During my tour of Malaysia I wanted to go to an island but I also wanted to avoid anything that smacked too much of seaside resort and beach. George Town on Penang Island met about half my expectations and surpassed some of them!
I was expecting to arrive on a country island but I got off in George Town bus station, surrounded by taxis, tall office towers and shops... Its best to get away quick, and find somewhere to stay in Chinatown, where the night market has lots of culinary specialties and some very interesting smells! The town is a melting pot of European and Asiatic cultures. It's beautiful. It's magic. One of George Town's signatures are the paintings on the houses, lots of different styles and usually very well done.
Its advantage, the treasure hunt following the street art through the historic centre.
Its disadvantage, the buildings facing the ocean which are a bit like a run down Miami.
During a trip to Malaysia, I spent several days in George Town on Penang Island. The town is lovely and there's lots to do. I explored its street art, which is one of the town's famous attributes. It allowed me to tour all its quarters and visit its fascinating buildings, temples and museums.
The food in George Town is also something you shouldn't miss. A multitude of flavours and dishes to sample! If you go to a food court (a collective canteen), you'll get an idea of the range of food on offer. Plus you've got Indian and Chinese restaurants, each with their own specialities.
I loved the time I spent in George Town during my trip to Malaysia, particularly strolling around the old town, which was gearing up for the Chinese New Year. I've always been fascinated by the 'shop houses', which are family run boutiques architecturally emblematic of Asian towns. George Town has a huge number including some of the best preserved in the region. You can read all about my experiences in my travel diary.
I started my tour in the Indian quarter, heading towards Jalan Chulia followed by a visit to the Capitain Keeling Mosque. I toured several of the town's Chinese temples and sampled a chicken biryani in a restaurant on Little India Street.
On the outskirts of town, near to Air Hitam, I visited the Kek Lok Si temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. It wasn't the prettiest temple I'd seen, but it's worth the detour for it size and grandeur. It's a busy site, so I suggest you go in the morning or at the end of the day.
George Town is an Asian melting pot, blending a rich culture with a cosmopolitan feel - a pleasing mix of old and new.