Set just across the first Penang bridge, Bukit Mertajam is one of Seberang Perai’s highlights and there are lots of wonderful things to eat and do in Bukit Mertajam that you can’t ignore. Few people come to Penang State and decide to give it a try at Bukit Mertajam (known locally as “BM”) and they are honestly missing out.
The truth is that the majority of Penang Island’s alleged “real living heritage” which has been upholstered to Penang boutique hotels, old-china-themed restaurants, walls covered with Penang street art, hidden bars and aseptic cafés for hipsters is in reality very much alive in Bukit Mertajam.
We didn’t say it, but they do stand by their name. The cendol here is very convincingly delicious. Best Cendol is a simple street cart set up under an archway with some wooden tables tucked underneath. The cendol (biasa for RM2.50, pulut for RM3) is still made out of an ice-crushing box that resembles it and has been pumping since the 1970s. On any given day, the cendol is delicious, but on Sunday the cendol pisang (custard bun) adds a twist of flavour to it and is a must try.
This classic food stall at N.74 Jalan Danby has been serving and pumping delicious rice bowls with black soy sauce and fresh duck meat for the past 60 years. They’re a fast sellout. Since taking over from her father-inlaw 33 years ago, the owner has stated that Bukit Mertajam will never be Penang’s spare wheel because people are drawn to the variety of meals available there. She also added that Indonesian and Singaporean tourists buy the rice, freeze the packages, and mail it back to their countries. Many come here with their local friends, too. This stall has its fame and is talked about often online resulting in even the young generation to come to try their speciality on weekends. Be prepared to queue up to get your fix of Bukit Mertajam Cup Rice. A normal serving costs RM5 and adding extra meat is RM7 total. You can choose between duck meat and char siew (the delicious Chinese Malaysian grilled pork).
Mr. Cheong has run his herbal tea stall on Jalan Pasar for the past 50 years, where this cheerful Chinese uncle pours outstanding sugar cane and chrysanthemum beverages. The owner is a talkative guy who likes to tell stories to his customers. Mr. Cheong, who has manned this stall since the beginning.After 50 years in the business, he still pours an excellent drink. The first taste is like herbal soup but once it’s gone down your throat, it feels like you’ve just eaten a sugar cane. It is very satisfying and not too sweet at all.
One of Bukit Mertajam’s worst disasters occurred in July 2019, when one of the town’s most important sights lost its heart. Saddeningly, a fire destroyed much of the temple’s interior and cultural relics, dating back to 1879, making it one of Malaysia’s oldest Chinese shrines.
A small yet exquisite altar with Teochew, Hakka, Hokkien, and Cantonese worshippers coexisting is located in this temple. Patrons used to enjoy a mouthwatering cluster of food vendors that were set all around the temple, and they would eat directly in front of its gates. The unique atmosphere has sadly vanished. You can still see the old structure behind barbed-wire fences today, and pray at the new temporary altar which has been erected in front of them. While it’s not exactly the same thing it’s still worth visiting as it is still a part of Bukit Mertajam’s history.
In terms of fires, this is Bukit Mertajam biggest and most magnificent – and safe, don’t worry. The Hungry Ghost Festival (Yu Lan) is a popular time to go to Penang between August and September, when, according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the doors of hell open and all the ghosts return to earth for a taste of earthly pleasures they have missed in the afterworlds.
The bamboo and paper-made effigy of the King of Hell Tai Su Yeah, which will burn as the conclusion of the ceremony, is enormous in Bukit Mertajam. It is 8.5 meters tall and 5 meters broad, making it Malaysia’s biggest such effigy.
Over a span of more than 130 years, the Yu Lan BM Festival Organisation in Bukit Mertajam has hosted this festival. It is recommended you attend this event in Bukit Mertajam rather than on Penang Island.
Cherok Tokun is a lovely jungle trek on the Penang mainland, one of the finest excursions in Penang. After passing through the Malay hamlet of Cherok Tokun, you’ll arrive at the park’s beginning via a country road, where there will also be stalls serving refreshments.
There are two routes to get up Bukit Tokun: one, a tarmac road, and the other, which is much more pleasant because it’s through the jungle. However, it is important to keep an eye out for the many insects and huge millipedes that abound here.
At the top of the hill, you’ll reach communication towers, and you’ll have to turn around and go down the tar road since it is gentler on your knees going down. A few refreshment businesses are located along a peaceful stream at the bottom of the hill, including a Chinese Tea House.
St. Anne’s Church, which was founded in 1846 and became a minor basilica in 2019, is one of Penang, Malaysia’s most important Roman Catholic cathedrals. The first authentic church was erected on the hilltop in 1846. What people currently visit is the second church, which was built in 1888 and is still used as St. Anne’s main shrine today.
The structure, which is all white and set against a tropical hillside, is exquisite in its own right. The greatest time to go is during the annual Saint Anne’s Festival, which runs for 10 days around the main date of July 26th and attracts over 100,000 pilgrims from Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even Australia.
You’ll be able to see the Cherok Tokun Relics (Batu Bersurat Cherok Tokun) in the church’s compound, which is Penang’s only ancient megalith.
People have preferred to remain on Penang Island and eat Western cuisines, shop in Penang’s Western-style malls, attend Penang breakfasts, and visit alternative markets rather than explore the town of Bukit Mertajam. But now you know, there are many forgotten gems and amazing things to see in Bukit Mertajam that should be recognized as among the greatest highlights of Penang and should surely be enjoyed by tourists!