Many of my travel stories start out on a whim, and Penang was no different. It was the perfect spot for a quick weekend getaway.
Penang is a small state on the northwest coast of Malaysia that was once a busy port town under British rule. The capital of George Town, named after a British king of the same name is where you want to be.
As the UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the location of commerce, rows of shophouses decorated with indigenous and colonial architecture fill the streets. Today, this has provided the perfect backdrop for boutique backpacker hostels and cafes to pop up all over. Herein lies the belly of gentrification.
Despite this, George Town retains its old world charm and that, aside from the incredible amount of street art makes it a pleasant town to explore. Best part: You can explore the town easily on foot. Just be sure to always have a bottle of water ready. Alternatively, cycle!
My trip coincided with the annual George Town Festival and there was buzzing excitement in the air. Definitely the icing on the cake of the trip for me.
SLEEP // The Frame Guesthouse
168 Lebuh Chulia
A new industrial theme hostel housed in what used to be a frame makers workshop. Located at the end of Lebuh Chulia where the streets are quieter, yet within walking distance from all the (food) action. But if you are a light sleeper, it's a good idea to ask for earplugs from the friendly reception people. They are free. Book a room via Hostelworld or their website at www.theframeguesthouse.com
EAT // Street Food
Lebuh Chulia. Enough said. (Halal options are minimal)
HANG OUT // Cafes & Bookstores
302, Lebuh Chulia
Awesome Cafe ft. Sekeping Victoria
164, Lebuh Victoria
Muntri Mews Cafe
77 Jalan Muntri
For the best savoury local desserts ever.
China House Penang
153, Lebuh Pantai
Walk in and walk right through to the end (after you enjoy some cakes). An experience like no other.
Gerak Budaya Book Shop
78, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling
Second Hand Bookstore in Chowrasta Market
Located on the second level of the old market, this is the place for great titles at a bargain. With books stacked precariously up to the ceiling, you can try looking for a book yourself though it is not recommended. Ask the owner, he knows where his books are and his easy manner will put a smile on your face. He will also introduce you to more titles that he thinks will connect with your soul. That's special.
EXPLORE // Street Art & Festivals
George Town's streetscape was transformed by Ernest Zacharevic. There are lots of painted wall murals and installations that fill you with awe and glee. At the same time, they tell you the story of George Town and life during the British days.
174, Lebuh Victoria
Born in Penang. Made in Penang. Inspired by Penang. Talk to the in-house designer who designs and oversees production of his goods from A to Z. Nice chap.
Bon Ton The Shop
86, Lebuh Armenian
Located on the second floor of China House, this is not your run of the mill tourist tack. Absolutely in love with the local, authentic lifestyle brands stocked up in here, such as Nala.
One word: Touristy. But there is enough charm to keep you sane. Also eat the ice balls here. They are a saviour in the hot, hot heat.
If you are a lover of textile like I am, this place is paradise. Avoid going on Sundays though, they are all closed.