Georgetown, the capital of Penang, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. This title affords official recognition of its unique architectural and cultural landscape and preserves a district that is home to the largest number of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. The old quarter is an engaging area to stay, and for affordable and convenient accommodation in a renovated shophouse, we can recommend the Old Penang Guesthouse.
Walking the laneways in the cooler hours of morning and evening, we uncovered the living character that is testimony to Georgetown's multi-cultural heritage and traditions. The architecture and urban landscape are forged from over 500 years of mercantile exchanges between Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, and three successive European colonial powers. The town's heritage is expressed in the diversity of religious buildings, ethnic quarters, music, language, dress and food.
I had expected the gentrification of Georgetown to be more complete, and was charmed by the dilapidated facades and layers of peeling paint on walls and louvers. Residences and light industrial businesses are slowly being replaced by cafes and guesthouses, but for now the shophouses offer a view into the kitchens, loungerooms and workshops of local families.
Next up on the tour - the famous trishaws of Georgetown.