“Your room is painted in Tiffany blue,” said our beaming guesthouse owner in Georgetown. After failing to find our slice of paradise in Malaysia, we had a feeling we were going to like Georgetown. In fact, it turned out to be a gem of a place. Here's why...
The former British trading post, named after King George III, is a multi-cultural melting pot on the island of Penang. A stroll around the trishaw-pedalled streets will take you through an eclectic mix of communities – from the incense-filled, shophouse-lined streets of Chinatown, through a haze of spices and wafts of freshly-baked naan bread in Little India, to the enchanting call of the mezzuin from the mosque. It's a wonderful experience for the senses.
Like most visitors to Georgetown, we were struck by three things in particular:
- The Food
- The Street Art
- The Shophouses
“Arrive on an empty stomach and graze at will,” advises Lonely Planet's South-East Asia guidebook. We couldn't agree more! You cannot go to Georgetown and not be infected by the locals' proud culinary heritage. Food is everywhere; be it the wafts of roast pork or fried wonton mee noodles, thrown in a bowl at lightning speed along with a ladle of stock and splash of sauce to create a piece of culinary magic. Or the street vendors calling out their “specials” - nutmeg and sour plum juice, anyone? With so many cheap, incredibly fresh and tasty treats to tempt your taste buds, it would be rude not to dive in!
You'll just have to take our word for it that this little lot was oh-so good:
Charming Street Art
We first developed an interest in street art in Chile (remember that? Back in Valparaiso and Santiago?). And there were more street art treats in store for us in Georgetown. The star of the show is Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, who was commissioned to paint a collection of works as part of the 2012 Georgetown festival. They evoke a certain charm from the crumbling old town buildings, and the throngs of Asian tourists lining up for that obligatory picture alongside them prove just what an attraction they are.
I wonder how many visitors to Georgetown consider a trip to the estate agent before they leave? It's hard not to be drawn to the beautiful traditional terraced shophouse architecture as you wander around Georgetown's maze of streets. Designed to combine an open shop front on the ground floor and living area for the family above, they evoke a sense of times gone by. Combining a mix of eastern and western architectural styles – a result of settlers from Europe, China, the Malay Archipelago, and India drawn to the trading post since it was founded in 1786 – Georgetown's traditional shophouses have become big business again, with some transformed into boutique guesthouses or funky retro-chic cafes. Before you know it, you're imagining the cost of your home away from home – and with the most amazing street food around the corner as your local take-away, who can blame you? ;-)