Being here in Penang feels like… another life, no wonder because my last visit lays back 36 years ago when my mother took me on a adventures journey around the world. Back then it was really cool (if the word cool existed already) for a sixteen-year-old boy to travel and I was on the same spot, here in Georgetown Penang, where we have been 36 years ago. At that time there were no bridges from the mainland to the island of Penang and the adventures passage by boat. I still remember this today.
Like anywhere else time does not stand still and in 2012 the city government of Penang commissioned Ernest Zacharevic to contribute his interpretation, under the motto: ‘Mirrors of Georgetown’ with his (mostly) interactive paintings. When I was searching for those street art paintings in March 2017 there were still 9 original mural paintings from the Lithuanian artist and I assume it wasn’t an easy target to mirror the gap between culture and the lifestyle of Georgetown at that time. The murals represent characters and scenes between the daily routine and the playfulness life of the inner-city. In 2014 & 2015 Ernest Zacharevic came back to Penang to paint some more murals on the streets of Penang. Georgetown is one of the oldest cities in Malaysia and like Malacca since 2008 a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO . The following pictures of street art paintings are from Ernest Zacharevic and other artists.
Since Georgetown got the heritage status in 2008 it is a lively, intangible museum with lots of different cultures aspects and existing old historic buildings. Georgetown is multi-cultural for a long time and attracted, since the beginning of trade, merchants from India, China, Middle East, Europe, and England into its harbor. The best witnesses (until today) are still the unique buildings like the old warehouses in Penang. Many of the old warehouses are still used for their original purpose and some are transformed into really cool coffee shops and lounges. My favorite example of such transformation is the Spacebar Coffee Georgetown Penang
The food & service, the location, as well as the style and ambiance and of course the ‘chill factor’ is sublime. But that’s not everything that the Spacebar Coffeeshop has to offer. It is hard to believe but this coffee shop offers two Airbnb accommodations (more or less) right in the serving area. Crazy…. but I love it!
While writing this blog I feel how emotional I get and that I would like to shower you with my joy and passion for the art, architecture, the culinary variety and the lifestyle in general. As it seems… I really identify myself with the happening in Georgetown!
If you take a close look at this warehouse picture and scroll up to the pics of the Spacebar Coffeeshop you can immediately see the similarity in architecture. No wonder because they transformed a warehouse into a coffee shop while keeping all the old structure.
With the UNESCO honoring came the pressure of signposting the lively museum but regular ‘name tags’ were out of the question, unthinkable! Therefore they needed something more creative and extraordinary. In 2009 the municipal government of Penang announced the art contest: “Marking of Georgetown”. The winning project was called “Sculpture at Work” with 52 steel caricatures. Those caricatures were also called “Voices from the people” and represented and mirrored many of the different handicrafts of Georgetown. So if you walk today through Georgetown you still can see some of them. Behind this idea and strongly related to this whole issue is Jimmy Choo.
The three pictures above give you a glimpse idea of the old warehouse architecture and still, architecture like this can be found. It takes time but if you stroll around Penang you will be positively surprised on what you will encounter, in terms of architecture. It is an exciting way to explore history… but let’s continue with some more fantastic murals of Georgetown.
I spent four days in Penang and just to cover (most!!!) of the murals I was eight hours on the move, every day. You can get good maps for finding the artwork and murals but even then it takes lots of time (and the right sunlight for photography) to capture parts of the great street art. But Georgetown has more to offer than ‘just’ street art, walk around and discover the culinary diversity of this lively city. The following pictures, taken on the streets of Georgetown, should provide you with some ideas. Get inspired…
For those of you, who focus on photography street art, I really recommend getting a special map (handed out by the tourism office). This map shows all individual locations of the murals so you ‘just’ have to find them *smile*. Running around for hours and chasing the paintings always made me hungry. So let us move on to the streets.
Yummy…yummy and let me show you (another one) of my favorite restaurants, the Urban Spice Cafe for lunch and Kopi Loewak for excellent coffee variations.
After a great meal, hard work, heat (whatever..) it is always good to have a rest and for that, I can recommend two hotels in George Town. I stayed two nights at the Glow Hotel – Penang and another two nights at the Container Hotel – Georgetown . The Container Hotel offers real boxes (see pictures below) but also single and double rooms. I tried out both and if you just stay for a night or two the boxes are totally okay and the washrooms, toilets, showers are clean!
The box version has different plugins for electricity, light and visual cover. The public places offer safety boxes, lounge facilities, books and in general a great atmosphere. Besides that, the staff is very helpful and you can leave your luggage there for several hours after check out.
I also liked the interior design, furniture and provided equipment. Simple, convenient and different…
Below I added some pictures from a double room which has all the regular necessities including private bath and WC. Hint: If you book a room do not make the same mistake which I made- ask for a room which is NOT FACING THE STREET (the rooms facing the street are very noisy)!
Before I end this post with some impressive murals and my enthusiasm for Georgetown I would like to mention the Camera Museum which has a great selection of old cameras and is a nice welcomed visit, especially to escape the hot afternoon heat in the town.
Selamat Jalan, Georgetown – Penang March 2017