The island of Penang is just off the west coast of Malaysia, once a thriving trading port of the British Empire, it has reinvented itself as a technology hub and foodie paradise. As with Singapore and Hong Kong, the British influence runs deep, and you can find everything from high tea, to dim sum and spicy chicken tandoori. Georgetown, the largest city on Penang was declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its uniquely preserved shophouses and streets.
What is really special about the city though it how it has embraced art. Throughout the city, there are sweet rod iron installations and professional street art murals. A day in Penang, is one spent hunting down displays and snacking on wonderful food from all over Asia. The Boatman above is over 30 feet tall.
The iron work, tells stories of the past, or about history of a particular district or street.
On “love lane” mistresses were commonly kept, it’s now a backpacker’s haven.
The famous designer Jimmy Choo got his start in Penang.
The painted murals, often incorporate actual objects. In this display you can sit on the swing, while everything else you see is painted on the wall.
This is a real motorbike, with a wall painting behind it.
Some, are just sweet graffiti, like Bruce Lee kicking the sh*t out of this cat.
Nights in Penang are times to venture out to hawker markets. A hawker is a group of carts all specializing in one dish or another. Common items are char kway toew (stir-fried noodles), laksa (spicy coconut fish soup) and fresh stingray wing barbequed over charcoal. It’s like a food truck rally but way better and way cheaper. Most items are between $1 – $2.50
Another fun thing we did in Penang was visit the Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) which was built by the “Rockefeller of Asia” and restored about 20 years ago. This is interesting to see because it is built in traditional Chinese Feng Shui and during the tour you get to learn about how to Feng Shui your own home!
Penang is a place that doesn’t deserve a ton of time, but is a great and unique place to visit as part of a trip to Southeast Asia. We spent two and a half days here and that was about perfect, just enough time to see everything, get fat and then get out of town. Next up a flight to untamed island of Borneo.