George Town is the main city on the island of Penang, near Malaysia’s border with Thailand. I was one of the British colonial Straits Settlements along with Malacca (Melaka) and Singapore. It’s interesting for both its colonial history and its modern day street art scene.
I arrived in Penang on my birthday but as readers of my blog will know I was sick in Malaysia (and have now had to come home as I developed another illness which I am currently on treatment for) so I couldn’t do much other than stay in my room for a couple of days. I was staying at The 80’s Guesthouse which is an old building, it was a good place and the I didn’t mind splashing a bit extra to get myself a private room as it is well located on ‘Love Lane’ which is in the colonial heart of the city.
Once I was feeling better (basically there was a handful of days between my stomach illness and then the illness which sent me home developing) I spent the time I had there walking around George Town seeing all the street art, checking out Chinese temples and colonial history and eating food in the various cafe’s that are dotted around the city.
First off here’s a few pictures of my favorite street art that I came across, some of it random and others using the tourist maps that have it numbered to help you hunt for pieces! It was pretty cool seeing other backpackers wandering around looking for the artwork too. Some of it was done by Ernest Zacharevic who was a guy the city administration commissioned to do some murals around the city. The rest I don’t know, but it’s really cool!
Dotted around the city there are these artistic historical explanations about the street and what used to go on there. It was cool to look at these and get some historical context to what I was exploring.
I had a look at the Chinese Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple which describes itself as a community temple devoted to the worship of Twa Pen Kong (God of prosperity and morality). It was built in the 1850’s. It’s a great example of the Chinese community in Penang.
I also checked out Chew Jetty which is an old Chinese settlement on the waterfront. It was very colourful and interesting to walk around.
Fort Cornwallis is located where British Colonial Francs Light landed in 1786 to occupy Penang island as a British colony. He served as ‘Superindendant’ of the island until his death. There’s not much to look at there, but I wanted to see it for it’s historical significance.
Located in the fort is the famous Seri Rambai Cannon, which bears the mark of the Dutch East Indies and whose history dates back to the 1600’s. There is a long detail to the history of it so if your interested you can look on Wikipedia, but to summaries essentially it was given by the Dutch to a local Sultan and through various incidents ended up in the possession of Pirates before being seized by the British, put on display in George Town, removed by the Japanese in World War 2 and eventually ended up on display in the fort!
On my last full day I went up to Penang Hill. After taking a bus to get out there I then took the funicular railway to the top of the hill. Once there you get some good views over George Town, though it was quite cloudy when I looked.
At the top there is a Hindu Temple and a Mosque. There are gardens and a few things to look around at. I decided to go for a walk (most people seemed to be getting lifts in trucks). I came across this old colonial post box which used to be in George Town but had been to the hill to be displayed. It was made in the UK during the reign of Queen Victoria.
I walked a bit further and paid to enter the Monkey Cup Gardens. Here there all different kids of ‘Monkey Cup’ plants and things like venus fly traps and so forth. The lady there gave me a tour and explained all about the plants and how they eat insects and frogs and alike.
Other things I did were just generally wander around and see how all the different cultural influences have come together. There’s a few other colonial bits as well as the fort and various other religious buildings. And the backstreets always offer up some interesting sights, old buildings and alike. There’s other stuff to see on Penang island as well that I didn’t get around to this time, so hopefully I can go back again in the future!