George Town, Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its being an exemplary multi-cultural trading town with many layers of history. In particular, emphasis was placed on it being a showcase of living heritage, embodied not just in the continued use of many heritage buildings, but also in the observance of a variety of traditional customs practiced by the various ethnicities that share the city. Here are 5 essential sights in this city of heritage:
✑ A walk down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling – Penang’s “Street of Harmony” – and a visit to the stunning Khoo Kongsi Temple Complex.
✑ A leisurely saunter down Armenian Street for the beautifully restored colonial-era shophouses and the graffiti/public art.
✑ A sprightly jaunt around the Padang to the northern edge of Beach Street, for the air of colonial authenticity, and for the monumental civic and commercial architecture. Look out for Town Hall and City Hall, and the Standard Chartered Bank Building.
✑ The Pinang Peranakan Mansion, for the gloriously over-the-top interiors and the stories of matriarchs and their rebellious progeny. The Cheong Fatt Sze, or Blue Mansion, is equally stunning on the outside but far less well furnished inside.
✑ The Clan Jetties, particularly the Chew Clan Jetty, for its sheer size and for the gorgeous view at the end of the “boardwalk.”
Food is so good in Penang that even Singaporeans down South acknowledge this readily. Brave the many outdoor hawker centres for the most authentic culinary experience and the widest range of local dishes (such as Penang Char Kway Teow, Penang Laksa, Roti Canai, Indian rojak, and so on.)
And of course, stay at the magnificent Eastern & Oriental Hotel (the E & O to locals) for the stunning view of the Malacca Straits from the longest seafront promenade anywhere in the city.
[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Waterstones in London. Find it also on http://www.amazon.co.uk andhttp://www.bookdepository.com]