Located off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, George Town is famous for its unique architectural and cultural townscape, which has received UNESCO World Heritage status a few years back. Situated on Penang island, George Town is only connected with the mainland by the 24km long Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, making it the longest bridge in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia’s quirkiest town
A mix of bustling streets and narrow alleys, George Town is one of Asia’s most culturally diverse and colorful cities. On a sunny afternoon I wandered around the city center passing wacky trishaws, traditional shophouses, clan jetties and lively food courts. Over the years George Town has developed itself as a vibrant showcase for world-class street art. The creative installations can be found around every corner, making it a fun way to explore the center. Often, the art integrates seamlessly with its surroundings: bikes, bus stops, metal sheds or laundry lines become part of the experience. The artwork is spread out across Penang’s inner city, along Muntri Street, Weld Quay, Lebuh Leith, Armenian Street or Ah Quee Street.
Do as the locals do
‘Cendol’ has become one of my all-time favorite desserts. I discovered it by chance, spotting a long queue of locals lining up in front of a street food stall. Curious traveler that I am, I joined the line, not sure what to expect:
‘Yes sir, how can I help you?’
‘Ummm, same for me…I guess’
Five seconds later, the lady served me a bowl of green jelly worms, red beans and some other unidentifiable ingredients.
Mastering the art of people watching, I knew I had to stir thoroughly and slurp the mushy substance. I was flashed by the mix flavors. The dessert was surprisingly light and refreshing. Only later I research its ingredients: coconut milk, jelly noodles made from rice flour with green food coloring, shaved ice, red beans and palm sugar.
Feel like giving it a try? Head to Penang Road Famous Cendol stall for the original recipe.
Penang also had one of the best hostels I could find in Southeast Asia: The 80's Guesthouse. Once a vintage shophouse, it now contains a well-designed interior with contemporary furniture, flatscreen TV, rain showers and some very comfortable bunk beds.