Georgetown is the capital of the state of Penang. In past, it was a major sea trading center which had successfully been forming a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures for three successive colonial periods. Such historical process has left an indelible mark traced on still remaining architecture, art, and about 3,000 objects of attraction, traditions, dialects, local festivals and celebrations, folk dance, cuisine etc. of the local population. This uniqueness has been proved by enlisting of the amazing city into the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
Penang island is famous for its crafts of local artists expressing the mix of local cultures.
The island is also known for its memorials, festivals, unique historical buildings, some of which are very well preserved and nowadays have been turned into museums. One of them, the Penang Museum (a military fortress built by the British during the World War 2), together with the Art Gallery, contains many historical items. Here you can look through the invaluable collection of historical photographs, documents, maps, paintings, antiques and furniture. Another historical place is the Pinang Peranakan Museum, housed in the 19th century mansion, has become the most famous museum of Georgetown which gives a complete picture to the unique mixture of Chinese-Malay culture known as Baba-Nyonya. Foyer, dining and other rooms of the mansion-became-museum have the touch of splendor of bygone days of its former owners’ prosperity and glory.
Examples of the outdoor art are murals by Ernest Zacharevich, a young Lithuanian artist, who vividly showed lives of ordinary people in the narrow streets of this historic city.
The folk art expresses itself in festivals and public holiday celebration, that are some of them:
- Anne Festival held July, 26 is one of the most popular ones here. During the 9 days there is a mass in the Church of St. Anne, marked with the 26th and 29th of July night procession with candles.
- Chinese New Year is the international Chinese celebration when houses, streets and buildings are decorated with traditional red lanterns and decorations.
- Chinese festival of All Souls (or Cheng Beng, or Qing Ming Festival) is dedicated to the deceased ones, so people are visiting graves.
- Hungry Ghost Festival takes all seventh month of the lunar calendar.
- Mooncake Festival is marked with exchange of artisanal and tasty pies (or moon-cakes) to commemorate the Chinese victory over the Mongols.
- Deepavali (Festival of Lights) is a Hindu colorful celebration, accompanied by fireworks, parades and street markets in the Indian communities.
- Thaipusam (Feast of Atonement) is a Tamil festival in January in the temple of Sri Mariyamman.
- Kek Lok Si (“Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas”) is the 19th century most beautiful and largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It is the s seven-story 30 m high pagoda representing a mixture of Chinese, Burmese and Thai styles. The temple is a place for many Chinese celebrations, and Chinese opera performances are still staged there.
- Built in the 1880s, the famous in past Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion belonged to an a Chinese merchant, which today has been turned s a museum by his descendants. It has 38 rooms, 5 courtyards and 220 windows. Today it is both the boutique hotel and the museum, and is famous for being pictured in few movies including Oscar-winning French ‘Indochine’, and has been highlighted by CNN, BCC, Discovery Travel & Living etc.
- Kapitan Keling Mosque is the most famous mosque of Penang island. It is the oldest and the largest Muslim temple in Georgetown, built in about 1800. Admission is free, but visitors are required to wear clothing that is given in the mosque.
- Fort Cornwallis was built in 1804 to defend Georgetown against attacks of pirates and the French. The interior of the fort today hold an outdoor amphitheater, the historical center and gallery selling handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram is a Thai Buddhist temple, famous with its 33 m long lying statue of Buddha of 19th century. It is the third largest statue of the kind in the world.
- Clan Jetties is a picturesque old traditional Chinese village on stilts over water, of late 19th century, includes seven jetties. You can wander around the settlement to see the traditional way of life and feel sense of its rich and colourful past, make photos, buy souvenirs in the shops.
- Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple is an Indian temple near the Penang Bird Park. It has the largest and tallest (22 m high) sculpture tower in Malaysia.
Asian cuisine capital
Penang is a melting pot of cultures, so as a result, the local food combines the best of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by Time magazine in 2004, citing that “nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap”. Aside from that, Penang is also ranked among top ten greatest street food cities in Asia, according to CNN Go. And last year, in 2014, Penang has been voted by Lonely Planet as the top food destination. Here you are some delicious indulgency:
- Asam Laksa is a spicy and sour soup with noodles and fish, poached, flaked mackerel, tamarind, chili, mint, lemongrass, onion, pineapple. Dish ranked 7th in the list of 50 most delicious foods in the world to assess the «CNN Go in 2011″.
- Otak-otak is pieces of fish marinated in spices wrapped in banana leaf and served steaming hot.
- Nasi Kandar is a dish of mildly-flavoured steamed rice accompanied by a variety of curry-based meat dishes and vegetables
- Nasi Lemak is fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and “pandan” leaf.
- Mee Rebus is a dish is made of yellow egg noodles,with a spicy slightly sweet curry-like gravy.
- Batu Feringghi is famous place which has been well-developed as a recreational spot with resorts, restaurants and stalls specially designated to cater for European tourists. It has a wide range of accommodation available for any budget toursits.
- Penang National Park offers tourists meromictic lakes, wetlands, mangroves, mudflats in coastal areas, coral reefs, sandy and rocky beaches where turtles come to lay eggs. In total this pristine site is known to harbour 417 flora and 143 fauna species. You can try rock climbing, jungle trekking, swimming, wildlife watching. The suspended above the ground 15 m high, Canopy Walkway offers about 250 m long of marvelous walk!
- From the observation platform at the top of the Pinang Hill constructed at altitude of 821 m high, you can observe the breath taking panorama of the whole island and Georgetown. To get the hill top, there is a modern funicular railway which climbs Penang Hill from Air Itam.
- The world’s largest Butterfly Farm in Teluk Bahang is a meshed area of nearly a hectare, the home for thousands of butterflies. Also here, you can see a huge beehive, scorpions, tarantulas, giant millipedes, spiders and many other interesting jungle insects.