Photography by Moritz Lips. Written by Oliver Lips.
The city of George Town on Penang Island is a historical and therefore cultural mix and match. Nowadays divided mainly between Chinese, Malay and Indians the city had attracted other nations back in the days, such as the British Empire due to its location on the Strait of Malacca and the very important spices trading.
The signs of history are written all over George Town. You will find architectural styles from China, India, Malaysia, Great Britain as well as Islamic influences. It is no wonder that in 2008 it was listed as one of Malaysia's UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its long history as a cosmopolitan city.
We were staying in one of the areas in the city that was influenced by the Muslim Indians. Only 50 meters from the Spices Boutique Hotel where we were staying you will find one of the oldest mosques on the island. The hotel is split into two buildings one of which is more oriental inspired and as of last year an Art Deco inspired building with café opened. It combines traditions from the Islamic world, India and Malaysia that truly comes into its own with the indiviually furnished rooms. One of the highlights of the hotel though has to be the brawny Bodhi tree that is growing on the wall in the central courtyard and even into the hotel itself.
One of the newer things George Town has become famous for is its street art. Artists such as Ernest Zacharevic painted huge murals on walls across the city. At almost every hotel there is a map that will lead you to the most prominent ones, but even if you don't look for them specifically you will stumble upon some of the murals while exploring the city.
Apart from the murals George Town has a lot to offer, not only architectually or culturally, but also food-wise. You will find some of the best street food, hip cafes and cool restaurants there. Since we were only in town for two days we opted to try as many different places as possible and started off with a delicious traditional Malay dish at the Urban Spices Café that also belongs to the Spices Hotel. In the evening we went to China House: It is a super cool concept restaurant (if you can call it like that) that consists of at least four different houses. Think of it like a long tunnel that reaches from one street to another. You just walk straight through the «tunnel» and will go through bars, restaurants, a wine bar, gallery and a courtyard with pool.
It actually makes it unnecessary to ever leave this place as you can easily enjoy an aperitivo, then have dinner and go for some drinks at the bar afterwards – that's basically what we did. They often have live music and on the evening we were there this great guy sang and played the guitar like a rockstar. From the looks he might as well have been a hobo, but it was great listening to his rough and smokey voice covering some Dire Straits and The Doors songs.
A super cool lunch spot we discovered through Tripadvisor was Mews Café. They serve really good Malay dishes in a British Empire kind of surrounding. In the evening of the second day we went to Jawi House where we experienced a whole new cuisine. Jawi refers to the offspring of Indian, Arab, Turkish or Persian migrants who married local Malay women - from that also emerged a fusion of their traditional dishes that is truly mouth-watering.
Nightlife of course is another important part of the city’s spirit. Since becoming an UNESCO World Heritage Site there has been a huge increase of tourists and especially backpackers. Therefore you’ll find all sorts of cool bars with delicious and refreshing drinks (doesn’t get cold in the evenings, so you’ll still need to cool down somehow).
George Town is truly worth a visit and can easily be reached by plane to Penang International Airport or like we did arriving from Langkawi by boat.
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
21st & 22nd April 2016
Explore the hashtag #LipsBrothersMalaysia on Instagram.