Is there a city in Asia I could live in, besides Singapore? Yes, there is and it is called George Town, located on the Penang Island. Why do I love it so much? Because it is close to the sea, quite tidy, has a lot of decent street art and full of great food with plenty of nice looking cafes and restaurants. This city has been nicknamed “The Pearl of the Orient” and this is a well-deserved title!
Walking down the street was always a pleasant experience. When walking there I felt safe. Organized sidewalks are the best part and the traffic is not too heavy. After a few days of just walking around the city, it was a nice change to discover it’s hidden corners by bike. With a bike, you will notice street art easier and shorten your way through tight alleys – I truly suggest you give it a try. Cycling here is pleasant and this is the best way to see the city in all its charm.
Is this city full of tourists? Yes, yes it is. This is one of the most occupied tourist destinations in Malaysia. Despite that, I didn’t get that overcrowded feeling. Maybe it was because of the laid-back vibe and the well-hidden douchebag attractions. I guess in lovely old buildings you can find upside-down houses and “frozen Bars”, but in general, you will have a nice cultural feeling.
On the streets, you won’t see too much rubbish like you would in Kuala Lumpur or Melaka. People take care of their heritage and old buildings here look surprisingly well maintained. Most of Georgetown is under UNESCO protection, but so is Melaka… I think I found out the real reason why. This is the only Malaysian City where the opposite party is much stronger and they want to get some voting points. I hope this is not just the current situation when they are trying to take a bigger role in parliament. Regardless, they showed how nice and well-organized cities can be if there is a will. People here are also nicer and more polite than in other big cities in Malaysia.
Photographers and artists will love this city. Your first option is scenic old buildings and the second one is graffiti art. I took a lot of photos of these graffitis. In 2012, Penang’s municipal council hired London-trained Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic to make wall art around the city. Zacharevic’s street art is amazing, he is truly talented. There is more to it than just a job, he started something new. A lot of followers are making their own art and the city is getting nicer and nicer. One of the artists is also Julia Volchkova, the Russian artist from Saint Petersburg. Her work is remarkable, with realistic portraits, which have a heavy story behind. In the future, I will make a post about this street art scene here in Penang.
And finally, another reason I would live in George Town is the food scene. This city is a mecca for foodies. The hunt for a good meal is always a short one. We found such great food on the street and in the fine dining restaurants. A particularly remarkable was authentic Nyonya food. One “restaurant” found its way into our hearts and we were there at least 5 hours. The reason why we were there for so long, you will find it out in the upcoming post. In this city we also found some fine dining options and what fascinated us the most was that you can eat street food even in the 5-star hotel. For example, in the E&O hotel where we were staying, we had Penang Laksa. It wasn’t the best one we had, but surely more than decent. I think this is a great approach. Street food is a legacy and it deserves to be presented also on the high culinary level.
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