I’m very spoilt for street art living in Shoreditch, probably one of the most densely graffitti’d neighbourhoods in the world. But like many I am still drawn to seeking out destinations where the walls are used as a canvas to tell local stories or the best of international artists. In many parts of South East Asia interest in the medium is growing side by side with millennials who spent their teens embracing music and subculture. While there are a few great spots in the region to see this, Georgetown is the best example of street art being embraced citywide, not just in one neighbourhood. The capital of Penang island in Malaysia, Georgetown is a small hop of a flight over from Kuala Lumpur, or even Melaka which was the route I took.The island is known for it’s mixture of colonial shop fronts, clan jetties and vibrant modern life.
Georgetown, Penang – A vivid mixture of cultures, flavours and experiences will meet any visitor to this culturally rich island on the straits of Melaka. Many of the influences here are distinctly Malaysian variants of traditional Pan-Asian traditions, no more so than the boardwalks of the Clan Jetties found on the eastern coast of the city. Set up as public landing jetties on the quay during the 19th century, by the early 20th they were ilt up to house squatters quarters loyal to individual clans of Chinese origin. The Chew Jetty is the most visitor friendly, lined with souvenir shops and drinks stands, while the others such as Lee and Tan provide a more realistic representation of everyday life of the current inhabitants.
The Clan Jetties are the perfect place to visit at sundown, where the cool breeze from the water creates a refreshing end to a busy day in Georgetown. The Chew Jetty opens out at the end to a shrine area with room to sit and enjoy sundown.
Following on from some tasty adventures at Jonker’s Walk night market in Melaka, I wanted to find a similar experience in Penang. While known as one of the best food destinations in the world, there is not really one main place to go to street food in central Georgetown, instead the coastal areas of Guerny Drive and Batu Ferringhi are known hotspots, but a bit far out without relying on taxis both ways.
Along with stalls and casual dining spots found along some of the busier streets such as Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Campbell, the Red Garden Cafe night market is a good option for convenient, cheap and delectable food while staying in town. It’s more like an outdoors food hall than market, with vendors lining the outside and open seating in the center, alongside a stage which I am sure is used for some terrifying karaoke renditions as late night entertainment.
As usual, veggie options were limited but I managed to grab some delicious dim sum – sweet potato pao with a pandan kaya (pandan and coconut) pao for dessert. Let’s not discuss why my dessert is clearly bigger…
Below is a map for you to find the Red Garden Cafe when you’re next in Penang!
Yesterday I landed in Malaysia and headed straight to Melaka, a historical trading point with a rich mix of cultural influences. This evening I headed to Jonker’s Walk (Jalan Hang Jebat), one of the main tourist streets of Melaka, which on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings swells with the hustle and bustle of a world class night market. Stalls line each side of the street selling local and imported delicacies, along with gifts and gadgets from budget hawkers. I managed to get reacquainted with sugar cane juice while trying some Mango ice cream served in a plastic egg, along with what I can best describe as a Taiwanese crumpet.
I had heard rumours of a kung-fu master entertaining the crowds with insane sword tricks, however the only entertainment I could find was a very public karaoke show – the audience remained avid while sweet old crooners took the stage.
Apart from tasty snacks and karaoke, the tricked out lights of the Melaka rickshaw is a big draw for the crowds. Lavishly dedicated in gaudish tributes to Frozen, Hello Kitty, other children’s cartoons, and yet more Frozen, during the day these are attention grabbing; at night they are like mini moving nightclubs, music included.
The last 24 hours in Melaka have been incredibly enjoying, if exhausting, as I managed to fit in many of the main attractions during the day. Hopefully I’ll have time to write these up tomorrow along with ticking off a few final things in the morning and catching a flight to Penang for my stay in Georgetown.