Thursday, January 15, 2015

Twelve Unusual Places To Visit in Penang

You have probably visited Penang's many cultural enclaves, shopping malls, beaches, hawker centres and other famous attractions countless of times. The Orient of the East has a lot more to offer. Here are ten offbeat places in Prince of Wales Island to visit. 

1) A colonial mansion

Suffolk House is probably the only well-maintained and well-furnished colonial residence in Malaysia that is open to the public. Kellie's Castle in Perak was never completed while Kinarut Mansion in Sabah is just ruins. This Euro-Indian Georgian detached double-storey mansion was once the residence of Sir Francis Light, founder of Penang.

2) The Jewish cemetery

Before the evacuation of the Penang Jewish community to Singapore during the Japanese invasion, the island was home to many Jews. Still open for burial, the cemetery's oldest tomb dates back to 1835 while the newest is dated 2011.

3) The most beautiful KFC

This KFC restaurant is probably the most beautiful in Malaysia, and perhaps the world. It used to the mansion of Lim Cheng Teik, who became the youngest Municipal Commissioner in history. This former mansion was designed by architect Henry Alfred Neubronner:

4) Jerejak Island

This 362 hectare island south-east of Penang is a former leper asylum. It can be accessed today
via ferry from Bayan Lepas. There is a memorial dedicated to two Imperial Russian Navy crew members who died during the Battle of Penang. In the 70s, a maximum security prison was set up here, earning the island the title Alcatraz of Malaysia.

5) A Northern Indian temple

Almost all Hindu temples in Penang cater for Tamil-speaking congregation and feature South Indian architecture. Unlike them, the Sri Kunj Bihari Mandir along Penang Road is probably the only Northern Indian Hindu temple in the state. Built in 1833 for settlers from Bihar, the temple still caters to Hindi-speaking devotees of Punjabi, Gujarat, Sindhi, Bengali and Bhaiya communities.

6) A turtle sanctuary

When people thing of turtle preservation, Terengganu comes to mind. However, Penang also has its own lesser known turtle sanctuary at Keranchut Beach. Green Sea Turtles can be seen here from April and August, while Olive Ridley Turtles come here sometime between September to February. The sanctuary keeps hatched turtles until they are mature enough to be released into the wild.

7) A canopy walkway

Penang is not all food and culture. There is a National Park, which is the smallest in the world but can still house a 250 metre long canopy walkway. At a height of 15 metres, you can look down on the various preserved flora and fauna the rainforest has to offer at a bird's eye view.

8) An interactive museum 

Since Malaysians love taking and posing for pictures, it is a surprise this is not yet what Maddame Tussauds is for London. Apart from posing with 3D murals and trick artwork, visitors can learn about Penang's history and diversity from its various exhibits. 

9) A statue of a British monarch

Queen Victoria Memorial Statue was built by the local Chinese three decades after he passing as they considered themselves the her subjects back in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Other places in Penang such as Victoria Green field, Victoria Street, Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, Victoria Peer, Victoria Inn, Queensbay and Victoria Road are also named after the Queen. 

10) A haunted hill

Often featured on many Asia's top 10 scariest places lists, Ghost Hill has a War Museum that is the sight of many apparitions over the years. Built by the British in the 1930s as a military fortress, it fell to the Japanese during World War II. The hill was then made a prisoner camp where countless people were tortured and even beheaded.

11) A Jurassic park

Located on Level 5 of KOMTAR, the Jurassic Research Centre is home to over 200 life-sized dinosaur replicas. Although they may not be living breathing creatures like in the Spielberg movies, these replicas can still move and even roar. This centre is not just for Malaysians to indulge their camerawork, but there is lots to learn through the indoor exhibits as well.

12) Malaysia's highest glass skywalk

Also located in KOMTAR, the sixth highest building in Malaysia, The Rainbow Skywalk can be found 68 floors and one kilometer above ground level. KOMTAR was originally only 65 levels high but the additional three levels were added specially for this skywalk.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ten Unusual Places To Visit in Kuala Lumpur

Everyone knows about the Twin Towers, the KL Tower, the famous museums, the iconic religious sites, the popular malls and cultural landmarks. Kuala Lumpur is a city rich in history and even when you think you have seen and experienced everything our capital has to offer, it still finds a way to surprise you. Here is a list of Ten Unusual Places To Visit in Kuala Lumpur.

1) Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve

Yes, right in the middle of the cosmopolitan city is this 11 hectare rainforest preserve, one of the smallest in the world. Hike across its wooden bridges and you can see wild animals such as monkeys and all kinds of birds. Trees are also labelled so they can be easily recognized. Just outside the forest, there is an orchid plantation, nature centre, herb garden, botanical garden, jogging trail and much more.

2) Gothic church

Gothic churches are no longer just native to Europe and America. We have one right here in the capital. Built during the colonial period, the Church of Holy Rosary has every Gothic feature in the book such as beautifully crafted stained windows that depict Biblical stories, a tall steeple and plaster vaulting.

3) A traditional village in the middle of the city

Sprawling over almost a 250 acres, Kampung Baru is a traditional Malay village in the middle of the modern city. Here, you will find traditional Malay wooden houses with their little orchards and farms set against the backdrop of the city's skyscrapers.

4) Smallest Hindu temple

Fondly known as Pudu Pillayar or Court Hill Vinayagar Temple, this Ganesha temple is probably not as well known as the more bigger Hindu temples in the city. However, it is built on a three adjoining cornered slope, which is very auspicious. Despite its popularity among devotees, the temple cannot be renovated due to its close proximity to other large buildings in the area.

5) Coconut trees in the city

The only place where you can find coconuts in the city centre is in the grounds of the Jamek Mosque, one of the oldest in the city.

6) A piece of Mecca 

You can see the 1964 Keswa, the door curtain of the Ka’aba which is changed every year displayed at the Islamic Arts Museum Kuala Lumpur.

7) Dine in the dark

Here is one of the few restaurants in the world where you can enjoy a one of a kind dining experience made up of a four-course dinner. The staff consists of visually impaired individuals

8) Hidden hot spring

Located along a road aptly named Jalan Air Panas in the suburbs of Setapak, the hot spring is opened to the public with an entrance fee of just RM1.


9) The underground shopping mall

Merdeka Square is famous for its historical significance as well as the Moorish-looking Sultan Abdul Samad Building that contrasts the nearby Tudor-styled Selangor Club. Not known to many, Merdeka Square Plaza, one of the capital's many malls, is found below the former cricket field. 

10) The remains of a colonial prison 

Contrary to popular belief, the historical Pudu Jail was not completely demolished. You can still see its iconic arched gateway facade, although its walls that once had the longest mural in the world is gone along with the main building.