HOW I INTRODUCED GEORGE TOWN, PENANG

23 June 2012, Saturday.  How do you introduce a place that needs no elaborate introduction? As one of the Filipino expatriates in Penang, Malaysia for almost two years now, I oftenly state that I still consider myself a traveler and a tourist despite I frequent George Town almost every weekend for the reason that this island has so much to offer. Every visit to this cultural melting pot in Southeast Asia is such a SENSORY FEAST!

I had a first-time opportunity to casually showcase George Town, Penang to two fellow Filipino bloggers when I accompanied them in touring a few must-visit-sites in Pulau Pinang as they arrived from Kuala Lumpur via bus. The challenge : They’ll only spend several hours in Penang and head back to Malaysia’s capital city after.

Without any hardcore plans in mind, I brought 2 of the Philippines’ youngest bloggers, Lloyd (of his travel blog, The Lost Boy) and Dan (of his travel blog,The Wandering Wonder ) in tow to Penang Island after meeting them in Penang Sentral bus station in Butterworth and together we explored George Town via ferry, Rapid Penang buses, taxi cabs and of course by foot. I personally define this utterly quaint island in three words : DIVERSITIES, HERITAGE and FOOD, hence my few-hour-introductory-tour of this UNESCO’s World Heritage Site to my Filipino blog buddies simply revolved on those.

*All photos on this blog entry are captured on June 23, 2012 therefore I have not published them yet prior to this posting. However, some subjects were already featured on this site thus, I intently inserted URLs of my previous blog posts for your reference. ENJOY! 🙂

D  I  V  E  R  S  I  T  I  E  S

Lorong Burma or Burma Lane, accessible via Rapid Penang Buses # 101 or 103 from Pengkalan Weld (or Weld Quay/Jetty in George Town) or by cars and taxi cabs, features two Buddhist temples. Firstly, the Thai Buddhist Temple or Wat Chaiyamangalaram; the shrine of the Reclining Buddha (also known as Sleeping Buddha). This shrine to me, provides a feel of somehow being in Thailand and Malaysia at the same time.

And just across the street is the equally stunning, Burmese Buddhist Temple, the Sasana Vamsa Shima Shrine Hall & International Standing Buddhas. Burma and Malaysia conquered by few steps! How’s that? 😀

I never feel tired of going back to these temples, not only because they’re picturesque but the atmosphere’s always serene and tranquil. Every visit calms and recharges my mind.

Due to limited time of my guests, I opted to highlight only two Buddhist Temples that are located across each other. As I wanted to maximize the ticking of the clock, I suggested for us to take a taxi cab instead of riding the bus in going back to the laterals of Lebuh Chulia. In that busy Chulia street where foreign backpackers spring everyday like mushrooms, tangible proofs of religious diversities in this Northwestern Malaysian state can be found. Harmony among religions reign supreme in different places of worships that are only a stone’s throw away from each other. Conflicts don’t exist or if there are, at least discreetly. Few steps from Goddess of Mercy Temple are the mostly flocked by tourists, Kapitan Keling Mosque for Muslims and a Hindu temple of the Indian-Malaysian community (View previous blog HERE).

H  E  R I  T  A  G  E

Besides Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion also known as the Blue Mansion (View previous blog post HERE), another personal favorite heritage site is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (View previous blog post HERE). Because of the unique charm of this magnificent mansion-turned-museum, it’s one of the most preferred venues for prenuptial photoshoots. We chanced upon one and I captured the next photo on a whim ala-paparazzo. Lovely, is it not?

I like Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and truly enjoyed my tour there with my family before but its restriction on taking photos inside its beautifully restored heritage house makes it second best in my humble opinion to  Pinang Peranakan Mansion  where unlimited photo-opportunity awaits.

We strolled our way from the site of Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Lebuh Gereja or Church Street to Kapitan Keling Street and headed straight to Armenian and Cannon Streets.

The majestic Khoo Kongsi should never be missed when visiting George Town, Penang (Visit my previous blog post HERE). I have toured this gorgeous clan house with temple, stage for Chinese opera and other performances and its very own museum a few times too including during  the 2012 Chinese New Year celebration (View previous blog post HERE). Every visit is an unforgettable experience!

One need not google Wikipedia for George Town heritage and history anymore for it is gloriously illustrated in its streets and alleys. I so appreciate how creatively executed the bits and pieces of this place’s character and colorful past with art installations that are difficult to ignore. Case in point are the many murals and wrought-iron caricatures plastered on walls of shophouses scattered in various streets of George Town. They’re absolutely informative and fantastic! Where else can you find heritage data that are never boring and so creatively done that could enticed ages across the life span? I wish this could also be possible in the streets of Manila or some provinces in the Philippines.

As we reached Armenian Street by foot, we spent few minutes inside a souvenir shop called, 14 Living Story (View previous blog post HERE). It’s located immediatley beside Cheah Kongsi and a hole-in-the-wall-favorite-restaurant by tourists, Amelie Cafe (View previous blog post HERE). Inside 14 Living Story, was a Chinese-Malaysian man who played an interestingly uncommon musical instrument.

We then trooped to the tail end of Armenian Street that’s Pengakalan Weld and headed directly to another must-visit-UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in this part of Malaysia. I brought my-2-first-time-Penang-visitors to one of the waterfront settlements of Chinese clans,  The Chew Jetty  (View previous post HERE).

The sights in Chew Jetty when I visited it for the second time made me miss my family instantly (who chose to stay in our Butterworth appartment). How I wish I could bring Gabby and Tina here one day and spend a lazy afternoon like what the families in photos did.

Durian, anyone?

Confession : Tina and I have not yet tasted durian in our almost 36 years of existence. It’s something we should do soon before durian season in Penang ends.

Still at Chew Jetty, I was silently jumping for joy like a kid when I saw another Ernest Zacharevic‘s mural masterpiece…

Must have detail shot…

Ernest Zacharevic is a Lithuanian artist commissioned to do these murals on the streets of George Town just in time for 2012 festival. His works depict the seemingly ordinary but joyous lifestyle of children living in Penang. Most people describe his paintings realistic but larger than life.  I myself got hooked to follow his masterpieces one after the other after I saw his very first in Armenian Street (View previous blog HERE).

Like many people who stop by for a photo-op with Ernest’s murals, Filipino travel bloggers, Lloyd and Dan also tried capturing these street art pieces on photos. You can’t blame them; the paintings are really awesome!

Another Ernest Zacharevic mural is installed in Ah Quee Street. How do you like this?

Rugged, rustic and restless…

Despite I got hold of Armenian Project schedule for that day as part of GTF2012 celebration, I didn’t expect to catch the main man behind these wonderful murals in action working on his current art work a few steps from the gates of Khoo Kongsi in Cannon Street. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ernest Zacharevic…

Everything’s a part of George Town Festival  2012 that runs June 15 – July 15, 2012. The main holiday and celebration of entire Penang for the anniversary of the inscription of George Town as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites is on July 7, 2012. Now, that’s a reason to pack your bags and visit Pulau Pinang! 😉

And because of Armenian Project that day, a lot of enticing programs were there to stimulate the interest of everyone. I randomly met, Joe Sidek, one of the men behind these festivities; however my one-shot-photo with him was too blurred hence I chose not to post here. I introduced myself and then he asked me why I know his name and he smiled when I told him, “Of course, Sir, who doesn’t know you? You’re famous for this GTF!” 

A little while later, I met Pavaani Thannimalai, the Indian solo-dancer of the night. She graciously agreed to be photographed just before she strut her stint so passionately right in front of the Yap Kongsi…

After that exotic and dramatic performance that was well received by everyone, we entered the Handmade Bazaar held inside Yap Konsgi. Everything being sold was handicrafted of course, so prices were expectedly a bit steep. Nevertheless, these are the few things that caught my eyes…

I could have bought Tina and my mom a bouquet of lemon grass for 2 ringgit each but thought I’ll just bring them to this street on the 7th of July for the GTF2012 grand celebration.

I smiled  when I saw thsese baby girls’ shoes and suddenly hoped that Tina and I could give Gabby a baby sister whenever God allows.

The mood in the streets and inside the bazaar was festive and happy; the crowd was well controlled definitely.

F  O  O  D

A trip to Penang is never complete without sampling the local dishes that this Malaysian gastronomic paradise is known for. Here’s a run down of what we savored…

Lunch was at Old Town, First Avenue Mall. Barbecue Chicken Rice, Crusty Fried Chicken, Nasi Lemak (the Malaysian staple food served with sotong or squid and not with the usual chicken), and Penang Assam Laksa, 2012 CNN Go’s Top 7 Most Delicious Food in the World (Visit previous blog post HERE).

For dinner, I suggested to Lloyd and Dan early on that I would bring them to one of the most frequented Penang hawkers; the hawkers in Gurney Drive and I’m glad they liked it. We feasted on Chicken Rice, Oyster Omelette, Claypot Chicken Rice, Char Koay Teow and Cendol and Ais Kacang for desserts.

I had to profess my LOVE for Char Koay Teow and needed to infect my blogger-friends. Here’s my plate of Nirvana! 🙂

Before that CKT reached our table, I had to wait on a long queue while Lloyd and Dan scouted for other foods that satisfied our cravings. It was no hassle for me to fall in line for this heavenly noodle dish; long queue certainly affirmed that this CKT is perhaps, the best in this side of Penang. Here’s the process how my favorite Char Koay Teow was prepared. Sublime digestive goodness for only 5 ringgit (USD 1.56).

Et voila! Here’s a memento of that evening feast of 3 Filipino bloggers in Penang…  Tadaaaaaaaaa 😛 Delicious! Sarap! Sedap! 😉

And to perfectly cap that Penangite dinner, we enjoyed Malaysian desserts, Cendol and Ais Kacang at 2.50 ringgit each.

From lunch time to half hour past 8 in the evening, I tried my best to feature the places where I mostly spend my weekends after a tiring and productive week at work. I know my efforts were not enough as I did not keep a plan in mind on where to bring my guests; nonetheless luck was on my side because we witnessed some parts of the celebration of the 2012 George Town Festival. I believe it’s already an amazing treat for all of us!

 And at the end of a tiring but FUN-filled day, GRATITUDE remains PRICELESS.

This blog is the recipient of 2012 BEST EXPAT BLOG AWARD by MINISTRY OF TOURISM MALAYSIA  🙂

PS : Maraming salamat, Lloyd and Dan sa pasalubong niyo na anim na lata ng Purefoods Corned Beef na pinakapaborito kong carne norte sa balat ng lupa! Naway naging masaya ang inyong pagbisita dito sa Pulau Pinang! 😀

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29 thoughts on “HOW I INTRODUCED GEORGE TOWN, PENANG

  1. OMG doc! this is a beautiful post 🙂
    Lloyd and Dan are lucky to be able to experience this with you…
    i love love love the street art! i wish i could witness them and capture it too…

    see you soon!

    1. hey, anne thank you for appreciating this post! let me know whenever you find time to go to penang (sana holiday or weekend) and we’ll see if i can tour you around too.

      hope to meet you in sg soon! 😀

    1. thanks, riz for bookmarking this post.
      kaya lang we have a family date on the 30th. we’ll be somewhere within penang mainland to celebrate with one of gabby’s favorite cartoon characters.

    1. wow, october na! 😀

      the two bloggers who were with me on this short george town tour were with the inaugural flight of air philippines from MNL-KUL. with addition of air philippines flying from the Philippines to Malaysia’s capital, it gives more options for Filipinos to fly to KL and reach parts of Malaysia now. so mayroon ng cebu pacific, air philippines at air asia en route to KUL.

      i’m just waiting which airline company will be first to fly MNL-PEN directly if that route is possible.

  2. this post is chockfull of goodness from food to murals to plain sightseeing galores in photos. love them all.

    imho doc you are a wonderful ambassador of penang. you open your readers eyes to the what penang has to offer. more power and keep it up.

  3. This post served as a great guideline for those tourists who wish to know more of George Town in a day, with you as an experienced guide of course~ 😛 Well written~ I love it! 🙂

    1. coming from someone who’s local of penang and a well-known food blogger/writer at that, i am flattered by your words, criz.
      thank you so much!

  4. Hi Doc! Grabe na enjoy ko tong post na ‘to, para na rin akong nakasama sa tour niyo around Penang. Grabe the muralsssssss!!!! WOOOOT!!! And grabe, so diverse talaga ng culture diyan, and I wanna go there soon!!! 😀

    1. thanks, renz!
      let me know when you’re coming to penang.
      weekend lang ang dating nila lloyd at dan kaya nasamahan ko silang umikot ng kaunti, otherwise kung may trabaho, di posible.
      swerte din kasi george town festival hanggang sa akinse ng july! 🙂

  5. Looks like you will be getting more busy showing your neck of the woods to Pinoy travelers. In a way I feel the same way since I get to show New York myself a lot to visiting friends and family. Who knows, pupunta rin kayo dito or pupunta rin ako dyan in the future 🙂

    1. hey, nina! thank you for visiting here. balik ka sa penang, sama ka ng mga travel bloggers, ikot tayo kung sakaling free ang sched ko (weekends, holidays).

      see you in singapore in few weeks!

    1. to those like us who appreciate heritage, culture and the arts, penang is a beautiful island! and how could i forget the gastronomic department? hehehe!
      thanks, jo!

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