Did you know that every 7th of July is George Town World Heritage Day? It is in celebration of the day George Town was designated as one of the World Heritages, back in 7th July 2008. Since then, various festivals and events are held to celebrate this honourable recognition! Unfortunately, this year’s festival had to be cancelled to curb the spread of Covid-19.
However, as we are now in Recovery Movement Control Order (thanks to the frontliners’ dedication and Malaysians’ cooperation!) and interstate travel is now allowed, there are many ways to celebrate this wonderful day. In fact, let’s celebrate the whole month! To truly lay out the perfect experience for you, I have contacted my dearest friend, a proud Penangite, to guide us on how to celebrate like one.
Her first suggestion is, aside from visiting the usual heritage sites, do not miss on taking a stroll along the old George Town streets to enjoy the whole atmosphere. Although modernisation has taken over, George Town manages to preserve its traditional architecture that can be found on these streets. Some have turned into artisan cafes, shops, themed homestays, and Airbnbs. But here’s the special tip: look for pretty and ‘Instagrammable’ mosaics and doorsteps! Put on your favourite pair of shoes, get your camera(s) ready, and go crazy with the symmetry!
Of course, no visit to George Town is complete without street-art-hunting. Countless of artworks are scattered throughout the town for you to discover, ranging from street arts to wire sculptures portraying Penang and its history. These masterpieces are the works of Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist hired by Penang’s municipal council to bring life into Penang’s history through mural art. I’d like to share more pictures, but I wouldn’t want to rob off the element of surprise when you discover each of them during your visit!
Another interesting form of art that teaches Penang history is the “Voices from the People,” or 52 wire sculptures by Sculpture at Work, who won an art challenge organised by the state government back in 2009. Below is an example of the steel rod artwork, telling the story of George Town pride; the world-renowned shoemaker Jimmy Choo, the son of a George Town shoe cobbler. Do you think you can find all 52 of them?
Now, this goes without saying, but what better way to explore Penang than a food excursion! My friend happily shared with me ‘flat-lay’ pictures of Penang food to show to all of you (so many I couldn’t possibly post them all up!). Like its people, Penang cuisine ranges from Chinese, Indian, and Malay, found both by the streets and in cosy cafes. Indulge in their rojak pasembor, cendol, assam laksa, nasi kandar, char kuey teow… (at this point you must’ve already realised that the list will be endless).
Unable to travel to Penang just yet? Fret not as the celebration continues virtually! Every year, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) will come up with themed festivals as well as arts and cultural events throughout the month of July. However, GTWHI has taken the initiative to continue this year’s celebration online, through just as many agendas! The online George Town Festival will start from 4 until 19 July 2020, with workshops, screenings, performances, talks, and showcases all waiting for you! Be sure to visit their Facebook page to find out on all of their events and mark your calendars!
Having said all that, now’s the best time to ‘reactivate’ that Penang trip you’ve put on hold, don’t you think? (Every Malaysian I know always has a rough itinerary of all the Penang attractions and food galore at the back of their heads, including me!) Don’t forget to share with us your favourite Penang experience or other suggestions that you have. In the meantime, I’m going to outline the itinerary I mentioned before on paper and make it happen stat! See you soon Penang!