Penang, one of the “pearls of the Orient,” is an island state off the coast of Malaysia, which used to be a British colony and still attracts tourists in droves, especially to the UNESCO heritage site of Georgetown. However there is plenty else to see and experience in this curiously multicultural and vibrant corner of the world; here’s a sampling of the more unusual variety of experiences on offer.
Firefly Light Show
For this spectacular attraction, visit the town of Nibong Tebal, located on the banks of the Sungai Kerian river. The particular kind of berembang mangrove trees that favour the river waters also happen to attract the local fireflies. Gazillions of them, to be exact! They tend to put amazing synchronised light shows that beat certain suburban Christmas light competitions that some western countries are infamous for. Interestingly, the fireflies produce the light in their abdomen using a special substance called lucibufagens, not only for courting purposes but also to flash any potential predators silly! see more
|Penang Butterfly Farm – Image source|
Speaking of bugs, the Penang Butterfly Farm (830 Jl Teluk Bahang) offers an array of specimens you are unlikely to encounter elsewhere in one place – some look like creatures from outer space! If you are travelling with kids, they will love it here. You can admire not only a large collection of tropical butterflies at the farm, but also see rare tropical insects, scorpions, fish, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. This place is open every day, during normal business hours and conveniently also has a café on site.
Get in: Address: Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang, Malaysia, Phone:+60 4-885 1253 map
|Penang Snake Temple – Image source|
Let’s bring it up a notch. If you are travelling in the direction of the small town of Bayan Lepas and are wanting to explore your survival instincts, stop at the Snake Temple, dating back to 1850. As the temple name implies, the attraction here are the pit vipers living within the grounds. You can see them all cutely coiled around the temple altars, just waiting to be caressed by visiting tourists. Don’t worry, they are all actually devenomed. There is a snake museum on site as well, which houses many interesting species, including an albino Burmese python.
Get in: Address: Jalan Tokong Ular, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang., Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia map
Spiky, Foul-smelling and…Delicious?
|Penang Durian Farm – Image source|
Equally dangerous, although non-biting, are the local delicacy: the durian fruits. The oily texture, unbelievably strong smell and rather sweet, caramelly flavour are an unexpected (and undescribable, really) mix and an acquired taste, however once acquired, it’s love for life. This is what must have happened to the nineteenth-century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who famously described durian’s appeal as “a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds.” In response, the English novelist Anthony Burgess quipped that dining on durian is like “eating vanilla custard in a latrine”, which is probably closer to the mark! You can of course try them at many market stalls, or visit the Penang Durian Farm, which can be found in the vicinity of the Teluk Bahang Dam, and offers a durian buffet (!), as well as tropical fruit sampling during the local harvest season from May to August. If you are visiting Penang then dare to try a durian for yourself, and see if you become a convert!
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