Penang’s colorful amalgamate of cultures is the result of multi-religions and inter-marriages that shine through its food, art and languages.
Penang is known as a foodie’s paradise, but its punch of flavors and wide variety stems from its blend of cultures. On the island, it is the city of George Town where things are happening, where travelers indulge in all aspects of wandering.
Very rare in the world where one can witness four religions peacefully exist on one single road: Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. In addition, the Peranakan culture was birthed in Penang, as a fusion of Chinese immigrants who married into local Malay families. The result is a mix of the best in all worlds that we, as travelers, can enjoy through its powerful kicks in its tastes, intricacies of designs that still boast respectable traditions.
Penang became my favorite city in Malaysia, here are the places that made me fell in love.
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Pinang Peranakan Mansion
29, Church St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Pinang Peranakan Mansion, also referred to as “the Green Mansion,” once belonged to Chinese tycoon Chung Keng Quee from the 19th century. The building is renowned as a classic example of Peranakan architecture and design. Inside the mansion, there are numerous collections of furniture, antiques, artifacts, interior décor from Peranakan culture.
The Peranakans are also known as Babas or Nyonyas. The culture resulted from the marriage between Chinese immigrants and Malay families which created a rich and unique blend shown in cuisine, languages and design.
Clan Jetties of Penang
Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
The Clan Jetties make up the floating village on the pier of Penang. In the 19th century, many Chinese immigrants arrived to Penang by boats, the jetties allowed them to find their neighbors, families and friends from the same village back in China. It’s often differentiated by surnames which make up various Jetties today: Chew, Lee, Yeoh…etc.
Today, there are still families that live in these jetties, hence it’s important to remain respectful during your visit. There are characterized by traditional shrines inside their homes, screen doors, and burning incense.
Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple
No. A Reclamation Area, 52, Pengkalan Weld, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Malaysia
Not too far from the Clan of the Jetties, there’s also Hean Boo Thean Temple floating above water. It is especially beautiful at night when the colorful lights are lit. The temple was originally built in 1972, but often flooded during high tides. In 2011, it went through a renovation which also expanded the temple to 12,000 square feet. Today, this temple that honors the Goddess of Mercy is a grandiose sight particularly from the view of the jetties.
Penang Little India
Lebuh Pasar, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Little India is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant parts of George Town with bustling shops that sells anything from textiles, spices, candles, flowers, to music. Indians were brought to Malaysia by the British Empire for to work on rubber plantations, today many local businesses owned by Indian entrepreneurs reside in this quarter, from restaurants to boutiques. The oldest Hindu temple in Penang, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, can also be discovered in Little India.
Penang Street Art
Around Beach Street
Don’t be surprised that after a day of admiring street art in George Town, and you realize that it might very well be one of the best in the world. Often; murals, paintings, sculptures are integrated into one single piece of art. Some of the most iconic pieces you’ll see are by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, including: The Boy and his Motorbike and Little Boy with a Pet Dinosaur; both examples were created to illustrate daily life in George Town.
Today, international artists are invited to George Town to leave their artistic mark on its chromatic walls.
Shopping on Armenian Street
Lbh Armenian, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
While admiring vivid street art from Beach to Armenian Street, there are lines of vintage boutiques and souvenir shops. Most of them showcase façades that represent a certain throw back to an old-school Asia with lanterns, rusted bicycles, scrolls bordering doors. Shopping on Armenian Street extends beyond souvenirs, there are also charming ateliers and art galleries.
The street was named after early Armenian merchants who lived in this area. Nowadays, the neighborhood is more known for the Chinese communities who have built temples and clans here.