Georgetown, Penang.

So after the irksome detour in my bus trip, I finally made it to Georgetown on the island of Penang. A large section of Georgetown has been designated an UNESCO world heritage site, no new construction is permitted, and whilst the inside of buildings can be renovated, no major structural changes can be made. This means that the oldest part of Georgetown has retained the charm of the colonial style shop houses that have been in place since the dinosaurs moved out, but it also means that in a hostel that accommodates 40 people you cannot add an extra couple of bathrooms. Sigh.
Georgetown is lovely though. It’s an easy place to while a way a few days. The city is known for food and art, and it doesn’t disappoint. During the day you can have pastries and snacks in eclectic coffee shops festooned with a variety of artistic styles. After the sun has gone down you can get good and fat at all the street stalls that spring up. If anyone’s reading this who is headed that way, Kimberley street has the cheapest array of stalls and a delectable dessert stand where you can get all manner of sweet, sticky, glutinous treats. The Red Inn Garden Market is a great place to go with friends (or to make new ones, people will often randomly ask you to join them if you’re sitting on your own) as there is a huge variety of food on offer from pancakes and waffles to Vietnam pho, to pad thai, to wonton dumplings, to fried chicken. Damnit I’m hungry it must be time for breakfast. You can sit and eat here whilst watching the cover version of popular and classic pop songs performed by glamorous girls, Bryl-creamed boys and a very tall drag queen.
A long walk around town will take you on the heritage art trail. Georgetown has over 40 iron wrought friezes attached to buildings that are dotted around the UNESCO site. Each one is in a humorous cartoon style and depicts a piece of history associated with that particular spot. My favourite was the image of a man in his underwear shinnying down a drain pipe, hiding from his wife. You can find this one on Love Lane the street where the rich business men used to house their mistresses.
In addition to these, Georgetown also has dozens of murals painted around town illustrating bits of daily life : rickshaw drivers, cats, little girls practising kung fu.
My favourite day in Georgetown was sadly my last one, I wandered into an exhibition of local crafts that were executed by the participants of a special needs program. One of the facilitators got talking to me about education, and ended up asking me if I wanted to do a little batik painting. I ended up spending an entire relaxing afternoon learning how to do batik, for FREE! The program is constantly looking for resident art teachers who could come and volunteer a month or more of their time, in exchange for free accommodation on the island of Penang. So if anyone reading this would like more info, please get in touch and I’ll give you the contact details for the organisation. It’s the last day of 2015 here, we’ve got 5 more hours to go, and we are nervously watching the grey sky, hoping the inevitable rain comes and goes before the fireworks.

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