On the east of Penang’s island, in the north west of Malaysia, is Georgetown. In terms of bucket-list must sees, most backpackers don’t have Georgetown down as one of them, but it has a lot to offer. Picture archways leading to little shops, hot noisy street food, and faces peeping at you from paintings on the walls. It’s cultural history has earned it a UNESCO world heritage status, as it shows traditional Malaysian, Chinese, baba nonya, Indian, Armenian, British and even Dutch heritage. The fun part is wandering around town, where you can see, smell and taste all these places.
Through the old town, buildings are brightly painted, cars come in primary colours, and vibrancy is everywhere. Between this, graffiti makes it come alive. Big stars are the children on a bicycle, cigarettes, and the motorbike, but there are hundreds. My favourite was a sneaky blue dog. They’re found down Armenian street, but there are loads in the streets around it. Look, look and look again, the little ones are hiding.
Hop over the tip of Indonesia, a quick swim and bam you’re in India. Not quite, but the proximity of Malaysia to India is not to be ignored. The Indian community here is huge! It’s impossible to miss, as you can hear it before you get there. Tailors sell gorgeous saris and shalwar kameez, with yellow flower garlands dangling in the wind. Buy bangles or scarves, dresses in daring colours too. Cross the road and cd shops blare music in a sort of bangra battle. Carts sit every five metres down the street selling delicious goodies for less than that chocolate bar you’re craving and huge pots of indescribably good, homemade food, fill the many curry houses. Taste it, see it, hear it, little India is amazing.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion.
Have even more culture and visit a museum. They can tell you more about the culture you see
around you,through Georgetown and Malaysia, and answer questions google didn’t quite clear up. The Pinang Peranakan mansion is the best for this. It was the property of Captain Cina Chung Keng Kwee, one of the baba nyonya people, a mixed race of Malaysian and Chinese. As I understand it, he was a politician, tin mine owner and mafioso. See the peeping shutters, where the women would woo the men through holes in the shutters wood. Or have a look at the lovers chair, where Captain Chung would sit and look lovingly at one of his seven wives. The house is beautiful, full of finery and history, and definitely worth a visit.
Georgetown Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens make a nice change from town, and let you see some exotic plants far from the conkers at home. Being a self confessed plant maniac, I adored the gardens. They have a space of a park, for a good walk and a bit of quiet time, but have all the technical foliage and enclosures you’d expect in a botanical garden. Watch out for monkeys! The little things run around near the entrance play fighting with each other, lovely the watch. People do feed them, but I’d stray away from that unless you’re a monkey dietitian. Other highlights were the cactus garden, and the fruit tree woods. We missed the orchids because we were out of season, but if you’re into flowers there are plenty of those. Entry is free and the bus from town is cheap. If lush green strolls are your thing, then have a day out here.
A few snaps: