Penang is located on the north west side of Malaysia, the capital is George Town. The state of Penang has a population of 1.5 million, with 700,000 living on Penang island, of which 418,000 are Chinese and 220,000 are Malay.
George Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7th July 2008, for ‘the mixture of influences which have created ‘a unique architecture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia’, and ‘demonstrate an exceptional range of shophouses’. Some 1700 buildings are in the core protected area. The UNESCO designation prompted a resurgence in tourism and subsequent investment and refurbishment of property.
Take a stroll around the city streets and alleys, to see both beautifully renovated and crumbling, dilapidated shophouses; modern hotels, malls and skyscrapers; temples of several faiths; traditional markets and food hawkers. George Town is a delight.
A shophouse typically incorporates a shop or business premise on the ground floor with living accommodation on the top floor. Shophouses are built in rows, usually two or three storeys high, and are long and narrow.
Each row of shophouses is fronted by a continuous, sheltered, five-foot wide walkway, louvre shutters on the upper floors, and a decorative façade. Despite this uniformity, there is a huge diversity of colours and styles.
In 2012 Penang’s municipal council commissioned London-trained Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic to create six street art murals in the historic area of George Town. This was the start of a proliferation of street art in the town and one can do self guided tours to view the many murals which have been produced by a variety of artists. Some murals are down narrow, side streets, so they are not always easy to locate.
These are some of the more popular murals, not all by Zacharevic, that I saw. The dinosaur at the end of the string the boy is holding has escaped, (it’s no longer visible).
Chowrasta market is a “wet market”, wet markets are where one can buy groceries, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, and usually open just in the morning. Fish are kept wet with water, so the floor is always wet, hence ‘wet’ market. The original Chowrasta Market was built in 1890 by the George Town municipality. The front part facing Penang Road was rebuilt in 1920 and has remained virtually unchanged until 1981 when a new market was built in its place. In Urdu, Chowrasta means “four cross roads”.
The smoking and non smoking way to sell vegetables.
Just outside the market, are stalls selling a wide variety of goods, and lots of food stalls.