February 24, 2016

So our NYLON intern recently took a short trip to Penang, Malaysia, and found herself in the Capital City Georgetown. Here’s how she spent that half a Sunday.


“Looks like a tourist’s dream.” – was the first thing that came to mind when I got out of the car along Lebuh Cintra, in George Town, Penang. I say this with no malice, of course; the tourist in me loves scoping out quaint shophouses and Peranakan style architecture as much as the next sweaty angmoh backpacker. And I suppose I had expected no less from what has become Penang’s most famous street. It’s actually ironic how this was my first time in the heart of George Town, since I was born a Malaysian, and have been coming to Penang every year for Chinese New Year since. But hey! Fresh perspective married with a “local’s” touch can only mean objective advice worth following!


1. Eat (duh)

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For starters, fuel up on some dim sum before you begin your power walk through this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage City. I spent my calories at Tai Tong Restaurant, and I suggest you do the same. Go for the authentic Malaysian dim sum house experience (think china tea cups you wash in bowls of water!! little old aunties pushing dim sum trolleys!!), but stay for the food. By the time I arrived they were out of their famous egg tarts (d a m m i t) but they’re also known for their fried carrot cake and big paus – which did not disappoint.

Address: 45 Lebuh Cintra, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Opening hours: 6am to 2.30am daily


2. Be A Tourist

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Everyone knows Penang is known for their food, but I’m not a foodie, so I dabao-ed carrot cake and moved on with life. Here’s where you should spend the bulk of your day – just walking, particularly along Chulia Street. The streets are plainly beautiful – preserved to a T and filled with street art. It’s the perfect blend of preserved heritage and new-age gentrification, and everything works together to transport you back to colonial days.

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The old-school shophouses – complete with cracked paint and faulty shutters – are a definite people-pleaser, and are far prettier than those here in Joo Chiat (sorry Easties). And oh god, I hate myself for saying this but, erm, it’s all very Instagram-worthy as well.


3. Street Art Trail 

But, obviously you came here because you wanted a pic with those two kids painted on a bicycle attached to the wall – so yes, check out the street art. In all seriousness, though, Ernest Zacharevic’s famous Penang street art murals aren’t the only bit of visual culture around. (Fun fact: he only created them in 2012! And you thought they’d been around forever.) You’ll quickly spot the many iron-wrought fixtures mimicking Malaysian lifestyle, and random pop art wall paintings, whichever direction you stroll.

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Most of the good stuff is located around Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street) and Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), Zacharevic’s works included, but be warned that they really are quite a tourist’s attraction. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to take a proper art trail, but I just thought I’d mention that it was equally enjoyable to drive through (it’s street art, after all) and frighten absorbed selfie-takers.


4. Coconut Ice Cream!!

What! Oh yes! There is pretty authentic coconut ice cream sold right here in George Town, Penang! It’s the perfect treat after your long art trail in the heat, and for only 6RM per cup. I had the one at an unnamed shop along Lebuh Armenian, with the prettiest resort-style décor – and where you can find Zacharevic’s mural “Reaching Up”. I didn’t manage to get a full picture of the mural but I blame my dad, and anyway there’s Google. Alternatively, get your coconut ice cream fix next door at the more famous Mama-Miya Coconut Ice Cream, which even serves it to you in a coconut husk just like they do in Thailand.


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5. Kek Lok Si Temple

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This one’s a stretch, but if you end up having more time in the lovely area of George Town, take a 25minute-drive to Kek Lok Si Temple, which is beautiful both day and night – but has some sick nighttime light fixtures.

And that’s how you do it; the best of George Town in half a day (I think).