Gay Penang: Travel Guide to the best gay bars, hotels & fun things to do

Stefan Arestis

Georgetown in Penang is often regarded as one of the best foodie capitals of Asia.

This city in Northwest Malaysia has taken the best from all the Asian cuisines, created it’s own eclectic mix, to produce this foodie paradise. Naturally, we were dead excited to go face down in the many food offerings, so we couldn't wait to set foot here.

We've compiled our favorite places to eat, activities to do, gay friendly hotels to stay, fun bars and clubs in this gay travel guide to Penang. Have a fabulous time in the food capital of Asia!

Sebastien trying chendul in Penang
Sebastien about to enjoy this bowl of delicious chendul in the streets of Penang

Gay bars and clubs in Penang

We did in fact manage to find a small but vibrant gay scene in Penang. Although there is no official gay bar or club (homosexuality is technically illegal in Malaysia), we discovered a few popular hang outs for the LGBT community:

1. Seventy7 Bar

  • Seventy7 Bar is well known as the (un)official gay bar of Penang. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest evenings, attracting a mix of both locals and expats.
  • Seventy7 is located at 54 Jalan Chow Thye, 10050 Penang in George Town.
Nomadic Boys with friends at Seventy7 in Penang
Hanging out with a few friends at one Seventy7 in Penang

2. China House

  • China House is an institution in Penang, located in the heart of George Town at 153 Lebuh Pantai street.
  • It's great for coffee and cakes during the day and becomes a cool hipster and gay friendly hangout later in the day.
  • It even has a pink tank outside!
Pink Tank outside China House
The pink tank proudly displayed outside China House in Penang

3. That Little Wine Bar

  • That Little Wine Bar is another gay friendly hangout, great for both food and drinks, located at 54 Jalan Chow Thye.
  • It is tucked down a side street, a little way out from George Town and attracts a mixed crowd.

Gay friendly hotels in Penang

We stayed in a variety of places in Penang, each catering to a different budget. These were the three we found to be the most accepting, welcoming and open to us as a gay couple, which we highly recommend. All of these places are located in George Town, the heart of Penang.

1. Seven Terraces

  • Gayy friendly luxury boutique hotel, right in the heart of George Town.
  • Each suite is grandiose and furnished with very expensive and beautiful Peranakan furniture. The staff are super cute and very friendly, and as an added bonus, they have a great outdoor pool, where we tried to re-enact Michelangelo's “The Creation of Adam” fresco.
  • The cost of staying in one of the suites at Seven Terraces starts from 550 Ringgits (£86/$132) a night.
Fresco painting fun at Seven Terraces pool
Trying to recreate The Creation of Adam Michelangelo fresco at the Seven Terraces pool in Penang

2. Campbell House

  • Stylish boutique hotel centrally located and surrounded by food wonders. It is perfect for a romantic stay in Penang.
  • The service was incredible and the little touches made our stay very special. For instance, every room was equipped with a Nespresso coffee machine and each afternoon, fresh iced tea with home made cake was placed in our fridge.
  • The cost of staying in one of the 11 suites at Campbell House starts from 350 Ringgits (£55/$84) a night.
The colonial suite at Campbell house in Penang
The Colonial Suite at Campbell House in Penang: “more tea Aunt Emilia?”

3. The Time Capsule Hotel

  • Very cool budget option in which you stay in a pod for around 70 Ringgits (£11/$17) a night.
  • The pods are split into rows of 2, 4 or 8 and each one is equipped with a TV, mirror, cool purple lights, air con, safe, coat hanger, USB and many more. It's like you've travelled into the future…check out the purple lighting!
Time Capsule Hotel pod Stef
Stefan inside his pod at the Time Capsule Hotel


Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.

Where to eat in Penang!

Penang used to be a major trading port during the British colonial times, which brought significant Thai, Indian and Chinese influences.

There are so many great places to eat in central Penang, so we've limited this to our favourites:

Stefan trying Indian apom
Stefan trying apom (Indian crepe) at this hawker stall in Penang


  • Red Market at 20 Leigh Street is a busy hawker centre selling everything from satay, laksa, dim sum, noodles of all sorts and many many more.
  • A mix of locals and tourists gather in the communal seating, ordering food from the surrounding stalls, creating an exciting atmosphere.
Red Market hawker stall heaven
The exciting, buzzy atmosphere at Penang's Red Market in Penang


  • Tai Tong restaurant is located on 45 Lebuh Cintra, famous for its dim sum and the very cute old ladies (aka “aunties”) wheeling around a trolley of these little Cantonese prizes.
  • You pick which dim sum you want from their trolleys and bon appetit!
Sebastien and Tai Tong old lady
Sebastien choosing his dim sum dinner from the trolley of one of the old ladies at Tai Tong restaurant in Penang


  • Hameediyah at 164a Campbell Street is a family run institution, famous for its murtabak, or Indian pizza. It’s been going strong for over 100 years.
  • Stefan tried to play head Chef at Hameediyah with some mixed results…
Stefan making murtabak Indian pizza
Stefan trying to make an Indian pizza (murtabak) at the famous family run Hameediyah restaurant in Penang


  • Teochew chendul at 27 & 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee street was highly recommended to us for Malaysian chendul.
  • Chendul is a popular dessert of rice flour noodles made green from pandan leaves, coconut milk, shaved ice and red beans. It reminded us a bit of the halo halo dessert we tried in the Philippines.
  • Sebastien just couldn't help himself and terrorised the poor staff at Teochew until they gave him his chendul:
Sebastien getting ready to devour his chendul at the famous Teochew Chendul stall
Sebastien getting ready to devour lots of yummy chendul at the famous Teochew chendul stall in Penang


  • Kapitan restaurant at 93 Lebuh Chulia street is a 24/7 Indian heaven selling Indian classics, like tandoori and naan bread all hours of the day.
Sebastien with tandoori at Kapitan
Sebastien winning with a tray of naan and tandoori chicken at Kapitan restaurant inPenang


  • Il Bacaro restaurant at 106 Lebuh Campbell street is the in-house restaurant of the excellent boutique hotel Campbell House. It is great if you want a break from local food and crave something Western.
  • This was some of the best Italian food we've ever had, rivalling some of the highly rated restaurants back home in London.
Bacaro restaurant in campbell house in Penang
Il Bacaro restaurant in Penang serves authentic Italian dishes

Fun things to do in Penang

Well if you haven’t booked a foodie tour or a cooking course, what the hell are you waiting for? Penang is THE place for it!

1. Learn about the food of Penang on a food tour 

  • Food Tour Penang is a company offering excellent food tours taking you to the popular restaurants and hawker stalls in the city.
  • Our guide was Junie, who drove us around to try Penang's classics like assam laksa (rice noodles with fish broth, soured with tamarind), chendul dessert, ban chan kuih (Chinese crepes), hokkien mee (shrimp broth with yellow noodles, popiah (similar to fresh spring rolls), murtabak and many more.
Sebastien trying laksa during our food tour
Sebastien and our guide Junie tucking into a bowl of laksa on our food tour in Penang
  • We loved our food tour and were particularly impressed by the way the 3 dominant cultures in Penang (Malay, Chinese and Indian) are so well integrated together, united by food.
  • A tour with Food Tour Penang cost 275 Ringgits (£50/$62) per person.
Stefan trying tose tisu
Stefan and our guide Junie about to tuck into some Indian tose tisu fermented rice flour

2. Do a cooking course

  • We did a cooking course with the adorable Pearly Kee, who is world famous for her Nonya style cooking (Chinese influenced).
  • Pearly is funny, sharp, sassy and very cheeky.
Pearly and Seb cooking Malaysian beef rendang
Pearly trying to show Sebastien how to cook Malaysian beef rendang at her cooking school in Penang
  • We absolutely fell in love with Chef Pearly and had one of our favourite ever cooking experiences with her.
Recipe for Malaysian beef rendang with Pearly
Learning to make Malaysian beef rendang with Pearly Kee in Penang
  • Pearly taught us to make beef rendang (a coconut milk based curry, cooked until it’s dried) and Curry Kapitan (a coconut based curry soured with tamarind and lime juice).
  • Our class with Pearly included a very interesting tour at the local market where Stefan made a new fishy friend:
Stefan with his new fishy friend
Stefan with his new fishy friend at a local market in Penang during our cooking class with Pearly Kee

3. Visit the UNESCO buildings and clan temples of Penang

  • Penang does of course have a great deal more to offer then its impressive mix of food.
  • The central George Town area itself is UNESCO protected, with a variety of beautiful cathedrals, temples and mosques to visit.
Temple in Georgetown, Penang
One of the many beautiful temples in George Town, central Penang
  • The Khoo Kongsi Clan house is also worth a visit, where our photo got hijacked by this group of very cute school children:
Stefan at the Khoo Kongsi temple in Penang
Can you spot Stefan at the Khoo Kongsi Chinese clan house in Penang?

4. The pretty jetties of Penang

  • The jetties are also popular to visit, forming a mini waterfront society, home to houses on stilts.
  • The remaining 6 jetties in Penang are over a century old and each named after a Chinese clan (like Yeoh, Chew and Lim). The wooden houses on stilts were literally built on water (ie not on land) so the residents could avoid paying any tax.
Jetty in Georgetown, Penang
The houses at the Penang jetties are built on stilts in the water

5. The famous street art of Penang

  • As part of the campaign to obtain the UNESCO status in 2008, the Penang State Government started a competition to install street art around George Town, with a full brochure explaining each one and where they can be found.
  • Our favourite was “Kids on a Bicycle” (being told off for their recklessness by Mummy Seby):
Sebastien and Kids on Bicycle street art in Penang
Sebastien telling off these naughty children for their reckless cycling
  • We also thought “Boy on Chair” (reaching for Stefan's iPhone) was quite cute:
Boy on Chair street art in Penang
Boy on Chair reaching for Stefan's iPhone was one of our favourite street arts in Penang

6. Keep fit in Penang

  • You may want to consider it after taking in all those calories. The newly opened 24 M1 Fitness Club at 12/13/14 Komtar Walk just off Penang Road, is a great place for it.
  • We each paid 90 Ringgits (£14/$22) for a weekly pass or 18 Ringgit (£3/$5) for a daily pass.
Sebastien discovering Gym 24-M1 in Penang
Sebastien posing at our 24-M1 gym in Penang

But look let’s face it, at the end of the day, as foodie travellers, Penang is THE place you come to for some of the best food…and boy did we go crazy discovering it!

Sebastien trying char kaoy Yeow noodles
Sebastien trying a plate of delicious char kaoy Yeow noodles

For more about our adventures through Malaysia, please check out our Malaysia travel video:


Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

45 thoughts on “Gay Penang: Travel Guide to the best gay bars, hotels & fun things to do”

  1. I was there for second time last month and love it there! I’m planning to move back closer to my mom & siblings who live in Indonesia for a couple of years mid of next year. Looking for a gurney paragon condo, it’s a very nice place to rent (too pricey to purchase). Great food, friendly, cultures and nice weather overall in a warmer side. Currently, I live in Baltimore. I’m ready to make a move!

  2. Hi boys,
    Thank you for sharing your travel tips in Penang. It was so helpful. My partner and myself can’t thank you enough to you both.
    Mark from Melbourne, Australia

  3. Thank you so much boys for reviewing Malaysia! I’ve always been curious what the scene is like in my country especially in other cities apart from KL. Keep enjoying our delicious food and grazing our cities with your cute bums and faces:)

  4. Every time I read one of your posts I want to simultaneously fix a snack and book some plane tickets. The food scene in Penang looks amazing and I would go nuts at Kapitan – that naan bread looks irresistible!

  5. I just came home from the gym and keep telling myself not to eat any more …. your pics really make me crave for food NOW! 🙂

  6. OMG that food looks amazing! I haven’t been to any part of Asia, but the cuisine is my favorite (I know that statement sounds like I’m lumping the whole continent together, but literally all of their regional cuisine is the best!). I should not have read this before dinner.

  7. This post makes me hungry and miss char kaoy teow! I loved the food of Penang and the people because my family is of Chinese blood and many of the food in Penang is what we ate growing up in Manila and NYC! I didn’t do a cooking class but it looks like a great activity for all!

  8. I never know where to eat when I travel and often end up eating just “anywhere” especially on the first day. So if I ever go to Penang, your post might be super useful. 😉 Ps. I wouldn’t call Lonely Planet the travel bible.

    • Ha ha ha thanks Kinga! Well LP was the default bible for Penang in the absence of a Floating My Boat post about it right? 🙂

  9. I’m not a very adventurous eater so markets like the Red Market are a great place for me. I can usually find something if I have more options. I think I would like the Chinese crepe and the char kaoy Yeow noodles.

  10. Always full of fun and adventure, you guys are so entertaining! That Time Capsule Hotel is just adorable. I think I would be perfectly fine staying in that nice space that has everything you need. (besides a Macbook, do I really need anything else except maybe a sheet??) Keep on traveling and sharing your thrills with all of us. I’m learning so much about the world through your eyes. 😉

  11. Wow it’s long post, great one with lots of adventure.
    I guide at my home town food & culture tour 🙂 put it in ur mind !!!

  12. I can’t decide whether I like your photos of food, the photos of street art, or the photos of the two of you the most 🙂 The street art is so whimsical… Thank you for capturing it and sharing with your readers. But the food photos… Hm, yum… I ‘m getting hungry!

  13. Haha, Stefan playing chef is awesome! How did you get them to let you do that? I think you saved the best for last on this list, because those char kaoy Yeow noodles look amazing. I’d love a plate of those right now! Fantastic food guide to Penang!

  14. All that food just makes us wanna eat the screen!
    This is awesome stuff. Asia is very exploratory with food (which we love!), so it’s on the list for a foodcation! Thanks for sharing this.

  15. Wow, amazing food! We missed Penang unfortunately on our trip to Malaysia, but we really hope to get back there one day and plan to visit Penang. The cooking course would be great, or the tour or both 🙂 And it looks like you really enjoyed your time there!

  16. I always look forward to reading your guides! They are so detailed and full of fun! Your food photos literally have left me drooling on my couch perusing every Asian take out menu I have here. I’d love to do a food tour in Penang and sample the confluence of Thai, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. The cooking class is such a great way to bring food experiences back home. Thanks for sharing. Will definitely be using this guide when I travel to Malaysia! P.S. Those pods are fascinating!

  17. Okay this fat chic is so starving now after reading this. What fabulous food you had and so many amazing adventure. I am so tripping over that sleep pod thing. Way cool. My son wants to go to Japan soon and I am now even more excited to plan a trip.

  18. It seems like Penang is not only great for food, but for a lot of other things as well. I’d love to stay in that time capsule hotel, seems so cool (for a night or so, too much purple light 🙂 ).
    And the food, it seems that the food is just everywhere and all around! Definitely a place to visit, since I looooove, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamse food. Great read!

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