Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Exploring George Town, Penang - Day 7 in Malaysia

We literally had no itinerary for Penang aside from visiting George Town and sampling different cuisines in Malaysia's food capital. We took a 6-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur to Sungai Nibong, Penang and for our first day there, we saw Kek Lok Si which was majestic and the Botanical Garden that had perfect landscaping and nature setting for runners but nothing much of interest for tourists like me and my friend (except for the pesky monkeys in the area). For the next day, we solely planned to explore Georgetown and discover why the place is famous with tourists local and foreigner alike.

taken from a unique store in George Town

Georgetown is the capital state of Penang that is also listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008 (together with Malacca). It was named after Britain's King George III.

Getting around Georgetown, even in the whole area of Penang, is very easy and cheap, but be warned that it can be an endless game of waiting and loosing time. If you're in a hurry though, you can always take cabs that don't use meters, so make sure your haggling skills are sharpened at this point. There are also free shuttle buses that goes around George Town sponsored by Penang State Government and Rapid Penang that enables tourists to navigate around the town easily.

We took a bus heading for George Town and I remember alighting somewhere near Little India where we got some Philippine Peso changed. We started our "heritage walk" from there, without any maps, GPS and even directions from the locals. It's like opening a treasure box and we didn't have any idea what we would unravel inside.

Kampung Kling Mosque

We passed by Sri Mariamman Temple and Guan Yin Temple in Chulia Street. I was particularly more drawn to a mosque called Kapitan Keling named after an Indian Muslim merchant, Caudeer Mohudeen, who then later on became a headman, having a nick name of Kapitan Keling. Its unique design has piqued my interest so I urged my friend to go inside and look around.

Though it's size was not as magnanimous as the previous one we have seen in Selangor and Putrajaya, Kampung Kling Mosque is still the most prominent mosque in Penang and has served to be the place of worship for our Muslim friends who has lived around the community for over 200 years. We were lucky to have a free tour but unfortunately, it was prayer time so we only stayed outside the main hall premises. They  guide was very full of humor and knowledgeable, he even offered to give us free pamphlets that have given me some info on understanding some of their practices and traditions.

looks empty inside but we were still not allowed to go in
the robe they lend for tourists like me! (credits for the photo)
neighboring Buddhist temples
The myriad of various religious sites were overwhelming. Chinese’s temples, Islamic Mosques and Hindu temples are dime a dozen in almost every street.
Armenian Street is the heart of the UNESCO Heritage Zone that features some art scene, nice shops and amazing pieces---- of Malaysian architecture.

After walking straight, we arrived at Chew Jetty and we discovered these unique houses called the Clan Jetties or water settlements that are located just along the shorelines of Georgetown of Weld Quay. Locals have built houses on stilts that have been preserved for over some years now. It isn't really recommended to swim in this area (just imagine, the sea is also their bathroom) and we didn't see anyone who did.

These kind of settlements are also plethora in the Philippines, especially in Manila, but the one in Georgetown is more organized and clean. You can really feel that the government helped the people to continue on preserving this place. I bet you could also get good views of the sun setting here.

Weld Quay Clan Jetties, Penang
details of the houses
not sure why I took a picture of this, anyway, this is the "restroom"

Wandering around George Town felt like I took a giant step back in time. The signs of age adds charms to the place. Rows of wooden pre-war houses and colorful religious prayer houses of different religions such as Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, taking note of the intense cultural mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indians speaks a lot about the diversity of Penang. It is amazing for a Filipino like me to see something that can be chaotic look so peaceful and harmonious.

colorful gate details
Penang Fire Station, I love the colors!
an old school which is unoccupied due to its age and size but it still looks wonderful
i never knew what kind this is but it looks pretty
different designs of houses of Penang
Acheh Mosque, Penang
toy museum nearby...

Upon walking for almost two hours or more, we saw a a blue house which is called the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion that is both a heritage mansion and a hotel. Unfortunately we arrived around 4 PM so we missed the last guided tour and was not allowed to go inside if we are not staying for the night. We lurked outside to appreciate the bright blue colors and the design of the building.

From nearby this strip, we were also able to see some churches. The Church of the Assumption is the first permanent Roman Catholic church erected on Penang island, while St. George's Church, built in in 1818 is said to be the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia. I am not entirely sure if it got its name from George Town too.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
it's all in the details
Church of the Assumption
St. George's Church

Our last goal for the day is to visit a cemetery. Yup, you read it correctly. The Protestant Cemetery is the final resting place of some of the very prominent people in Penang's history. It is now being maintained by the Penang Heritage Trust and is also considered as a heritage site. One of the name I saw that I was familiar with was Francis Light, the founder of Penang and who led the British settlement in this state. Though very beautiful to look at, I can feel that no one cares for this piece of land at present. Some of the tombs we saw are decaying already and slowly falling apart.

The Protestant Cemetery
the sun is soon setting
this would have looked nice if the place was maintained and preserved
mysterious looking trees
The Protestant Cemetery of Penang

It was first time to enjoy being in a cemetery (or maybe I haven't been going to much recently or should I really feel that way?) Nevertheless, we still took lots of photos of the place because of its mysterious atmosphere. The area also gave good backdrops that were ok for portraits so we ended up doing vanity shots, again. haha

Looking so dark and creepy. (Wearing shades even though it was 8PM already haha)

I was nothing but astounded to be traveling to such a diverse country such as Malaysia, and more specifically being able to explore Penang, a place oozing with multicultural elements that every traveler would be glad to experience. I was really glad I squeezed in some time for Penang in our itinerary to Malaysia.

another old neglected building

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers

Day 2: Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves

Merdeka Square

Day 3: Putrajaya / Shah Alam
Pink and Blue Mosque

City Tour

Day 4: Malacca/Melaka
City Tour

Food Tour

Day 5: Kuala Lumpur

Day 6: Penang
Kek Lok Si Temple

Day 7: Penang
George Town

Street Art

Day 8: Penang

Malaysia Travel Report
Itinerary and Tips


  1. .. I like your adventure trip Marian. I hope I can do that also..

  2. The pink flowers are oleander: beautiful but very poisonous!

    The cemetery looks in much better shape than when I last visited it on 2010! Looks like they've done some great work clearing away trees and plants that were damaging the graves!

    1. Thanks for that info Chris, had no idea that was an oleander!

      Yes, i think they are doing major preservation on the historical sites even in the cemetery.

  3. Very Informative post, I like whole your picture, clear and so look nice


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