Malaysia and Thailand not only share a border, they’re known for their colourful cultural scenes. None more illustrates this than the cities of Penang and Hat Yai, two thriving urban hubs with a small town allure.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang’s capital city George Town is spotted with English-style heritage buildings. The state has a reputation for being a food paradise and offers a range of Malaysian comfort foods. A mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and fusion cuisines please in unassuming eateries. Throughout the island’s streets are hawkers sure to have your tummy filled with tasty treats.
Though covered with massive Western-style shopping malls, Hat Yai’s variety of abundant local markets attracts visitors from around the world. Offering Thai delicacies, handcrafts, textiles, clothing, and various gadgets and appliances, these busy markets welcome shoppers looking to leave with suitcases teeming with trinkets and treasures and tales of extraordinary shopping trips.
Just a short flight away from each other, a visit to Penang and Hat Yai are easy to fit into any Southeast Asian vacation itinerary and are sure to delight. To avoid monsoon season, the best time to visit is from December to March.
THINGS TO DO IN PENANG
Enjoy A Plate of Nasi Kandar
Flavoured or plain rice served with a variety of spicy curries and side dishes, this Penangite dish is a national favourite. One of the oldest nasi kandar eateries on the island, Line Clear Nasi Kandar is popular among locals and visitors alike.
Go On a Street Art Hunt in George Town
Covered in beautiful street art a walk around town is full of surprises. Wonder at striking painted wall murals and wrought-iron caricatures that blend historic stories with humour to capture life in Penang during the days of early settlement.
Try Fresh Char Kway Teow
Fried rice noodles mixed with vegetables and your choice protein, char kway teow is the perfect balance between savoury, sweet and spicy flavours. Penang’s iconic version of this delish dish and can be found on nearly every street corner of the island.
THINGS TO DO IN HAT YAI
Wander Hat Yai’s Markets
From Kim Yong Market to Hat Yai Floating Market and Greenway Night Market, this city’s bazaars are full of imported and local goods sold at amazing prices. Fuel up along your shopping trip with incredible Thai meals and bring some snacks back.
Ride a Cable Car
Visit Hat Yai Municipal Park and ride up the park’s 535-meter-long cable car. At the base station is a look-out point of an amazing Standing Buddha. The car stops at The Great Brahman Shrine where the Four-Faced Brahma is set and at the top is the Elephant Temple.
Hat Yai Nai Temple
Home to Phra Phuttha Hattha Mongkhon, the temple features what is believed to be the third largest reclining Buddha in the world. Measuring 35 meters tall and 10 meters wide this temple is worth the trip!
Images: GOASEAN, Shutterstock.com and 123rf
Written by Sara Nabila Harris
Sara Nabila Harris is the head writer at GOASEAN. Currently based in Kuala, Lumpur and travelling Southeast Asia. In addition to research, writing and producing videos, she cracks dad jokes and enters pun competitions.
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