Quick question: could you really visit Penang and go home without a souvenir? I didn’t think so. From silks and spices to artisan crafts and modern gifts, Penang is a fantastic place to shop. Here are the Penang souvenirs you won’t want to leave without and where to find them.
You Can’t Leave Penang Without A Piece of Art
Silks and Batik Art
Batik is design on cloth that uses a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. You’ll find Batik designs available in George Town’s boutiques and outlets.
Photo: Henry Tan Jie Ming
Sam’s Batik House is the place to find high-quality cotton and silk batiks, shirts, scarves and pashminas ideal for hot temperatures. The interior is a kaleidoscope of colour that might seem overwhelming, but the staff will help you navigate the huge range of clothes, embroidered cushions, and accessories.
Antiques, Arts, and Crafts
It’s possible to find the usual magnets, postcards and keyrings all over town, but Chinatown has the best selection of artisan goods and antiques. Find everything from antique telescopes to more suitcase-friendly ornaments in a range of curiosity shops. Some ancient trades have stood the test of time and it’s not unusual to see traditional lantern makers, shoemakers, and sign engravers working on their craft outside shopfronts. For specialised handicrafts, the Owl Shop on Lebuh Cannon stocks quirky handmade nicknacks based on everyone’s favourite nocturnal bird. Made from various materials, these creative gifts will also leave kids wide-eyed. Whether it’s a ceramic owl vase, a detailed wood carving of an owl or a mobile phone pouch, you’ll never realise you needed an owl in your life until now.
Penang Souvenirs for the Instagram Lovers
The Camera Museum located in Chinatown is a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration. Snap up some of its magic to take home with you in the form of its innovative gifts. Whether you’re an aspiring photographer, know someone who loves cameras or just enjoyed the exhibits, you can find everything from t-shirts and bags to handmade camera cases and keyrings in its ground floor Snap Shop.
The Souvenir You Can Wear Home
Did you know Penang has a long tradition of shoemaking? The iconic shoe designer Jimmy Choo made his first pair of shoes in George Town as an 11-year-old apprentice. Nowadays, Armenian Street is the place to find traditional Peranakan style shoes. At Nyonya Beaded Shoes, Mr. Tan handcrafts intricately decorated slippers of the kind that were worn by wealthy born Chinese. Choose a design from a catalogue of patterns or custom designed, but keep in mind the process can take a few months so Mr. Tan often ships the final product to customers.
Penang Souvenirs for the Foodies
Chocolate and Coffee
Caffeine addicts are well-catered for in Penang. The Chocolate & Coffee Museum on Leith Street houses a tiny but interesting free exhibition about their production in Malaysia. Of course, what people really come for is the free tastings at The Chocolate Boutique and the chance to buy your favourites, including chocolate-coated coffee beans, chili chocolate, and tiramisu chocolates. Nothing complements chocolate more than a good cup of joe, though the durian-flavoured coffee mix is a particularly acquired taste that is best left to the most adventurous caffeine lovers!
Huang Chen Hao on Campbell Street is one of the most popular places to purchase some top-quality domestic and imported tea to take back home. They specialise in Pu’er tea, a highly coveted variety of Chinese black tea from Yunnan. If you’re lucky, you will meet the proprietor, a true master in the art of tea-making. Any of the staff can walk you through the teas which include some that are over a century old, so you will truly be taking a taste of history home.
Spices and Fragrances
Penang delivers the goods to spice up your life! Start at Pasar Chowrasta where you can find a good selection of food and spices. The popular local market is also famous for its second-hand books and has recently been renovated. Alternatively, Tropical Spice Garden in the City sells organic dried spices from its famous garden near Batu Ferringhi. If cooking isn’t your thing You can also pick up various spice-themed products and handicrafts, including from aprons to shampoos.
Little India is the perfect place to pick up some sandalwood soaps, joss sticks, Hindu artwork and saris. Just follow your nose as the pungent aroma of raw spices mingles with the sweet scent of incense saturating the air. It’s a compact and vibrant area comprising a couple of blocks where you can peruse the ubiquitous temple decorations and flower garlands on display throughout the streets. Besides spices, you can find bargain-priced gold jewellery and Bollywood fans can find music and DVD shops selling the latest movies and songs. Don’t forget to sample some of the super-cheap and tempting Indian snacks for sale such as mouth-watering samosas bursting with meat, washed down with fresh coconut juice.
You’ll miss the unbelievable collection of sights, sounds, tastes and colours of George Town after you return home, but these souvenirs will help keep your memories fresh.