George Town, Penang
The city of George Town is located on Penang Island, and it is Malaysia’s second most populous city with a population of approx. 700.000 people, while the whole island has a population of approx. 2.5 million. The centre of the city is very beautiful and it has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage in 2008. Not only Penang is beautiful but it is also the gastronomical capital of Malaysia.
The island of Penang, on which George Town is located, resided in the Strait of Malacca. This Strait was an important trade route for Europe, India, China and the Middle East. The city offers a conglomeration of cultures due to this, that is visible even today: Chinese (53%), Malays (31%), Indians (9%) and others (7%).
During the World War II, Penang island has been heavily bombed by the Japanese, that have also introduced the rule of oppression to the Chinese living on the island. Many of the buildings on the island have been destroyed, but the historical centre has been able to withstand the hit. After the World War, the city started to reconstruct itself and managed to build a bridge to the mainland, just south of Butterworth in 1985.
The architecture of the old centre of George Town is a delight, since it has an impressive number of shophouses and urban structures dating back to early 19th century. This is impressive due to the fact that some of the buildings are older than the new cities of Kuala Lumpur, Taiping, Ipoh or even Singapore. Some of them are clearly not in their best shape but the fact that the city is not completely renovated does give it a very special atmosphere.
The UNESCO world heritage buildings are impressive. Not only the centre of the city is blooming with beautiful facades, but also the side-alleys, the seaside buildings and even the little shops have something unique to offer. I must say, the entrances to these building really made an impression on us, since we took a ton of photos. I will just post a few below:
Out of our accommodation, we would randomly walk on the narrow streets, crossing the pedestrian boulevards and arriving in amazing locations. We wandered the city and managed to spot some of the street art of George Town, the Clan Jetties (will explain), and the seaside avenues.
The city is very multicultural due to its history and the diversity of its population. However there are somehow also separated by district with the neighborhoods of Little India and Chinatown being the most popular. If you fancy Indian or Chinese food this is where you have to head to find the best spots, especially when it comes to street food. This diversity is also why Penang is a great place for food lovers!
There used to be seven jetties, but one has been taken out by fire and only six exist now. The Clan Jetties form part of the Penang Heritage. A jetty is a landing stage or small pier at which boats can dock or be moored; but it in this case it means also that one family owns and manages a jetty.
The Chinese settlements on the island, this waterfront society is home to houses on stilts of various Chinese clans. The described water villages are over a century old and each jetty is named after a Chinese clan. The most famous one is the Chew Jetty one.