Penang is a federal state in Malaysia. When people mention ‘Penang’, they often refer to its capital city, Georgetown, which is the second largest city following Kuala Lumpur. It was entitled as the World Heritage Site in 2008 together with Malacca by UNESCO. Chinese people account for almost half of the entire population, which is the largest percentage among all Malaysian cities.
With a large proportion of Chinese ethnicity comprising its population, Penang is famous for its mixed culture, spectacular food, and traditional heritage. The architectures are well blended from its ex-colonial history, Malay culture and Chinese culture. To explore the city’s unique and attractive landscape, it is best to wander around the town.
You can find hawker stalls and small snacks bar at almost every street corner in Georgetown. During your time wandering around the town, you can just randomly drop by one restaurant, order some snacks and take a rest. Personally, I prefer Wan Tun Noodles, Braised Pork soup noodles, and the most popular of all, Char Kway Teow.
The Penang State Museum and Art Gallery
Let’s start our exploration around the Penang City Hall. Penang City Hall, Queen Victoria Memorial Clockwater, the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, Church of Our Lady Sorrow, and Wall Memorial are centralized around this area.
Among the five, I personally like Penang Museum best. Situated at Lebuh Farquhar, Penang Museum is housed in a colonial-era heritage built in 1896. Many paintings by local artists about the past landscape and lifestyle were displayed here. More importantly, many displayed articles are a reflection of the past customs in Penang, such as the decorations of the wedding bed, the picture of explaining the “Bound Feet” traditions for Chinese women in the old age, the past manual vehicles ‘Rickshaws’ and oil light.
One of the must-visit places in Penang is the many guesthouses rebuilt based on the pre-war heritage. Old Penang Guesthouse is just one of them. Located at the heart of Georgetown, it is just within 5 minutes from Love Lane to go to Ng Fook Thong Temple and Masjid Kapitan Keling.
Yap Temple, located at 7 Lebuh, was established in 1950. It has blended successfully into local Chinese people’s daily life. Yap Temple was mainly used to celebrate the birthdays of many God in Chinese religion, such as the lunar birthday of Qing Shui Zu Shi, Fu De Zheng Shen, Si Da Yuan Shuai, and Hui Ze Zun Wang. On these days, the temple would organize special events for prayers. In addition to its functions as a religious temple, it also has great artistic value given its magnificent designs and aesthetics.
Ng Fook Thong Temple, an exquisite clan temple built in 1898, was built by Chinese workers with superb skills and crafts. It has a strong traditional Chinese feature. Not only will you have a better idea of the beauty of Chinese architectures, but also gain an insight into the religions in Chinese culture and Chinese people’s daily life.
Dinner would be the very refreshing noodles from Yeap Noodles. Located at 227 Lebuh Chulia, all the noodles are hand-made instead of machine-made. Both soup noodles and fried noodles are offered, and I would strongly recommend the fried pepper chicken noodles and shrimp soup noodles with special local spices.
The Hong Kong Bar
Lebuh Chulia is the classic point for backpackers, lined withbars, cafés, restaurants, hawker stalls, budget hostels, and even many traditional temples. The night market at Lebuh Chulia offers a diversity of food, such as Curry soup noodles, Laksa, homemade coco juice and lemon juice, as well as grilled satay beef.
You can’t visit Penang without having a drink with young people from around the world. The Hong Kong Bar, with a slogan of “the fighting men’s bar”, is well decorated with plaques, badges, and lifebuoys. In particular, a collection of old photographs featuring the Hong Kong Bar in the old days was displayed on the wall. With beautiful melodies lingering hauntingly in the mind, a drink of cold beer will help get rid of your fatigue and recall your day at Penang.