Penang is Malaysia’s food capital and Georgetown is its colonial hub. Together, they make a combination that very few in the world can match. They allow you to soak in Georgetown’s colonialism and rich history while wetting your palate with some yummylicious Penang food.
Penang is an island located on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Georgetown is its capital and located on one corner of it. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was founded in 1786 as one of the three straits settlements under the British rule. This British influence can be seen almost everywhere in the old town that exists as a UNESCO heritage site today.
Be it Fort Cornwallis, the cobbled paths so reminiscent of Europe, the Queen Victoria clock tower, St. George’s Church, Church of the Assumption, Penang City Hall, Penang Town Hall and many others, one can feel and see the colonialism effect everywhere.
But, this is just one side of Penang. Its cosmopolitan population that includes Chinese, Malaysians and Indians make for one interesting mix. And then add Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism into the mix to form a combo that has the potential to amaze the whole world.
Whether, you are at Jalan Pelang, Lebuah Chulia, Lorong Chulia, Lebuh Pasar, Campbell St, Jalan Muntri, Love Lane or any of the small streets in the heritage zone, you are bound to come across sights that will keep your mind bedazzled for a long while. For starters, you will see many heritage houses and the one that tops the list is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, which is popularly known as the Rockefeller of the East and JP Morgan of China.
There are many interesting museums too, like the Penang State Museum, but the one that really interested the photographer in me was the Camera Museum that showcased cameras, related accessories and photographs from the yester years.
Then, there is Little India with its loudspeakers, spices, colours and vibrant smells. The Hindu temples, its interesting culture and spicy food are there to appeal to all. The Kapitan Keling Mosque, one of the most prominent mosques of Penang also falls under this zone. Then, there are these beautiful Buddhist temples – Wat Chaiyamangalaram and Dhammikarma Burmese Buddhist temples and the Chinese temples – Hainanese temples and Kuan Yin Teng. It is such an interesting experience to see the culture that is an integral part of these various religions and temples and it is even better if you get to participate in it.
Georgetown is all about its food (especially the street food and the night markets), its easy walks around the heritage zone, its religious sites, its colorful markets, especially on Campbell Street and Little India. In my mind, it is perfect for a 3 to 4 day detour from Langkawi, the Thai border, Kuala Lumpur or the Cameron Highlands.
To get here, you can either fly straight into Penang, take the ferry from Langkawi, take the train from KL and take the efficient road network of Peninsular Malaysia.