As our route we chose to follow The Lonely Planet’s “Five Cultures on Two Feet” walk, intended to showcase Georgetown’s mix of British, Indian, Malay, Baba-Nonya (Paranekan) and Chinese architecture.
Given all these cultures, Georgetown seems to have some sort of church, temple or mosque every block or two. It’s somewhat staggering to learn that 400 old buildings were destroyed to build a showy tower before the area was preserved thanks to attaining UNESCO heritage status, declared in 2008.
Unfortunately a number of the more grandiose buildings were not on the LP route, and with our timeline determined by the hotel shuttle schedule we were disinclined to wander off it. On the other hand, we have seen some of the world’s top cathedrals and temples as well as some significant (if not grand) other places of worship such as Protestant churches and Muslim mosques. I was disappointed to miss the Sri Mahamariamman Temple (Hindu) but take solace in knowing we have plans to visit India one day.
It probably would have been exciting to travel away from Georgetown and Penang city centre to the Snake Temple. Again though - and perhaps it’s just “sour grapes on my part - the live pit vipers in the garden beneath the altar would have freaked me out. Sure, I played with a friend’s boa in elementary school and delighted in catching garden snakes once-upon-a-time but animals without appendages now make my skin crawl be they snakes, eels or even wee worms (it’s tough on me, being an avid gardener).
Along our walk we enjoyed the Georgetown street art, which features murals commissioned from renowned artists as well as others that may or may not be sanctioned by local authorities. My favourites are those by Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian who takes a mixed-media 3D approach in his creations. A quick check online indicates we missed a lot of other Penang street art.
Our final stop on our Georgetown walkabout was the Lee Jetty, one of the stilted “floating” water villages established/dominated by seven historic Chinese clans.
Each jetty was traditionally occupied only by people of that surname; Ong, Lee, Chew, Tan, Lee, New, Yeoh. It makes me curious as to Whether famous Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh has an ancestral connection to a jetty village. She played the lead in the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the rich mom in the recent hit Crazy Rich Asians and many other roles in between.
The frontage of each home along the the pier/walkway is very narrow. However, they are communal and we could see behind lay long walkway so likely there are several rooms withinI was surprised at the lack of commercialization as only one home was selling anything and their fruit popsicles were popular among the tourists.
From the Lee Jetty we had just enough time to walk back to the hotel shuttle. Seems we had perfectly timed out shuttle times of a noon departure and 5:30 return- including the Blue Mansion tour and a refreshing beverage break in Little India.
The rest of Penang and its many delights will have to wait for another trip; it’s back to the beach for us and then on to Seoul to join our family.