I recently had to visit Georgetown for business, a lovely town in Western Malaysia in the state of Penang. I didn’t know much about the city, boy was I in for a surprise.
Georgetown is an amazing place. A fusion of old European style townhouses mixed with Indian, Malay and Chinese influence.
Malaysia itself is a melting pot of different people consisting of Malay, Chinese (around 30%) and people of Indian origin (around 10%).
Georgetown’s population is predominantly Chinese (more than half) but you still get the fusion of various cultures.
Authentic Georgetown experience
If you stay in Penang I recommend staying in the historic district in a classic colonial mansion. We stayed at Seven Terraces and it was an amazing experience. Calling it a “hotel” doesn’t do the team justice. It’s one of those places where they remember your name, how you like your drink and give you a personal introduction to your room. I let photos speak, the slide show below shows the room (yes, it’s a hotel room) and the property.
From the hotel it’s waking distance to all the main attractions. Across the road you enter Little India where you can do your shopping. Groceries, tailors, spices, Bollywood movie, you name it they got it.
Georgetown is famous for street artwork. You find these in the strangest of places, in small alleys but also at a building on a main road. The hotel gave me a map listing out more than 50 street artworks. Again, I let photos speak.
An untouched jewel
A lot of cities came to the conclusion that instead of bulldozing over their past (i.e. demolish everything old and build shopping malls), it might make sense conserving and restoring old buildings.
The historic centre of Georgetown was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. And while there are more and more projects underway driving the restoration, the downside, becoming overly “touristy” has not happened yet. Walking through some of Beijing’s Hutong, for example, one can feel like being in a gigantic souvenir shop. This hasn’t happened to Georgetown (not yet at least). While there are a decent amount of souvenir shops that sell nice products, it hasn’t overly become “tourist only”. You still have a feeling it’s a place where people actually live.
Malaysia shows that you can be a truly multi-cultural country. Little India and Little China are just one street apart. Walking around the streets you can see Indians, Malay, Chinese, Caucasians all doing their own thing. There are mosques in the town that call to prayers in the morning. There are also Christian churches a few meters away. And there are Chinese temples in the city if you walk on for three minutes.
Where to stay
There are a fair bit of hostels. For a truly authentic experience I suggest Seven Terraces or some of the other hotels of the same group.
How to get there
Penang International Airport is located in the south of the island. AirAsia is flying to various destinations from Penang. Cathay Pacific offers daily flights to Hong Kong. There are also multiple flights a day to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur from where you can fly pretty much anywhere you want to.
Penang is nice and certainly different from the rest of Malaysia. I haven’t been there in a while, but it’s getting really touristy.
Great post 🙂