Penang, the coolest city in Asia?

Penang was he first stop in my trip around Malaysia, where I landed from a Taipei layover / quick visit. Despite the long trip, I still had the energy to get on a public bus (401) toward the central street Lebuh Chulia. The bus took ~45 min, the same a taxi would, and cost RM2.7 ($0.6) vs. the RM38 ($9) of a taxi. Once in the central area, it was easy to find a decent hostel for RM40. I took a quick walk and swallowed some delicious char kway teow (fried noodles) from a stall, before heading to bed – the next day would be a long one.

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Penang, or more precisely, Georgetown (Penang is the island-sate, Georgetown the capital city, but people use Penang to refer to the town too) is the second largest city of Malaysia, a colonial gem and a food paradise. But the reason I, and most travelers, had Penang on my bucket list is rather different: street art. In 2012, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic created a series of murals for Georgetown Festival. And since then, other artists have contributed, covering the streets with art and making Penang one of the coolest places in the world to visit.

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Art is literally everywhere. It is worth getting yourself a good map (best one I found) to not miss some of the most famous pieces. Zacharevic used a very unique technique, incorporating the urban landscape and objects, like windows and bikes, into his murals. His pieces are definitely the highlight.

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But it is equally recommended to just wander around Lebuh Armenian and surroundings, and see what you stumble upon. There are all sorts of random murals, and another serialized installation called Marking Georgetown, with caricature iron sculptures about the history of Penang.

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And let’s not forget that Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of 19th century colonial architecture, Chinese shophouses, temples, etc. I spent the whole day walking around the historic center, down to the pier, back up, and all the way to the Esplanade… and was an absolute pleasure 🙂

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To finish it off, and before catching a bus back to the airport and on to Kuala Lumpur, I found one of Penang’s famous hawker markets (I think it was called New World Park), and enjoyed some local specialties.

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