Penang, north east of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, is a small, bustling place, alive with culture on the coast of a small off-shore island. Historic George Town in Penang offers more to the curious traveller, and you will feel inundated with Malaysian culture as you wander the narrow streets; animals, tuk tuks and local children weaving around you, dancing at your feet. Penang guarantees an attack on your sensory system; the smell of $1 Mee Goreng cooked on the street wrapped in newspaper, the sounds of distant motorbikes and excited chatter of locals as they barter, and everything you see is transfixed with colour and movement. George Town in Penang offers an insight to traditional Malay culture outside of the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur. For the avid traveller, Penang offers a few ‘must sees’; your senses will engage you, the culture will excite you, and upon returning to your resting place at the end of the day you will be exhausted by the mere energy the city has to offer.
1. Penang Hill
An afternoon at one of the oldest colonial hill stations established by the British at Penang Hill is a must. For RM30 you can take the funicular train up to the top, where you will be situated over 2,000 feet above sea level, with the best panorama view of historic Georgetown and the coastline. Spend the afternoon walking the paths through the cool vegetation – with a temperature of approximately 21 degrees Celsius the hill offers a refreshing change from the humidity below. Search for abandoned buildings overtaken by vines, spot monkeys, visit the temples and enjoy a coffee or lunch at the top, with a view well worth your while.
2. Street Art
Famous for its street art, the streets of Penang are adorned with murals that brighten the streetscape. Spot the cheeky cats peeking out from the window sills, the young children playing on the street whispering secrets about the city, or the abandoned bikes that are leaning against the walls, inviting you to tell their story, invoking your imagination.
3. Chew Jetty
Chew Jetty is a floating wharf, a clan jetty where locals settle for the night, before returning to carry out their work from their boats. It was created in the 19th century, and today exists as community of locals who have lived, worked and survived on the jetty for more than a hundred years – many boasting never to have set foot on land! Today, it is a lively place full of trading, market stalls and an exquisite insight to the culture of sea-goers, never mind the glorious views of George Town from the sea, and tasty fresh fruits and juices you can purchase as you wander along, sneaking glances into snapshots of clan life.
/// Written by Catherine Gierer