Shopping in Penang
Shopping in Penang comes in a wide range of options. Places to shop (there are tonnes of them!), hawkers food, fine dining and also treasure hunting in terms of souvenirs and antiques would surely occupy your time.
Some places have been around forever, while some, like Little Penang, was recently established to target a specific kind of visitors.
It depends on the kind of goods you are looking for. If you prefer up-market places, Penang has them. There are malls to cater to fashionistas and hunters of branded goods.
Check out Queensbay Mall, Gurney Plaza or Prangin Mall. And of course, the duty free shops at the Bayan Lepas International Airport terminal.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are the flea markets, such as the famous one at Rope Walk. These kinds of places attracted the most visitors. It is part of the game to haggle to get the best bargain.
If you want quality fabric, Chinese jewelry or Rolex watches, shop at Campbell's Street. This street is one of the branches of Penang Road, another shopping paradise for people who are hunting for a bargain. For batik and other crafts, it is best you go to its factory at Teluk Bahang. Besides getting some educational instruction on how batik craft is made, you can see what kind of subjects that inspire the artists there.
There are many reputable art galleries too, with work done by the local artists. If you are an art lover, be sure to check them out.
For snacks, pickles and other delicacies, do not miss the Chowrasta market at Penang Road. Pickles can also be bought at the ferry terminal in George Town. These businesses have been around for generations and a lot are still run in eclectic Straits Chinese shop houses. For your information, Penang used to be a free duty port. At that time, people flocked to Penang especially to buy consumer electronic goods. Sadly, the status was revoked by the government. There are now calls for the status to be reinstated. We can only wait and hope for the best.
For a little travel back in time, get on one of those buses that head to Balik Pulau. In this little town, famous laksa is waiting at its market.
It is also where you can get the freshest nutmeg or other pickles at the best price. During fruit season, indulge in fresh fruit tasting at very reasonable price at the fruit farms. Durian, the king of fruit (an acquired taste for many), mangoes, rambutan and manggis are our all time favorites.
Balik Pulau is truly one of the last undeveloped places in Penang. It has many styles of shop houses still left standing. Its street is rarely busy and the only roundabout in the whole town is only about 4 meters in diameter.
Little shops at Balik Pulau town also sell inexpensive clothes. They are mostly of comfortable light material. However, they do not last that long if you do not hand-wash each piece. They are dirt cheap, so what can you expect? I am sure these clothes were made for travelers who need clothes but do not want to carry with them around too much.
If you like eclectic Indian wares, find them at Little India (this is an area covered by China Street, Market Street, King Street, Queen Street). For intricate gold jewelry, browse through fine jewelers at Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).
On the other side of the island, along the roadside on Batu Ferringi, there is a night market every night. This market sells many little shody things that tourists like to bring back home to show that they have been to Penang. T-shirts of all kind can be found here. It is not unlike night markets in Phuket or Padang Besar.
For one whole month each year in December, Pesta Pulau Pinang at Sungai Nibong houses the largest collection of goods that you can find on the island. The fair is open from 6 p.m. till midnight. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes to walk this place. I guarantee you that you will drop massaging your feet after a night out like that. However, in recent year, the goods offered at Pesta seemed to be on the shoddy side, but it is still worth to check out if you visit and want to do some shopping in Penang during December.
Shopping in Penang is never exhaustive. There will always be things that would interest you, no matter what your preferences are. Bring a lot of cash, that's for sure. Come on, let's go crazy, have fun shopping in Penang.
George Town market research
George Town market research was carried out by MPPP, World Heritage Inc and ThinkCity between 18-21 March 2011. The objective is to get the public's feedback, from vendors and shoppers alike.
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