Great Asian Escapes - Penang, Malaysia
The wonders of Angkor Wat, the sublime scenery of Guilin or the thrill of the roulette table in Macau ... whatever you yearn for, you can find it just a short flight (or ferry ride) away from Hong Kong. On the following pages are six cities to get you inspired.
Penang has everything: jungle, beaches and, in its capital, George Town, one of the largest collections of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia. The mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian people who live here make it a cultural and gastronomic delight.
In George Town, do as Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham did and stay at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel (10 Lebuh Farquhar, tel: 60 4 222 2000; www.e-o-hotel.com). Try to get a room facing the sea. For something closer to nature, check in to one of the chalets at Jerejak Resort and Spa (No. 1, Mk. 13, Daerah Timur Laut, Pulau Jerejak, Bayan Lepas, tel: 60 4 658 7111; www.jerejakresort.com), set on a tropical island in the jungle. At Batu Ferringhi, on the north of the island, is Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa (tel: 60 4 888 8888; www.shangri-la.com).
House of Four Seasons (1 Jalan Teluk Bahang, Penang Mutiara Beach Resort, tel: 60 4 885 2828) for Sichuan and Cantonese food. Nyonya, a mixture of Chinese and Malaysian, is a speciality in Penang and therefore a must. Nyonya Baba Cuisine (44 Nagore Road, George Town, tel: 60 4 261 8035), formerly Dragon King, has been serving it for 30 years. Don't be afraid to try the excellent street food.
Hire a trishaw and explore George Town and its wealth of temples - admire the 33-metre gold-plated reclining Buddha at Wat Chayamangkalaram and mind the snakes at the Temple of the Azure Cloud. If the heat gets too much, escape to Penang Hill. Head out to Batu Ferringhi on the north coast for fabulous beaches. Trek through the forest at Teluk Bahang, on the northwestern cape of the island.
The climate is tropical. The heat and humidity remain constant year-round.
Penang is about a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Hong Kong.