Wander around George Town, stop to take photos wherever you like, and buy the whole street if you can! Yes, this is the only complete sentence I can write in this article, because George Town had a lot of lovely crafts, decor, old books, clothes, and bags, look what I all wanted to buy 😀
There are direct flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Penang – an island in Malaysia located on the Malacca Straits. To get there, it only takes you about 2 hours to fly that is perfect for a short holiday. On the island, there are quite a lot of artificial playgrounds, parks, nature reserves, temples, and mosques, historical and cultural heritages recognized by UNESCO. And the destination that captivated me was none other than George Town – the capital of Penang, a lively museum representing the era of the British empire from the late 18th century with its unique architectural and cultural blending Eastern with Western traits.
In the early morning, the old town was lighten up by the rows of beautiful, ancient shophouses. However, the shops opened quite late, from 10 am and closed early at 7 – 8 pm. The largest market of George Town is only open from 7 am to 12 pm. There are very few eateries and cafes open until late. There was no begging to be found. The people were gentle, happy with their small, simple joys, and not chasing after ordinary material passion. No matter how well-developed the tourism industry was and how many tourists were coming, it was not possible to pull the people there out of their peaceful daily routine. Tourists like us if intentionally holding up the camera to capture someone sitting on the porch, would see a very gentle smile. As a result, George Town is very airy and peaceful. Coming there, you will suddenly leave the habit of living in a hurry, forgetting the business, daily worries, to practice a slow, peaceful way of living. The cutest way to enjoy the neighborhood is to slowly walk on the timestamped streets.
There is an old house over 100 years old you must visit: Pinang Peranakan villa. The first owner of this house was Mr. Chung Keng Quee – a Fujian. He had one main wife in China. When he arrived in Penang, he married a second wife, who was a Penang person, to form a “peranakan” community (meaning “half-blood”). According to the document, “the Peranakan people also have different names: Baba people – meaning men, and Nyonya people – meaning women. The Peranakan people quickly integrated with the indigenous community, traded well, and became a wealthy class. They built streets and houses with a unique architectural style which was a blend of immigrated Chinese culture and indigenous culture and European culture under the colonial period, offering a distinctive, diverse and architectural form”. Mr. Chung built this villa for his wife and his children to live in. Over the years, the villa still retains the harmony between the splendor and sophistication of the Chinese architecture and the exquisite and luxurious details of the United Kingdom architecture, showing the flourishing life of the Peranakan people.
Has anyone told you George Town is the museum’s paradise yet? I held in my hand a pretty little map, walking around George Town, visiting extremely interesting museums such as glass museum, camera museum, 3D painting museum, upside-down museum … Among them, the Wonderfood Museum must have been my favorite place with hundreds of fake food/ dishes to help travelers better understand Malaysian cuisine. The museum is divided into 3 main areas. Info Zone gives us the information about the daily dishes of indigenous people, the dining table arrangement, how to combine the dishes in one meal. Wow Zone has typical dishes such as cendol (chè bánh lọt), laksa (a famous noodle with chicken, shrimp, and fish broth), curry mee (curry noodles), rojak (fruit salad), char kuey teow (stir-fried noodles) … made with huge sizes which will make you “say wow”. Educational Zone helps people to raise awareness that some of your favorite foods have an adverse impact on the environment.
That was not all! The Street Art area is the place that attracts art lovers with the lively mural paintings inspired by the daily life of the locals. Weaving through each small alley, you will suddenly realize you are smiling when you see a playful painting on an old, flaky brick wall. My impression of George Town was also made-in-Malaysia souvenir shops, craft shops, designer clothing shops by local designers, décor shops, old book stores, elegant cafés, and eateries, etc. I felt like I was going back in time when I walked into a space displaying antique items to be collected from everywhere by the owner: the watches, the dolls, the sewing machine, the radio, the teapot, wine bottles, … all kinds of things in the world; or when I got lost in the Edelweiss café inside an old British colonial house with the beauty of a “half-blood” with an eye-catching, good-looking appearance and a calm, deep soul. In other tourist centers, the shops compete to become more prominent, but everything here, from the outside to the inside, all “coordinated” together as if the whole neighborhood was carefully arranged by a skillful hand and a delicate brain. Every door, every brick wall, every picture … was like the “characters” in a movie which was together telling visitors a fascinating story about time travel.
Now, wander around George Town, stop to take photos wherever you like, enjoy the art with all your senses, and “buy” the whole street if you can!
- Malaysia is visa-free for Vietnamese people, thus you do not need to apply for a visa.
- Transportation in Penang: cyclo, bus, and Uber. Cyclo price is higher than Uber but it’s interesting to watch the streets in a special way. Uber is the cheapest, fastest, and most convenient vehicle when you need to travel from one end of the old town to the other, or from the old town to the beach, or to other areas.
- There is also LINK BIKE – bike for rent by hour/ day/ week/ month/ year, managed by phone application (Link for your reference: https://www.linkbike.my).
- In the center of George Town, there are many lovely hotels and homestays, so you should stay here to walk to explore Art Street.