Mention Malaysia, and the iconic twin towers in the heart of capital Kuala Lumpur come to mind. But move deeper into the Southeast Asian nation, and you will be captivated by architecture steeped in history.
Penang, a state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is a perfect example.
Gifted with mountains on one side and the sea flowing on the other, the serenity of Penang is a big attraction for tourists. Side by side, the huge malls and condominiums blend with the old architecture and greenery.
Connected with the mainland through the 13.5 km Penang Bridge, the longest in Southeast Asia, Penang is a rain-fed state where every old house seems like a chapter in history.
State capital George Town has many old buildings and mansions, some of which have been converted into museums now like the Penang Peranakam Mansion. It belonged to a Chinese businessman who migrated to China several years ago. It has expensive furniture and the decor leaves tourists spellbound.
People of all religions have nestled in Penang -- Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs -- and the state is dotted with places of worship belonging to all faiths.
Every old house seems to have its unique tale. Suffolk House in Penang is considered Malaysia’s only surviving Georgian mansion and one of the finest in Asia.
It is the sole surviving major Anglo-Indian mansion outside India. It was built in the early 1800s in the pepper estate owned by Captain Francis Light, founder of the British settlement in Penang.
The blue beaches in the state are famous and form a major attraction for tourists game for adventure sports like para sailing, waterskiing, sailing and windsurfing.
A couple from Dubai told IANS: “This is our second visit to Penang. We just love the scenic beauty of the place and its calmness.”
Another state, Malacca, with its share of old buildings and a rich variety of flora also has its irresistible charm.
The narrow Malacca river meanders through the city, raising its tourism profile.
A cruise on the river, accompanied by music, gives a feeling of Venice with well-decorated buildings, coffee parlours and giant wheels standing on the banks.
Dense palm tree cultivation is one of the common features of this spot, with the picturesque town of double-roof houses being an instant hit with first-timers.
Adding to the flavour of these places is the Malaysian cuisine. Various kinds of sea food like squid, octopus, prawn, crabs and sea fish cooked and served in the traditional Malaysian style are a favourite with tourists. Dishes like nasi lemak and satey are a must-eat.
But in case Malaysian food does not tickle your palette, you can opt for south Indian dishes as the place is densely populated with Tamils.