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Georgetown Penang - A Travellers Guide to Trishaws, Old Chinatown and Penang Nightlife

Updated on May 26, 2015

Lots of tourists bypass Georgetown, Penang Malaysia, preferring instead to hang out at overpriced and overrated Batu Ferringhi. But Georgetown offers lots of great attractions, a slower, more relaxing pace, interesting nightlife and quiet culture away from the tourist trail. If you’re looking for a more authentic Penang experience, Georgetown is a great place to wander, with lots of Colonial architecture, friendly locals, nice food and a traditional Chinese influence.

If you’ve travelled across from mainland Malaysia on the ferry, you’ll enjoy some interesting weather on the way – from tropical to rain to winter weather – you’ll get a full day’s weather offering in the strait between Penang and Malaysia.

There are plenty of relaxing activities to do in Georgetown. You can stroll around the seaside promenade and admire the fort or clocktower, then check out the very ornate Chinese temples before catching a trishaw back to the town centre for lunch. There are night markets, street food, lots of arty restaurants and cultural concerts to attend in the evening – Georgetown takes its festivals seriously and puts on public performances with free giveaways for locals and visitors.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was built by a migrant in 1890...who went on to become the most powerful overseas Chinese merchant of his time. The house now offers accommodation to Georgetown visitors. Source: © 2010 Suzanne Day
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was built by a migrant in 1890...who went on to become the most powerful overseas Chinese merchant of his time. The house now offers accommodation to Georgetown visitors. Source: © 2010 Suzanne Day

Map of Georgetown, Penang

A public Chinese temple as you enter Chinatown, Georgetown.
A public Chinese temple as you enter Chinatown, Georgetown. | Source
Chinatown shops.
Chinatown shops. | Source
Street altars in Chinatown - make an offering if you wish!
Street altars in Chinatown - make an offering if you wish! | Source
A Chinese altar containing offerings inside a tourist shop in Chinatown, Georgetown.
A Chinese altar containing offerings inside a tourist shop in Chinatown, Georgetown. | Source

Chinatown

Georgetown has a large Chinese influence retained from the Chinese immigrant settlers who migrated to Penang in the 1800s. The Chinatown area contains many temples, old-fashioned shopfronts, Chinese antique shops and traditional Chinese trades still functioning today, including lantern makers, joss stick makers and signage engravers.

As you walk through Chinatown, you’ll see street altars and fancy, ornate, Chinese temples to look at. You’ll also see mini altars inside the tourist shops with daily offerings on them. There’s Chinese street food to sample and tourist shops selling Asian gifts, as well as some locals doing their spitting, bathing and sleeping on the road.

Georgetown Maps: Chinatown

A markerChinatown -
Lebuh Campbell, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
get directions

Little India in Georgetown at Deepavali.
Little India in Georgetown at Deepavali. | Source
Deepavali decorations flood the shops in late October, early November.
Deepavali decorations flood the shops in late October, early November. | Source
More Deepavali decorations abound!
More Deepavali decorations abound! | Source

Little India

Similar to Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown has its own Little India where the festival of Deepavali, like an “Indian Christmas” (held in late October, early November) brings out the more festive side of the Indian population. Not only are there some quite colourful looking shops and artistically-decorated trishaws, there is also lots of music and feasting going on in the area.

I liked the Indian Top 20 music I heard so much, I purchased a CD and shopped till I dropped for amazing Deepavali decorations to take home. There were lots of friendly locals to talk to who recommended what to eat and sat with me to chat during my meal.

The food in Little India was particularly tasty and very very affordable, at about AU$8 for two courses and a drink.

Trishaw drivers in Georgetown are  friendly, athletic and know all the best places to go!
Trishaw drivers in Georgetown are friendly, athletic and know all the best places to go! | Source

Georgetown Maps: Little India

A markerLittle India -
Lebuh Pasar, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
get directions

Public performance at Upper Penang Road Street Festival.
Public performance at Upper Penang Road Street Festival. | Source
Unusual booths in restaurant on Penang Road.
Unusual booths in restaurant on Penang Road. | Source
This restaurant has doors layered on its roof. Other restaurants in the area had similar artistic ideas.
This restaurant has doors layered on its roof. Other restaurants in the area had similar artistic ideas. | Source
Chinese dragon at the Upper Penang Road Street Festival.
Chinese dragon at the Upper Penang Road Street Festival. | Source

Nightlife & Restaurants

Georgetown has modernised its central restaurants, which have taken decorating to new heights in terms of artistic recycling (or upcycling) and theming. For example, I visited an enormous but tacky Mexican-themed bar, complete with a large range of strong cocktails, live Mexican music (performed by Thai musicians) and more-spicy-than-back-home Mexican food. I was invited to check out a restaurant with doors layered across its ceiling and many other interesting restaurant interiors.

A night market selling handcrafts was situated on the main restaurant strip, and as dusk fell, shopowners turned up the music and excited teenagers laughed and pranked with water bombs and balloon blowing for the amusement of tourists.

Many performances were available, such as the Upper Penang Road Street Anniversary Festival, Chinese dragon parades, Indian Deepavali concerts across the city, nightclubs around the corner from my hotel and Chinese opera. For such a reputedly quiet little town, I found Georgetown quite adequately stocked with nightlife which was popular with the locals and contained only a sprinkling of tourists. Just perfect for relaxation!

Restaurants and night market at dusk - Upper Penang Road, Georgetown.
Restaurants and night market at dusk - Upper Penang Road, Georgetown. | Source

Georgetown Maps: Penang Road

A markerPenang Road (Restaurants & Clubs) -
Jalan Penang, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
get directions

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed my blog about Georgetown, Penang Malaysia and I look forward to reading your comments!

All photos contained herein are copyright © 2010 Suzanne Day.

If this information was useful to you, please click the “vote up” or "useful" button below!

© 2010 Suzanne Day

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    • fordie profile image

      fordie 6 years ago from China

      A very well constructed hub. Thanks

    • May PL profile image

      May PL 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      It has been decades since I have been to Georgetown, Sue, but I recall the Chinese influence in that city. Thanks taking me down memory lane. Great hub.

    • profile image

      Shiu-Kay Kan 4 years ago

      looking for the chinese lantern makers in george town penang

      skk@easynet.co.uk

    • SolveMyMaze profile image

      SolveMyMaze 3 years ago

      Excellent hub! A few friends of mine are heading over to Penang in the new year once they've recouped the costs of Christmas. This hub will be a huge help to them to see the area and the nightlife. I've passed it onto them, so thanks for the handy information.

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 3 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      What a great trip through Georgetown and Penang inside a glorious hub. My Mum would love this as she is from Thailand, and she knows that part of the world. It looks amazing and well done for creating a beautiful hub for world travelers and anyone looking for ideas about where to go for amazing discoveries, food, culture and people.

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 3 years ago

      I think I would fit in. It seems like a spectacular place for vacation!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      O yes...it is so much fun and so exciting to travel in foreign countries and experience it for real. This sounds like a trip that allows a peek and not just the 'touristy' side of the area. Maybe one day I can visit it too.

      Great photos.

      voted up , pinned, and shared..

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Georgetown Penang: A Travellers Guide to Trishaws, Old Chinatown and Penang Nightlife is an incredible hub with such lovely photos about this adventurous place.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 2 years ago from San Diego

      Beautiful. I know I would check on each shops and hunt for goodies that I like :) I enjoyed the photos very much. Shared.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and enjoyable hub. I loved the photos! Georgetown sounds like a fascinating place to explore.

    • profile image

      mumsgather 2 years ago

      What a wonderful job you did with this hub. I'm from Penang though I don't live there now, I return every year to visit during Chinese New Year. :)

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Wow, so good to hear from a fellow Penang visitee! I really enjoyed travelling around Penang when I was there and definitely look forward to going back again one day.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

      I had no idea there is so much to do in Georgetown. I would definitely be interested in the inexpensive food in Little India. I enjoyed the photos you chose for this article, too.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      you been to georgetown ? Forgive me, I reside in malaysia , yet , i never been to georgetown, i live in the south

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Hi PeachPurple, yes I have visited Georgetown for a week on my holiday. All of this hub and the photos are taken from my real life experience, so if you like the look of it, you should go and see it! I really liked Georgetown. My other favourite places in Malaysia are the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Malaysia is great place for a holiday and although Australia is supposed to be the dream country (where I live) I liked the feeling and the optimism and the smells of Malaysia. I miss them still.

    • sokolenko profile image

      Anton 2 years ago from Penza

      Malaysia is a wonderful country. Tnx for great story.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Looks like a very colorful place to travel. Definitely looks like a lot of Chinese influence.

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Yes, @poetryman, there is a huge Chinese influence in Penang!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 23 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I noticed on the map that this area is also a UNESCO world heritage site. That alone should entice many people to visit the area! Thanks for giving us a peek into what we would find in the Chinese and Indian sections of that city. Enjoyed the descriptions and your photos. Up votes and happy to share.

    • Juale Sisle profile image

      juale sisle 22 months ago

      hi very nice writers.thanks

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 22 months ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Suzanne. A wonderful hub. I was there when reading all your visits. So well researched and presented. A pleasure to read and I shall save and return on wet English mornings. Tip Top.

      voted up and all.

      Graham.

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 22 months ago from India

      To say the tr, Georgetown really looks stunning and astonishing from the pictures that you have provided and hope that one day I get an opportunity to visit this amazing place in Malaysia.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 21 months ago from Minnesota

      Susanne, this is a beautifully illustrated guide for travelers to Georgetown. A colorful place! I would enjoy seeing some small villages in the area and the country side of life being a country girl at heart and for real.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 18 months ago

      a worthy travelogue

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 17 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      I want a ticket. Well done, Suzanne!!

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 17 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Looks like a fun place to me. I must buy a ticket. Well done

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 9 months ago from Singapore

      Nice hub and pictures! I've always prefer Georgetown to Kuala Lumpur, and think it's the best city in Malaysia. It's developed enough, but not yet too overwhelming. And choked full of things to see (and eat).

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