George Town is the capital city of the state of Penang, Malaysia. The city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, when George Town was recognized as having one of the largest collections of pre-World War I buildings in Southeast Asia.
Indeed, George Town displays its unique architecture throughout the city center. The Shophouses that line its streets display varying stages of dilapidation and renovation. Although the renovated shop houses of George Town are beautiful, it is the more dilapidated structures that I find most interesting. Layers of varying paint colors and masonry work put the history of these structures on display. They exude character, texture, and color.
Street art, sprinkled throughout George Town’s historic streets and alleyways, affords additional character and culture.
The history of George Town’s burgeoning street art scene began when Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic created a series of wall murals in 2012. His murals, many interactive in nature, depict the lifestyle of George Town’s local people. Despite his works demonstrating signs of deterioration, they add to the intrigue of Georgetown as visitors hunt them down or simply happen upon them while exploring the town.
Some of the most famous and heavily photographed examples of his work are presented below.
Although cars are a common mode of transportation in George Town, the streets are dominated by scooters. Used regularly as basic transportation and for deliveries, scooter operators run traffic lights, dart between cars, drive the wrong way on streets, and use sidewalks as traffic lanes when time is of the essence. I learned very quickly to be hyper-alert when crossing the streets here.
Still, I enjoy the strong cultural presence of these scooters and they continue to be a favorite photographic subject of mine.
Below, an abandoned scooter finds its resting place outside the shophouses of George Town.
I spent a full year exploring Mexico, where dogs roam and rule the streets in many places. Here in George Town, it is the cats that rule. My observations suggest that the cats of George Town are generally well cared for.
I don’t think you could walk more than two blocks in George Town without coming across someplace to eat. Hawker centers, small street food carts, coffee shops, small restaurants that specialize in one dish, and trendy modern eateries can be found throughout the city. Due to Malaysia’s cultural diversity, many types of cuisine can be found here. The most common include Malay, Indian, and Chinese.
Although a multitude of dishes can be found in George Town, the undisputed king of cuisine here is the noodle. Noodle dishes of all types can be found everywhere and they are enjoyed at any time of day.
Some of the more common noodle dishes include Laksa, Curry Mee, and the famous Penang Char Kuey Teow. Dumplings and sweet treats called Nyonya Kuih are also common here.
Ah, that delicious hot bowl of White Curry Mee… I can’t get enough. Seriously, it’s a problem.
Charmingly multicultural and gritty, with historic architecture, and a growing art scene, George Town is a fun place to explore. The diverse food offerings, including a delicious bowl of noodles waiting for you around every corner, only adds to the rich experience that can be had here.
All this, and… well, temples.