Georgetown Penang - A Travellers Guide to Trishaws, Old Chinatown and Penang Nightlife
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.
Map of Georgetown, Penang
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.
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Georgetown Maps: Chinatown
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.
Georgetown Maps: Little India
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!
Georgetown Maps: Penang Road
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.
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© 2010 Suzanne Day