The gold-plated Sri-Maha Mariamman.
The colorful, multi-ethnic, culturally charged capital of the Malaysian Penang Island boasts some of the best food of SE Asia, colonial and local architecture and a remarkable collection of the city’s diverse peoples and cultures set within the eclectic urban backdrop.
Text & Photos by: VERONIKA K
WHERE TO GO:
Georgetown tastes like an intoxicating urban cocktail. Get lost in the labyrinth of chaotic narrow lanes, explore colorful temples, dive into thriving street art scene or taste its hip cafes and funky bars. With its unparalleled atmosphere and heritage, the “Pearl of the Orient” as it is often dubbed – offers a rewarding experience for every traveler.
Its famous shop houses with shabby aesthetic line the streets in the Unesco World Heritage Zone. Don’t miss out on a stroll down the Street of Harmony symbolizing the successful integration of countless cultures and religions into Penang’s very fabric.
Kapitan Keling Mosque’s minaret towering over the city.
There you can marvel at the bright white edifice of St. George Church, which remains a lasting tribute to Penang’s British colonial roots and just a stone’s throw away down the street, you’ll smell the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Temple way before you see it. It boasts an array of giant pink smoking joss sticks out in the open courtyard and the shrine decorated in large scale carved dragon statues looks especially atmospheric at dusk, when devotees congregate to pray.
SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN
represents the oldest Indian Hindu Temple in Penang. Its colourful tower gleaming over Little India features thirty eight small statues representing the Hindu Gods and their various incarnations.
As you continue down the road, you‘ll see Kapitan Keling Mosque’s imposing minarets and dome tower over the city. Its interior features high horse shoe arches and white marble floors. Its façade is decorated with geometric designs, as human and animal forms are forbidden in Islam.
Green Mansion – a must visit when in Penang.
PINANG PERANAKAN MANSION aka GREEN MANSION
Recreated to its former glory, this majestic courtyard mansion was built at the end of the 19th century to house a family of cultured affluent Strait Chinese Merchants. It offers a glimpse into their opulent lifestyle and their many customs and traditions. Notable for its eclectic style incorporating Chinese carved-wood panels, English floor tiles and Scottish ironworks, the manor also houses over thousand collectibles and antiques of the era.
WHERE TO STAY:
LOVE LANE 23
Isn’t the name so poetic? Ideal for romantic weekend getaways, this lovely boutique hotel is absolutely unbeatable when it comes to both location (yes, it is named after the Love Lane St. it is located on) and the impeccably restored heritage building. The hotel boasts ten cozy rooms and the vibe is so homey, you’ll feel as if you were staying at your friend’s with an excellent taste in interior decor.
23 Love Lane Boutique hotel.
The rooms are spacious, well-appointed with all the original elements carefully restored and the walls are adorned with modern large-scale artworks from contemporary Malaysian artists. Original wooden staircase weaves through the building and its railing is covered in greenery contrasting beautifully with turquoise window shutters.
23 Love Lane boutique hotel is very central and within walking distance to everything that is hip and happening in Georgetown. It forms the boundary between the core and buffer zones of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site.
CHEONG FAT TZE aka BLUE MANSION
14th Leith St., Georgetown
Visiting some of the architectural gems built by the rich Hakka Chinese merchants is an absolute must while in Georgetown, but how about also staying in one?
The fascinating Blue Mansion.
Set in a colourful, ornate 19th-century mansion with Victorian stained-glass windows, this striking boutique hotel and historic attraction stands as a memento of the opulent lifestyles of rich Hakka Chinese.
Its marvelous indigo blue façade draws you inside to take in all the glory and grandeur.
The majestic boutique hotel rooms are tucked within the tranquil tropical courtyards of The Blue Mansion. Individually decorated in polished themes, the high-end quarters come with five star amenities, as well as bonuses such as iPod docks and rainfall showerheads. Some rooms have private plunge pools, others offer daybeds.
Facilities include an elegant restaurant, a warm courtyard dining room and a serene terrace, as well as guided mansion tours and a splendid cultural museum.
WHERE TO EAT:
The coffee shop scene has exploded all over Georgetown. There is a plethora of hip, modern cafes that wouldn’t feel out of place in Manhattan, serving specialty coffee and quick bites. The big draw of Penang however is its local cuisine, guaranteed to make your taste buds dance.
China House’s eclectic menu.
153 & 155 Beach St., Georgetown
Set in a stunning, traditional compound of three adjacent heritage buildings linked by a courtyard. Not only a culinary wonderland, China house complex has everything from a coffee shop, restaurant, bakery to art gallery, experimental space and theater under one roof.
You’ll find popular classics here with a twist and a wide selection of contemporary meals.
Definitely leave room for dessert as China House must be THE paradise of Penang for dessert lovers. We have never seen so many sweet treats and decadent cakes on display, since Charlie & the Chocolate Factory movie.
Nothing screams Penang more than its Street Food. Don’t miss out on Lok Lok – fun way to eat with and meet strangers. It is a kind of communal steamboat, but every ingredient is skewered on a stick, so it doesn’t float around in the pot of boiling water in the middle. Just grab your stick out of the water once it’s cooked. You can cook everything from shrimps, oysters, meatballs to even pig ears! Smother it in variety of sauces offered on the table for personalized taste.
Lok – Lok is a fun way to eat.
Another popular Penang dish is Wanton Mee – stringy, firm egg noodles tossed in a cleaner tasting sweet-savoury dark sauce topped off with lean char siew slices and boiled pork wantons.
Give a try Nasi Kandar, a traditional Penang Indian Muslim offering of fragrant rice and curry or get an Oyster Omelette at any time of the day all over Penang.
THE STREET ART OF GEORGETOWN
The historic blends effortlessly with modern in downtown Georgetown. To make the stroll down the vibrant streets even more enjoyable, in 2012 the local council hired London trained artist of Lithuanian origin – Ernest Zacharevic. His mission was to breathe new life into old Chinese shop houses and to raise awareness of the rich history of the streets. The project became an instant success turning certain areas into must visit destinations and the wall murals and graffiti are loved by both tourists and locals alike. You can find Zacharevic’s brilliant, fun artworks spread out all over the inner city.
The famous murals of Georgetown.