Spicy fragrances wafting everywhere you go, colorful shops lining the streets, plenty of bustle as people go about their daily business, quaint colonial-style buildings, intricately designed temples, Indian music rending the air and a distinct scent of incense filling up your senses as you walk along: this is what you get when you enter into the Little India district of Penang!
Nestled in the heart of George Town, Little India in Penang is one of the best places to visit in Malaysia. Here’s why: it’s unique, it’s colorful, it’s vibrant, it’s historic and it’s one of the best and most reasonable places to eat and shop in Penang. So if you’re wondering how you’re going to be spending your time in this city, worry not: Little India is one of the best things to do in Penang!
The Little India ethnic enclave is set along a few of the major streets of George Town: Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia, Jalan Masjid Kapital Keling and Jalan Pasar! While Little India offers a host of hotels and other accommodation arrangements it’s also easy to get to if you’re staying elsewhere within or in close proximity to George Town. If you’re looking for where to go in Penang or what to do in Penang, hop onto a bicycle rickshaw and ask the driver to drop you here!
Malaysia is quite close to the southern side of India, which is one of the reasons why many southern Indians migrated to Penang in the early 1800s. When they first landed in Penang, they bought lots around these streets and built up their own community complete with homes, shops, temples and community areas.
This ethnic enclave was then given the name Little India, and reflects the culture, traditions, language and legacy of South Indians, especially the Tamil community of South India. Little India was one of the foremost enclaves that was designed to take advantage of Penang’s reputation as one of the best trading posts in the East, and reflects the traditional merchant culture up to today!
Unlike the quiet, elegant and quaint atmosphere that pervades the whole of George Town, Little India is loud, colorful, vibrant, fascinating and aromatic! Gabled eateries with the wafting scent of Butter Chicken and Masala Dosa jostle for space with antique shops, blasting Indian music occupies the same air as the chanting mantras from the temples and small, colorful shops selling Indian outfits vie for space with heavily-secured gold shops with beautiful displays showcasing the latest designs! Little India is a place to check out if you love a bit of fun, a bit of adventure and a bit of the extra-ordinary!
What to Buy
Little India offers tourists and locals a chance to try out something new that is very much outside their comfort zone! From colorful Indian saris and beautifully-embroidered kurta pajamas to hot spices and intricately-crafted Indian gold jewelry, Little India offers myriad options to every local and tourist alike.
What to See
Little India is home to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu Temple in Penang and definitely worth a look. With its gorgeous architecture, symbolic carvings and resplendent statues of the Hindu deities, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is unquestionably one of the best things to see in Penang.
Keeping Safe and Healthy
With its large number of coffee shops, food-stalls and restaurants, Little India is a food-lover’s paradise. However, it doesn’t hurt to check out the cleanliness levels of where you’re eating at. Also, most shops close by ten at night, after which this area gets quite lonesome. Penang tends to be very hot, so it’s always advisable to have an umbrella is you’re going for a stroll in Little India to avoid sunstroke.
Malaysia is an eco-friendly tourism destination, so when traveling to Malaysia, please adapt responsible travel principles and try to maintain the culture and environment around you as much as you can!