Saturday, 12 January 2013

Penang Districts (1): Tanjung Tokong

This is the first in a (very much belated) series of posts which will attempt to provide some insight into the main areas of Penang that people consider either visiting, or buying / renting a property in, when coming to Penang.

First up is Tanjung Tokong.  Along with Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung (generally abbreviated to Tg) Tokong is very popular with expats and these three areas are often, along with Gurney Drive, referred to as being the 'expat belt' in Penang.  Whilst there may be a greater proportion of expats in these areas compared to other parts of town (Georgetown, Bayan Lepas and Pulau Tikus etc.) they are still predominantly Malaysian in terms of ethnicity and, like everywhere in Penang, very multi-cultural with Chinese, Indian and Malay being the predominant influences and indeed operators of businesses.  The main exception is Batu Ferringhi which is VERY popular with tourists seeking a more traditional beach style of holiday.  With its numerous hotels, restaurants, bars and bustling night market, in Batu Ferringhi the visitor presence is much more noticeable with holiday makers flocking there from Europe, Australasia and the Middle East in peak season. When the term 'expat belt' is used I also think that people are more often referring to western expats, as many expats from other parts of the world often opt for Georgetown and the industrial quarter (Bayan Lepas / Batu Uban and beyond), many for work reasons.  The fact that the areas mentioned above are pretty much the main residential areas outside of Georgetown (but still remain very accessible to it) and the more industrial areas almost inevitably means that those seeking a more laid back and peaceful existence will gravitate towards them, Malaysians and expats alike, especially when close access to a place of work is not a priority or a determining factor.

In terms of location Tg Tokong is approximately 6-7 km from Georgetown and is centred around the crossroads  where Jalan Tanjung Tokong is intersected by Jalan Fettes (centre and to right of map below).  Distance wise it is also 1.7 km from Gurney Drive, 2 km from Straits Quay, 4 km from Tg Bungah, 10 km from Batu Ferringhi and 20 km from Penang airport.  For those unfamiliar with the geography, as you travel out from Georgetown you first come to Gurney Drive area, Tg Tokong, then Straits Quay, followed by Tg Bungah then Batu Ferringhi.  There are of course many other areas but this series of articles is focussing on the main places that will likely be of interest to visitors and property hunters.  In terms of getting to other parts of the popular northern part of the island it is very well placed but far enough out of Georgetown so as not to be quite as busy.

Map showing the 'heart' of Tg Tokong
Precinct 10

Tg Tokong, like many other areas, has a good number of eateries in close proximity albeit many are of the food court and low-cost restaurant style.  The area changed quite a lot in the last 18 months though and is benefitting from some significant development including the very chic and stylish Precinct 10 which has added a number of more sophisticated restaurants, music bars and coffee shops.

Island Plaza

There are also one or two eateries in a small mall called Island Plaza (at the junction of Jalan Tg Tokong and Jln Fettes) which also houses a medium sized, but quite well stocked, Cold Storage supermarket and an Absolute Fitness gym.  Island Plaza is also being renovated at the moment and I hope that there will be a greater number of outlets there as it nears completion, I would also welcome the return of the cinema.

The new 'Vantage' complex

There are at least three other commercial type developments nearby which will no doubt add further shopping and eating opportunities once completed, including 'Vantage' and a complex adjacent to Fettes Residence.  There is also a large Tesco on the outskirts of Tg Tokong.

Prima Tanjung Shops
Additionally, there are a number of small shops, mostly around the beginning of Jalan Fettes in complex called 'Prima Tanjung' which is adjacent to Tanjung Park.  The shops are mostly small businesses selling all manner of goods and includes hair salons, electrical, hardware, and bicycle outlets alongside places such as Watsons (selling cosmetics, toiletries and some OTC medicines) and a '7-11' store.  There is also a pet shop, CIMB bank, clinic and dentist nearby.
Leisure Bay condo

Most of the dwellings in the area, in common with the rest of Penang, are condominiums with newer developments such as Fettes Residence and The Brezza, sitting alongside older properties such as Tanjung Park and Leisure Bay, all being located in fairly close proximity to the crossroads at the heart of Tg Tokong.  New builds are also planned with Ivory's Lattitude being one of the most notable, albeit some way out.

Tanjung Park Condo

As an area to live it is very much a question of what you want, and more importantly, what you don't want.  I have posted quite a lot on the subject of property selection and stressed that, for me at least, it's vital to identify what you don't want as much as it is what you do because the things that you don't want could bug the hell out of you if you rent or buy and mess up.

The crossroads at the 'heart'
of Tanjung Tokong
I have lived in Tg Tokong and still like it but now visit mostly for the eateries, getting provisions at Cold Storage and the social scene at Precinct 10.  The area is centred around a busy crossroads and Jalan Tg Tokong is the main road used by those travelling to Georgetown from the area and beyond.  It's a busy junction and you need to be mindful of the traffic noise you could encounter.  There is also quite a lot of building and development in the area and, while it will improve amenities long term, it carries the burden of the associated noise and dust at the moment.

The Brezza
The area around 'The Brezza' condo has several building developments and a large low-cost housing area (kampung) from which you can get a lot, and I mean a LOT, of noise from cars, kids, yapping dogs, comings and goings and in particular very loud, modified, small engine motorbikes which often race around both the back and main roads at all hours.  Noise issues are something to be very mindful of and I would suggest that anyone contemplating living anywhere, not just Tg Tokong, makes a point of visiting numerous times, at different hours, including late night and early morning on both weekdays and weekends to ascertain what the area is REALLY like.  Not much good having a great balcony if you can't bear to sit on it because of unacceptable levels of noise.  Living in a condo within a densely populated island is always going to involve a degree of compromise, unless you are VERY lucky, and it's about prioritising but noise is a serious consideration for me, there will always be some.  The type, duration and time of it are things that can make life pleasant or miserable if not thought through properly and investigated thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.

Fettes Residence and the yet to
complete shopping complex
As a holiday base, for me Tg Tokong would not really be suitable, evidenced doubtless by a lack of hotels in the area, those in the Gurney Drive, Georgetown, Batu Ferringhi and even Tg Bungah areas offering either much better access to Georgetown, Gurney Drive and the Gurney Plaza shopping mall or a more traditional beach holiday dependant on your needs.  It's too far out and only 'strategically placed' if you have your own transport.  There is also too little going on there day-by-day to make it a good holiday base IMHO.  Even for holidaymakers though I'd suggest Tg Tokong is worth a visit, if only to try some of the eateries there including the excellent (and to be subject of a future review) D'Tandoor restaurant at Precinct 10, Restaurant 113 and No Eyed Dear (both already reviewed) and the excellent bars (Soho Gastro Pub and Nueve) at Precinct 10 if that's your bag.

A bird's eye view of Tg Tokong
So there it is, a brief look at Tg Tokong.  Strategically well located with a reasonable range of facilities and amenities, a popular social hub, and which is undergoing significant development.  For some, the advantages of the strategic location may be outweighed by the somewhat 'urban' feel that the area has to it, the heavy development and of course the traffic noise which comes from the main crossroads and surrounding back streets.  It's something only you can decide.


  1. Nice summary there.

    Tanjung Tokong is definitely a great place for visitors. Straits Quay and Gurney together will all the beaches along the sea are places not to miss.

  2. I completely agree about noise being a consideration. My dream of sitting out on my balcony enjoying the view was thwarted by the extremely loud jackhammering and construction next door. I can't even sleep in late 6 days a week because it wakes me up.

    1. Presumably that's renovation of a neighbouring property? Suffered that myself for over 18 months in a rented property, the problem was made worse there because it was a new build and as such as more and more owners moved in there were more and more apartments being fitted out or even gutted and all but re-built from the inside. For a good 10+ months it was almost unbearable and even after that it was annoying. It's a serious consideration for people when buying off-plan or new builds IMO, when do you plan to move in, because in a brand new block, expect heavy construction noise between 9am-5pm Mon - Fri and between 9am-1pm on Saturday. And we are talking severe noise here, often with one of more high-impact drills going, other drilling and much hammering.

      Hopefully your problem will abate soon.

  3. A very well written and comprehensive look at an area not well known by many expats. I have lived in this area for 4 years and many people I talk to are not familiar at all with the area. Hopefully your post will help promote the many wonderful aspects of the area.

    1. Thanks for the comments. Hopefully the series of articles will help provide an insight to the areas commonly considered by expats, especially for those who have yet to move here who will doubtless see the names written often enough on websites and forums but will have a hard job visualising what an area is like, a problem which is compounded on some forums by residents being overly protective about their chosen area of residence, at times painting pictures which are at times not a true representation of what the area is like. It's human nature I suppose but, when writing information that will help others decide I think it's important to be objective and impartial, commenting on the bad as well as the good, nowhere is perfect :-)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.