Penang Diary 3: Walking around George Town

After checking into our room, we quickly decided to go out and explore. These are the various sights that greeted us as we walked out of Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel to discover the sights and sounds George Town, the whole day, by foot.

Upper Penang Road, situated at the beginning of Jalan Penang, right in front of the E&O Hotel,  is considered to be the centre of Georgetown’s nightlife. This major party zone is filled with pubs and nightclubs that come alive with neon lights and thumping music at nightime. However, it looked rather lame in the morning. But naturally.


Quirky, cute and cool, Monkey Bar is one of Upper Penang Road’s longest-running nightspots but it was totally dead in the morning.

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If you are from India, you cannot help but notice this institution, where somebody from your family must have attended.


Next stop was Penang Museum which was a storehouse of history.


A bicycle used to peddle goods

We also learnt that 555 State Express replaced Craven A cigarettes (Rokok Chap Kuching).

Shoes of torture
The horror story explained
Cannot help but admire their sense of humour
These tiffin carriers are so quaint. I have one like this but made of stainless steel



Exquisite Nyonya beadwork


Extravagant Nyonya marriage car

As we approached Little India, these familiar sights greeted us.


George Town Dispensary, constructed in 1923, is housed in a landmark three-storey corner building at the junction of Beach Street and China Street.

I would love to buy medicines from here
The Chinese quarters of the town

This excellent-value buffet restaurant is the place to go for a filling meat-free Chinese lunch. Take what you want from the selection of vegetables, curries and beancurds on offer, and you’ll be charged accordingly. I had to take this photo because of the Chinese vegetarian sign.


This banner made us very curious about Armenian Street but that amazing part of Georgetown needs to have a separate blog entry
Surprising how even in Calcutta – the only city in India which has a Chinatown – the dry cleaning business used to be controlled by the Chinese
This was a very funny sight. When the British first built houses in George Town, they built chimneys on it, but realized soon enough that these were the last things one needed here. Please note the minaret of a mosque peeping out from the top corner.

By the time we had our lunch and explored more, it was dark and time for dinner. Penang is the food capital of Asia, and maybe the world. Street food is cheap and mind-blowing. You would be a fool if you did not try the hawker fare and ate in the sanitised environs of your hotel. Manju had already done the reserach and armed with a list, we hit the food spots. Unfortunately, I remember nothing of what we ate and where we went but I can tell you it was the best culinary experience of my life. So many blogs have been written about the food in Penang that it is a waste of time writing about it. Here are the elaborate links of some food bloggers. Born to BunkBibik GourmandHalal Food BlogKen Hunts Food

One historic sites we did not visit was Fort Cornwallis. There is a lot of history but so little to see that we decided to skip that in favour of more visually appealing sites.

Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Set close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower, the star-shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang. Click here for more information.

After heavily indulging ourselves at dinner, we needed to burn the calories. The evenings are also cooler and the walks more enjoyable. The town is also very safe.


Millionaire businessman Cheah Chen Eok started to build a clock tower in 1897 to commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign but sadly, by the time it was ready in 1903, there was no more need to say Long Live the Queen! Haha.

State Legislative Assembly building
Georgetown; Penang;
The glorious Town Hall in daytime (PC: Pete’s Penang website)

The foundation stone of Dewan Bandaraya or Town Hall was laid in 1879 and the main building completed in 1883. It consisted of an assembly hall, a grand ballroom, and a library. The Penang Library was born here, after the Prince of Wales Library was moved here and renamed. An annex was added in 1890 while the porch and top floor added in 1903. The left wing – when cement plaster was introduced – as added in 1930. Those extensions and renovations together constitute the Town Hall.

For decades, the Penang Town Hall was the watering hole for the local socialites and elites, the venue for theatrical performances. Church services were held here – by Wesley Church in 1891, Bangsawan plays were performed, in 1903, while a group of Filipino musicians played here from 1890 right up to 1954. The Penang Town Hall was even featured in the movie Anna and the King, the courtroom segment of which was filmed here in 1999.

When the local authorities considered demolishing the Penang Town Hall, the National Museum stepped in to save it, gazetting it a historic monument on 29 July 1993.

City Hall (PC:  Food, Booze and Shoes website )

The City Hall was originally built in 1903 as the Municipal Office, to relieve the pressure for office space at the adjacent Penang Town Hall. It was renamed the “City Hall” in 1957, when George Town was declared a city by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was built in the Edwardian Baroque style, and has been listed as a national monument since 1982.

Penang High Court (please note the word mahkamah which is nothing but mahkuma in Bengali and tinggi in Malay means high)




After a leisurely night stroll, we were done for the day, heads buzzing with history!!

For more detailed information on Penang Heritage Sites click here.