Does George Town’s 4th place in Lonely Planet’s list put it among world’s top 10 cities?


While there is much back-slapping over the accolade of being listed No. 4 in Lonely Planet’s ranking of places to visit in 2016, it is important to be clear what that list represents and what it is not.

The promotion of the arts and its heritage streetscape certainly have contributed to making George Town a place worth savouring during a visit – and well done to the state and local governments for recognising this and to outfits like Penang Heritage Trust and Think City for playing a big role.

But the key word used by Lonely Planet is “visit”. So, this is not a ranking of the most liveable cities for local residents. It is a listing of the “best countries, regions and cities to visit in 2016” – not a listing of “the world’s 10 best cities”, as one daily put it.

The geographical area covered by the Lonely Planet citation seems to be George Town alone – its tantalising blend of heritage streetscape and architecture, boutique hotels, trendy touristy cafes and eye-catching street art. Some of the places recommended for cuisine and accommodation would be well outside the budget of local residents, who are reeling from the impact of GST.

Neither does the Lonely Planet citation cover the rest of the state of Penang or even the rest of Penang Island. Thus it doesn’t include quality of life for local residents: the affordability of food and homes, the state of our natural heritage like our degraded hills, beaches and sea water, the question of affordability of decent education and healthcare, and the adequacy of our public transport.

There are other more detailed surveys and rankings (even though they each have their own shortcomings) for the world’s most liveable cities. Not surprisingly, George Town is not featured in any of these top ten lists. Some of these listings, however, are targeted at foreign retirees, expats and seasoned travellers who wouldn’t mind paying RM20(!) for a disappointing stroll inside Fort Cornwallis (see video above).

For a debate on Penang as an international city vs a liveable city, check this out.

So while we can be pleased that George Town is now widely acknowledged as a place worth visiting for a couple of days, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Penang is one of the world’s most liveable places for local residents.

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K A Tan

Penang is still very backward as for as disabled access is concerned. Take a look at the Botanic Garden and the food court beside Fort Cornwallis. These popular places for both locals and tourists, used to have basic disabled access many years ago. But lately, the reverse is true (there are many tourists who use wheelchairs). Bars have blocked wheelchair users from going to the food court and Botanic Garden’s accessible toilet is no longer there. I love Penang but sadly it is still far far away from a disabled friendly city.


Vaping should be banned within the heritage zone. The smoke id irritating.


Very likely that cronies are behind the vaping industry in Malaysia.


“I want to see Malaysia vape products to be world renowned, and what will make us more proud is it will be the creative works of young Malays and bumiputera,” Ismail Sabri said in a Facebook posting today.

He will sell e-cigarettes at his Low Yat II?


‘ Katak dalam tempurong ‘, jangan syok sendiri, tolong pergi tengok luar negara macam mana mereka memelihara heritage. saya tak tengok ada apa-apa keistimewaan telah dibuat, (kalau ada) rasuah punya group jaga Heritage, macam mana boleh jadi baik(?)


While the island appears to be heaven for tourists seeking cheap boutique & exotic food thrills, Anil very likely to feature an article on the concerns of middle classes regarding imminent retrenchments at FTZ MNCs…….how to pay home n car installment payments when incomes ate affected by that R word?


This only reflects how whites/Westerners find the place, and whether it makes exceeptions for their “white privilege” – see

For the rest of us, the reality is as Johan commented, plus more: jobs, prices, safety, justice, etc. It is far worse for rural people.

james k

Don’t think people are getting carried away with this piece of news…just few dailies misinterpreting it.

Am sure Penangites are smart enough to know what it is- a ranking done by a travelling website for travelers on which place is best to travel in.
The name speaks for itself- The best places in the world to travel in 2016 by Lonely Planet.

And yes, still much to be done by the state government!
(But of course kudos to those who contributed in Georgetown’s success)


Do not forget that weak ringgit makes Penang an attractive place for foreigners to visit. Lonely Planet must have considered this factor, as its readers are mostly back-packers looking for cheap bargain.


Unfortunately Penang could only attract cheapskate backpackers traveling on budget. Better to have a casino (at Jerejak?) to lure the high rollers to benefit the local economy?


Penang is “The Place To Visit Before One Dies”. It has a ‘combo’ of heavenly street hawker cuisine, heritage ambience of diverse architecture, myriad & colourful festivities all year round, some remaining human elements of past heritage like old craftsmen, unique multi-cultural coexistence & friendly Penangites. The present ‘Cosmopolitan ke-liao’ of boutique hotels, hip-hop cafes & thematic restaurants make it the more receptive to a wider range of tourists from the slippery-clean Japanese / Koreans to the authentic cultural seekers from Europe. But each tourist has his/her own expectation. What draws them here may not be quite apparent to our… Read more »


Penang The Place Foreigners Visit & The Place Locals live with pride and dignity could be the next tagline moving forward? What say you Mr Anil?


Rent home for now while waiting for Penang private properties to crash at reasonable pricing.

If cannot tolerate RapidPenang, get a 2nd hand Viva affordable at RM12k range.

Put aside ” binchooi ” and can live with self prescribed dignity/pride not affected by commercialised face values.


Penang – The Place Foreigners Visit & The Place Locals Live with Pride and Dignity is a possibility. What is required is a political will + vision + private initiatives to make tourism a socio-economic balance that cares for the locals first. Let us look at today’s reality: Money Makes Disneyland. In Penang’s situation, the lack of massive tourism development fund (besides selective funding from Think City, a special project vehicle (SPV) established by Khazanah Nasional Berhad & UNESCO) means more financial reliance on private sector participation. A case in point is George Town Festival, a month-long Festival celebrating the… Read more »


On Nov 9, spring rocking-horses at a children’s playground on the Penang Esplanade were removed after photos of the design went viral. Within a few hours, the rides, which resembled pigs, had been removed and replaced with ones which resembled birds.

The Penang Muslim NGO coalition secretary, Ahmad Yakqub Nazri, was shocked to see the pig-like rides and declared that the people who installed them had been “clearly insensitive to the Muslims in the state”.


Penang is one of the places to visit before one dies, i find it amusing !!!


Don’t die becoming a hungry ghost missing Penang heavenly street hawker cuisine!
You may not have long purplish tongue to lick the street hawker food nor generous Penangites to offer free road side food placed at street corners during Hungry Ghost Month in the near future of slippery-clean Cosmopolitan Penang.
Note: Pg gomen may ban burning of joss sticks + Hell’s notes + food offering during Hungry Ghost Month in the future.


To those who don’t like what’s happening in Penang you can try other places like KL. Bitching don’t get you anywhere. Problem solved with less people in the island.


Some like Bee-T-And can’t rid of the word “pendatang”, an opportunistic slang to puff up its ultra-racist sickness & to coverup its phobia of multiculturalism, which btw is the way to co-existence in the globalised centuries now & to come.


Gerakan folks lately have been making noise (reported widely on Chinese newspapers) that at least a hundred old shop houses in the heritage zone have been bought by Singapore and Australian developers (at an average price of RM2 million each) to convert them into boutique hotels and cafes.


Perhaps so if Penang is a place to visit, not so much to live in?


Heritage zone needs hotels to attract tourist dollars since the manufacturing sector on the Penang island is losing investors.


Recently many unlicensed ones were raided.
Is it too difficult to operate legally?


why we are poor? if we are rich, we throw money to buy properties in aust n other countries?

kuning cilik

Malaysian are among the top property buyers in Singapore, Australia and UK.


From their conversations, many (affordable) Chinese parents prefer to send their children overseas “just in case” of any contingency and they will be more convenient to move about with the help of the “oversea-connected” children ! Since one cannot leave it to the last minute, right ?


Prefer Penang being less prominent otherwise influx of tourists and unsustainable commercialism inevitably drive up cost of livings, and create visible distinctions between have and not have capitalist indulgence domestic debts?

Johan Khun Pana

The Penang island and it’s Butterworth territory is still far off from being among top 100 cities. Here is my top 10 list for Prince of Wales Island to do. 1- Stray canines 2- Homeless & beggars 3- Jaga Kereta menace & addicts 4- Insect borne diseases such as Dengue and Malaria 5- Pollution such as noise level , vehicles&factories toxic gas control,raw sewage and raw industrial waste discharges 6- Effective roads , public transport ,traffic management and traffic accidents % 7- Effective police force doing crime prevention and no nonsense local authorities 8- Affordable and efficient public healthcare (Klinik… Read more »

james k

Some things are not entirely the governments fault..

Stray canine- irresponsible pet owners

Dengue- inconsiderate people with unhygienic practices (throwing rubbish wherever they like, accumulating water puddles in homes, blocked drains, creating mosquito breeding grounds etc. )

All in all, it takes everyone to make penang a better place…it wont happen overnight, but Im optimistic that it will given time

Johan Khun Pana

This is where and why a society and government both must have common sense. All canines & felines sold in pet shop must be sterilized The breeding of rodents,insects and mosquitoes are due to our irresponsible acts . Am sure nobody ever climb up to their roof to check their gutter. It is always blocked . Penang need more sensible and sane people. Hopefully things gets better. * We should also mention thanks to Mark Wiens & his Thai friend (Ying) for making several good informative videos of GeorgeTown&Penang Island. It is video bloggers like them that make the place… Read more »