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Exploring Penang George town

Let’s do a walking tour exploring Penang George Town, Malaysia. If you’re looking to explore the rich history and culture of Penang, then there’s no better way to do it than on foot. We will explore three of the most popular attractions in Penang (also known as Pinang). Namely, Fort Cornwallis, Pinang Peranakan Mansion and Penang Street Art- and give you some tips on how to make the most of your visit.

Peranakan Mansion Living areas you can visit on your explorations of Penang George town
Peranakan Mansion Living areas you can visit on your explorations of Penang George town.

Furthermore, walking through the narrow streets and alleys of George Town will allow you to appreciate the unique blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. Also, this make up this vibrant city. Geographically, the town in the city of Penang is located 711.5 km (about an 8 hour drive on the north south AH2 highway) north of Singapore. Notably further north from Kuala Lumpur (355.8 km, 4 hr 21 min drive away).

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Penang port jetty
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Ship berthed
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Roads

Also, if you are here from a cruise, the town of Penang is also a walkway distance from the Penang (Pinang) main port, located about a 2km walk from the main pier. George town is also home to some quirky museums. Examples include the Upside down, ghost museum, the Penang 3D Trick Art Museum and the Wonder Food Museum. Most of these museum typically have an entry fee of about $5 per head and closes about 5-6pm.

Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis cannons, late 18th century fort
Fort Cornwallis cannons, late 18th century fort.

Moreover, Fort Cornwallis is a rather gimmicky attraction. It is a preserved fortified compound which is now used mostly as a park and events ground within the fort walls. These walls are over 2 floors high and lined with iron marine canons which presumably used to defended the lands from invading marine attacks.

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Fort Cornwallis
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Fort interior
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Bay by Fort Cornwallis

Additionally, Fort Cornwallis Built in the late 18th century by the British East India Company. It is one of the most significant historical sites in Penang. This star-shaped fort was named after Charles Cornwallis, the Governor-General of India at the time, and was designed to protect the British colony from attacks by sea.

Padang Kota Lama (Esplanade), a vast open field just off Fort Cornwallis
Padang Kota Lama (Esplanade), a vast open field just off Fort Cornwallis.

Also, today, the fort is a popular tourist attraction. You can explore the various sections of the fort, including the barracks, prison cells and ammunition storage areas. The fort also houses a small museum, which displays artefacts and exhibits related to Penang’s colonial history. There is a large open esplanade field called the Padang Kota Lama used to hold events. It leads you from the fort area into the heart of historic Penang George town itself.

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Playgrounds
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Walk along streets of George Town
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Guide

A town and place of culture

Peranakan Museum entrance, a must visit.
Peranakan Museum entrance, a must visit.

The Peranakan Museum is a must visit. Within, you experience the rich cultural heritage of Penang’s Peranakan community. A visit to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a must.

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Museum lobby
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Entrances
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Kitchenette

Additionally, I was brought around by Albert, a proud Baba himself. This beautifully restored mansion was built in the late 19th century. It was once the residence and office of Chung Keng Kwee, a wealthy Peranakan merchant. Also, the mansion has been converted into a museum. Here, visitors can explore the opulent living quarters, ornate furniture and antique porcelain and silverware. Also, the mansion also has a courtyard, which is home to a traditional Peranakan kitchen and a temple.

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Looking up
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Dining hall
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Courtyards

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Welcome to the Peranakan Museum in the heart of Penang George town
Welcome to the Peranakan Museum in the heart of Penang George town.

As you step into the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, you’ll immediately be transported back in time to the late 19th century. This beautiful mansion was built in the 1890s and was once the home of a prominent Peranakan family in Penang.

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Trinkets
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King fisher jewellery
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Jewel vault

One of the highlights of the mansion is the intricate woodcarvings that adorn the doors, windows, and furniture. The art pieces has a attention to detail, brought about by skills of craftsman. They are impressive in their own right, allowing you to marvel at the intricate designs that are unique to Peranakan culture.

Rest areas on the upper floors of the Peranakan Museum
Rest areas on the upper floors of the Peranakan Museum.
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Trinkets
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Hallway
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Common areas

A museum of Peranakan

Moreover, as you move through the mansion, you’ll come across various displays of traditional Peranakan costumes, jewelry, and accessories. These items are beautifully preserved and offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Peranakan elite.

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Seating
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Seating areas
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Entrance

Also, the dining room is also a vast and impressive one. Here, you’ll see an intricately carved dining table that can seat up to 20 people. The table is surrounded by ornate chairs and is set with traditional Peranakan tableware, including delicate porcelain bowls and plates.

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Dining table
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Museum restaurant
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On the streets

Another highlight of the mansion is the bridal chamber. This room is lavishly decorated with silk fabrics, intricate embroidery, and ornate furniture. The room is a testament to the importance of marriage in Peranakan culture and the wealth and status that were associated with a wedding.

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Photos
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Courtyard
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Kitchen

Additionally, the unique thing about Peranakan families is the blend of Chinese and Malay cultures under one culture, which notably could have only existed during the British rule of Malaysia, when the country was colonised by the British. Interestingly, for the record the owner of the mansion was a Mafia boss which operated in the town.

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Prayer altar
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Museum gallery
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Bound feet

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is recommended destination for history and culture fans, especially on the Peranakan community. Also, the mansion is a beautiful example of Peranakan architecture and design, and the displays provide a unique insight into the lifestyle and customs of this fascinating community.

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Living areas
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Bedrooms
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Gallery

 

Penang George town street art

Various Penang George town street art by local artists, often with a local flair
Various street art by local artists, often with a local flair.

Furthermore, George town is UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring graphic street art depicting the life of the people of Penang. Also, Penang’s renowned for its street art is a major draw for tourists.

Penang George town Street Art by Ernest Zacharevic "Boy on Motorbike", a favorite of visitors here
Street Art by Ernest Zacharevic “Boy on Motorbike”, a favorite of visitors here.

Also, the street art scene in Penang started in 2012 when Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist, was commissioned by the Penang Municipal Council to create a series of murals around the city.

Penang George town smoking art display
Smoking art display at the art streets.

Today, there are over 50 murals and installations spread throughout George Town. You can take an easy self-guided tour to explore them all.

Street art streets along Penang art and Beach street along Lbh Armenian
Street art streets along Penang art and Beach street along Lbh Armenian.
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Random art
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Metal art
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Wireart

Also, the street art takes a variety  of forms. Some are murals, paintings and couple of 3D ones made out of black coated iron bars bend and stylised into wall metal sculpture murals.

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More murals
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Old style
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Mosque

Moreover, some of the most popular murals include “Little Children on a Bicycle,” “Reaching Up” and “Boy on Motorbike” by Ernest Zacharevic at Lebuh Ah Quee. Also, notable Boy on motorcycle and boy on bicycle. It is tad an Asian representation and inspired by Banksys’s street art.

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Lim Kongsi temple
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Lorong pitt
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Beach street

Furthermore, within the district too is the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi temple (Opens 09:00 – 17:00). It is a large Chinese clanhouse adored with elaborate and highly ornamented architecture. It is one of the city’s major historic attractions, and truly a mark of the dominant presence of the Chinese here in the city.

Old streets of Penang George town
Roaming the old streets.

Tips for exploring Penang George town on foot:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes – George Town is a pedestrian-friendly city, but the streets can be uneven and hilly in some areas. You will at times walk along streets with traffic with uneven pavements, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes.
  2. Bring water and sunscreen – Penang is a hot and humid place, so make sure you stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.
  3. Take a map – Although George Town is a small city, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of streets and alleys, so take a map or use a navigation app on your phone.
  4. Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon – The heat can be intense in the middle of the day, so plan your visit for the cooler parts of the day.
  5. Don’t rush – George Town is a city that rewards slow exploration. Take your time, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the city, and soak up the unique atmosphere.
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Stalls
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Cafes
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Penang streets

Wrapping up, if food is your fancy, the district is home to several open air hawker centers such as the Presgrave and Gurney Drive for authentic hawker food. Also, the Jetty Street Hawker Centre is a convenient one along the Pengkalan weld road.

Street side hawker centers dot the Penang streets at night
Street side hawker centers dot the Penang streets at night.
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Stores
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Street stores
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Ice kacang

Kek Lok Si Temple

In addition, the Kek Lok Si Temple at Jalan Balik Pulau is one of mention. It is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia. It is situated on the western side of Penang George town on a hill. Also, it sits about a 12 km distance from the Penang port.

The grand Buddha status you can visit at the Kek Lok Si Temple at Jalan Balik Pulau, a short drive from Penang George town
The grand Buddha status you can visit at the Kek Lok Si Temple at Jalan Balik Pulau, a short drive from Penang George town.

The highlight up here is a large buddha statue which sits and is visible on the top of the hill. Also, the temple is one worthy to visit despite located out of George town. Remarkably, it is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It is an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists in Southeast Asia, with visitors from Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore.

The views from top of Kek Lok Si Temple at Jalan Balik Pulau
The views from top of Kek Lok Si Temple at Jalan Balik Pulau.

Also, the temple is home to an large assortment of prayer halls on top of a hill overlooking the town. It offers a vast unobstructed views of the Penang city and George town in the distance. Also, the temple is served by a motorised tram, though driving up is also an option.

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Interior
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Pier night
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Sail ship

In conclusion, exploring Penang George town on foot is a fantastic way to experience the city’s rich history, culture and street art. Whether you’re interested in colonial history, Peranakan culture or modern art, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city. So put on your walking shoes, grab a map and start exploring!

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