distance from Penang’s epicentre without getting winded.
Don’t miss these highlights: Stroll the pristine grounds of Penang Botanic Gardens—also known as the Waterfall Gardens. The British turned an ugly quarry into an amazing attraction in 1884 and it’s been lovingly cared for by the Penang government ever since. The arboretum is so diverse, the gardens are used to train botanists and plant scientists. Search for the Cannon Ball Tree, the Sengkuang Tree, the Pinang Palm (Penang was named for this tree) and exotic lilies and orchids that abound. Catch a glimpse of the park’s famous waterfall from the hills above the reservoir, but don’t get too friendly with monkeys indigenous to the area or you could upset them. Guided tours are available, so why not enlist fellow runners for a group tour?
Name of Location: Penang Toy Museum
Address: 1370, MK2, Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang.
Why runners should visit: You’ve run your race, given thanks at Wat Chayamangkalaram, shopped for family and friends and danced the night away at Penang clubs. Now it’s time to get in touch with your inner child by visiting the area’s nostalgic toy museum, a site that’s the furthest distance from the George Town epicentre so you may wish to engage a trishaw to travel here. It’s worth the trip.
Don’t miss these highlights: As an adult, you take your responsibilities seriously, but sometimes, you’ve got to take time for guilty pleasures and this is it: The largest toy museum in the world. Find 100,000 toys sure to remind you of your carefree childhood. Browse exhibits like the Chambers of Horror, Monsters, Fantasy and Comic Book Heroes. Open daily to the public, this could be the most unique tourist experience you enjoy while in Penang to compete, and you don’t have to tell the kids about it when you get home if you don’t want to!
Now that you’ve read our short list of recommendations for your Penang visit, can you tell us what sites, hotels and/or attractions we left off our list—places you love because you’ve visited this magical place and want to make sure others receive the benefit of your wisdom? Send us the name of your favourite place in Penang and share it with everyone!