The curious colonial history of George Town

Georgetown streetGeorge Town, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Penang. Found on the north-eastern tip of Penang Island, the city is second largest and a UNESCO world heritage site.

George Town is steeped in history. With a combination of distinct and ancient cultures, indigenous and colonial architecture as well as some of the most characteristic streets, it makes for an unmissable experience if you find yourself in Malaysia.

The town seems to be stuck in time and ever since 2008 has been declared a world heritage site. The town centre provides for a quaint time-worn zone which successfully mixes a range of cultures and has developed into an urban treat for tourists.

Penang first became apparent when the British purchased the island from the Sultan of Kedah in the late 1700’s. This was used also by Singapore and Malacca for their strategic ports surrounding the Malay Peninsula. After this, the state started to flourish with many immigrants coming to live on the land resulting in many settlers from all around Asia and Europe. The British wanted as many foreign incomers to live on the land, and own whatever part of the uninhabited jungle they cleared to deter other countries from taking hold of the Island, namely the Dutch. With so many different nationalities flocking to Penang it became a multi-cultural home with many different traditions, foods and practises.

George Town has over 12,000 old buildings across the town. Down the narrow roads, you can find Chinese shop houses, colonial-era mansions, churches, temples, mosques and grand British colonial government offices and monuments. It is easy to get lost in the city, with the tight streets crisscrossing each other, turning into a maze system making this the perfect town to explore.

George Town is known for its amazing street art scene. The government commissions exhibitions which showcase and tell the story of the towns history and people. Many of these are produced on the crumbling walls of heritage buildings. To make sure you don’t miss any, take a street art tour where a local will guide you around the streets providing you with a background on all the art pieces.

The architectural beauty of the buildings that line the streets of George Town attracts thousands of tourists each year, and the town is only becoming more popular as word spreads. With the ancient history, spectacular scenery, traditional street food and shops selling customary clothing it caters for all making this the perfect destination to add to the list when travelling around Asia.