Penang is one of the most popular destinations in Malaysia, known as the food capital of the country and for its own unique mix of cultures. At the north-eastern tip of the island is its capital, and one of the most interesting cities in Malaysia – George Town.
George Town was established as one of the important Straights Settlements by the British in the late 1700’s, but it was the mix of immigrants from many different countries that really made George Town what it is today. It is a busy city, with lots of sites and history to explore.
Here are 10 things to get you started on your exploration of George Town.
The Chinese Immigrants that came to Penang had a huge impact on the city, and they developed their own unique culture known as Baba Nyonya. Chinatown takes up quite a large area of the city and has some absolutely beautiful buildings to check out that line little narrow streets. At night, hawker stalls set up along the streets serving cheap and delicious food, bringing Chinatown into a whole new light.
Khoo Kongsi Clanhouse
The Chinese “Clans” of George Town all have their own Clanhouses, and some of the bigger ones are very impressive and still standing today. Khoo Kongsi is probably the most impressive in the city and should not be missed. The architecture and artistic detail is quite incredible.
If anyone could compete with the Chinese Immigrants in Penang, it would be the Indians. People from Southern India also immigrated quite heavily to Penang, and George Town’s Little India will take you to a place that feels completely different to the rest of the city. Walking down the streets here, you will be greeted with splashes of bright colours, loud Indian music and the amazing smells of Indian food and spices.
Colonial George Town
Since Penang was a British Colony, there are some beautiful old British Colonial buildings around the centre of George Town. These buildings will take you back to the days of the East India Company and the strong British Empire.
This star shaped British fort was built on the site where Sir Francis Light first claimed the island of Penang for Britain, and it still stands today.
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
The oldest and most important Hindu temple in the city, Sri Mahamariamman is a must see in Little India.
Kong Hock Keong (Goddess of Mercy Temple)
It may not be as impressive as some of the clan houses, but the Goddess of Mercy Temple is the oldest Chinese temple in George Town, and very popular with locals.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
The former home of a rich Chinese merchant, this impressive mansion now stands as a museum that preserves the life of the rich Babas of the Baba Nyonya culture. The museum has some very impressive antiques that highlight the amazing craftsmanship of this culture.
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Islam is the main religion in Malaysia, and George Town has several mosques, but the largest and most impressive is the Kapitan Keling Mosque, built in the early 1800’s.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
This impressive mansion stands out for its indigo blue colour. Built by a master Chinese craftsman, Cheong Fatt Tze’s mansion is another great example of a Chinese Courtyard style mansion that was common among the rich merchants of George Town.
These are just a few of the things to do in George Town, Penang, but they should give you a good taste of this interesting city.