The Art and Soul of George Town in Malaysia

Travelling to Penang in Malaysia by road isn’t complete without a journey to the island precinct of George Town. To get there, travellers need to cross the Penang Bridge, which in itself is the start of the journey into the art and soul of this port area.

George Town is a modern area, drenched in tradition, cultural diversity and history. As such, George Town rightly obtained its UNESCO World Heritage status ten years ago. Being an outpost for sea merchants travelling here from China, India, Thailand, Burma and European countries, a traveller can only imagine the possibilities in George Town. It’s a precinct that is brimming with these influences from around the world which have shaped its personality.

Eat Your Way through George Town’s Vegan Food

Food is an extension of Penang’s culture, and this is ever-so true in George Town. Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia, yet what is also a surprise is its reputation for being the vegetarian capital of Malaysia. George Town is a microcosm of these claims to fame.  When you walk through the streets of George Town, you get a feel for the intricate mix of markets, hawker stalls, cafes and restaurants, all co-existing together. From sipping on a local nutmeg juice, to ordering a sit-down banquet, there is much to taste in George Town. Vegan food is easily purchased here.

Here are a couple of the best places to find vegan food in George Town:

The Leaf Healthy House for ‘multi-cuisine’ vegetarian and vegan choices

5, Lebuh Penang, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant in the heart of Little India for its vegetarian Indian fare, easily veganised for vegan diners

60, Lebuh Penang, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Visit George Town’s Historical Sites

George Town’s multi-faceted history is represented by the many historic sites, religious spots, old streets and the ever-vibrant jetty areas.

Spots to visit include the Kuan Yin Teng Temple which is one of the oldest in George Town as well as a historic centre for Malay traders and scholars in Penang, the Acheen Street Mosque, Harmony Street where the world’s biggest religions co-exist, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism.

‘Kongsi’ is Malay for clan hall. So, other notable sites include Khoo Kongsi one of the most prominent clan houses in George Town and the Hokkien temple Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple.

Visit during the George Town Festival and Walk through George Town’s Street Art Sites

Art is another integral way to express culture. Art is social commentary that expresses what is happening in the area, in the now.

An accelerated way to learn about George Town’s culture is taking a walk through George Town’s street art. There are a range of vibrant artists in Penang who express their work throughout the streets of George Town. Small-scale art installations to large, artistic wall murals can be discovered.  Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned in 2012 to create a series of works around George Town in 20112. His work can still be viewed in various spots around town, representing the people, the fun, and everyday lifestyle here in this part of Penang.

If you’re lucky enough to visit George Town during the George Town Festival, you can learn more about the art of the area and its connection with George Town. The George Town Festival is a celebration of culture, heritage, art, and community that occurs over one month.  The festival started out in 2010 as a way to honour George Town’s UNESCO World Heritage status. Now, over 100 artistic events occur throughout the festival.

The George Town Festival ‘celebrates the rich heritage and history of George Town while also providing the city with an opportunity to experience internationally acclaimed arts and culture events from other locations in the ASEAN region and beyond’. The event seeks to make all art events during the festival as accessible and affordable as possible to locals and travellers alike. There is an array of world-class events to visit and experience for free, or for a nominal cost.

VegVoyages’ Malaysian Rainforests, Reefs, Cultures and Cuisines tour travels to Penang and George Town.

All trips, accommodation, tours, meals and travel expenses were paid in full by Justine de Jonge.

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