Sign on for heritage charm: Unusual venues in Penang for business events

Façade of the Khoo Kongsi clan house in Georgetown. Pic: R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock

WHILE Kuala Lumpur hogs the spotlight in Malaysia as a buzzing venue for MICE and business events, you shouldn’t be so quick to disregard some of the country’s equally charming states.

We speak particularly of Penang, an impossibly attractive island state in the peninsula’s northern region. The state’s well-preserved colonial and heritage architecture has made the capital of Georgetown a UNESCO World Heritage Site almost two centuries after its role as a British output and trading center.

Penang is also known for being one of Malaysia’s most important food hubs, but it’s not just the noodles visitors are filtering in for. The state has been the host of several major trade shows attended by buyers from all over the world, with many more in the pipeline this year.

SEE ALSO: Sarawak is the region’s alternative MICE destination

The Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) acts as the leading business and leisure events expert and helps delegates and planners organize events in Penang. The bureau is equipped to help with budgeting and booking venues, as well as with details such as food and IT services.

While Penang has its fair share of events and convention centers, it’s worth looking into some of the state’s more unique venues. By virtue of its coastal location and natural charm, Penang can offer experiences unique to those you’ll get in Kuala Lumpur.

Chief executive officer of PCEB Ashwin Gunasekeran told Travel Wire Asia, “Penang’s unique venues continue to get international MICE media attention, year after year.  This is in part due to the ‘beyond meetings’ trend that seek for novelty in the meeting experience and in part to do with the unique venues Penang has to offer.

“For instance, the WTM Connect Asia 2016 held its gala dinner at Khoo Kongsi where the delegates were treated to cultural performances from the different ethnic groups in Penang as well as to delicious Penang cuisine.”

SEE ALSO: Unique venues in Japan for business events

To help put Penang on the map as an events hub, PCEB rolled out a campaign called “Experiences Unfiltered”. Through the campaign, “authentic, varied, and eclectic” experiences are highlighted to set Penang apart from other business events destinations in the region.

Here are a few venues in Penang that highlight the state as an alternative option for business events.

Khoo Kongsi

The house is a mark of the dominant presence of the Chinese in Penang. Pic: CO Leong/Shutterstock

This ornate clan house is a testament to the elaborate and intricate architecture that is characteristic of the clan houses and temples found in Penang. The venue has a traditional theater and a vast granite-paved square, both which are ideal to host gala events and performances.

You could also request for a traditional Malay banquet dinner accompanied by performances such as lion dance (Chinese acrobatic dance), bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance), bhangra (Punjabi folk dance), and kuda kepang (traditional Javanese dance).

Fort Cornwallis

Pic: KeongDaGreat/Shutterstock

This sprawling fort is the largest standing fort in the country, and was once commissioned by Francis Light to defend Penang from the attack of pirates and military forces from Kedah. The initial structure of the fort was simply made of “nibong” palm trunks.

These days, the square is a popular venue for gala events, themed dinners, and contemporary and cultural performances. You can also request for a fireworks display and a colonial-inspired setting to whisk you straight back to the days of the British Raj.

Tropical Spice Garden

Tropical Spice Garden is a lush setting for your next event. Pic: Attila JANDI/Shutterstock

This eight-acre garden is a lush, tropical setting home to over 500 tropical varieties from the world over as well as breezy outdoor café overlooking the Straits of Malacca and the scenic shorelines of Teluk Bahang.

Aside from garden tours, you could also hold bonding sessions and team events over cooking classes where delegates will receive hands-on schooling on Nyonya, Malay, and Indian cusisine. Classes are kept small and personalized, all the better to hold friendly “competitions”.

Suffolk House

This stunning Anglo-Indian garden house – originally built in the 1800s – is Malaysia’s only surviving Georgian mansion. The restored house has hosted many a glittering dinner party, and was once home to successive British governors.

Not only do delegates get a taste of classically furnished rooms and unique Anglo-Indian antiques, they will also be treated to life in a mansion over lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner. The space has a ballroom that can fit up to 80.

The Habitat Penang Hill

Pic: The Habitat Penang Hill

This eco-tourism attraction is known for its natural beauty and commitment to nature preservation, both reason enough to organize a nature trail for delegates. The trail is set on the fringes of only one of two virgin rain forests remaining in Penang, said to be 130 million years old.

Walk through themed gardens such as the Red Garden, the Butterfly Bank, the Ginger Grove, and the Orchid Garden. If you want your event to gain momentum on Instagram or Facebook, here’s one way to do it.