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George Town (Malaysia)
Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in georgetown
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Francis Light and the Clock Tower
George Town is the capital of the island and state of Penang in Malaysia.
Founded in 1786 by British trader Francis Light, George Town was one of the three Straits Settlements along with Malacca and Singapore. Modern-day George Town is one of Malaysia's largest cities with 600,000 inhabitants.
Note that with its combination of Chinese and Muslims, GeorgeTown takes its religious resting days. Most of the town stops working for the latter half of Saturday, and all of Sunday. The majority of shops and restaurants are closed during these times and the streets are extremely sleepy and quiet, with little tourist friendly activity going on. Muslim prayer calls can be heard every hour, and it is not uncommon to see the Chinese locals burning incense for ancestor worship on the sidewalks.
The town seems quite relaxed, as restaurants, small shops, and mall shops don't fully open until around noon. If you're waking up early, be sure to look for Chinese Dim Sum stalls as they are only available in the morning. But don't bother looking for any other activities besides eating.
George Town is Penang's transportation hub. Ferries arrive at the terminal on Pengkalan Weld on the east city of the city; the bus station is nearby on Lebuh Victoria.
Public transportation around the city is not very well organized. There are, however, buses that ply the length and breadth of the city, and even one that can take you around the island itself.
Taxi rides within the city should cost RM 10-20; agree on the fare before you get in as they do not run on meters.
Trishaws cater to tourists and charge around RM 15 per hour. However, these trishaw rides are becoming more of a curiosity rather than the norm as the number of trishaw peddlers are now lower in number than before.
You may also rent your own motorbike or little scooter to get around. These shops can be found along Chulia Street and also Penang Road.
Preserved by strict zoning laws, the gently crumbling but largely intact shophouses of George Town offer a glimpse into the town's colonial times. Restoration works are slowly progressing.
Queen Victoria Clock Tower
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, 1 (http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com). The winner of UNESCO's Asia-Pacific Heritage 2000 Award for Conservation, the building's eclectic character is a reflection of the times at the end of the 19th Century when the myths & magic of the Chinese Kingdom embraced the glory of the British Empire in a whirling pool of cross-cultural energies. The sprawling mansion has 38 huge rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 windows!
- City Hall is a well-preserved colonial building from the heyday of the British Empire since 1903, at a cost of 100,000 Straits Dollars.
- Fort Cornwallis, Light Street. Built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, first landed in August 11th 1786. The fort was first built in 1793, but this site was an unlikely spot to defend the city from invasion. In 1810 it was rebuilt in an attempt to make up for initial strategic planning errors. In the shape of a star, the only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine, and a small Christian chapel. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort.
- Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi (???????), 18 Lebuh Cannon, 2 (http://www.khookongsi.com.my). Built in 1850 by the forefathers of Khoo family who emigrated from South China, as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family. In 1836, construction of a new temple began and was completed 8 years later, but fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, allegedly struck by the lightning. Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and made of the finest wood. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck! Open 9-17 weekdays, 9-13 Saturdays; entrance RM 5 for adults.
- Penang Islamic Museum, 3 (http://www.penangislamicmuseum.net). 128 Armenian Street. Phone:+60 4 262-0172, Fax:+60 4 264-4692. Wed-Mon 9.30AM-6PM (9.30AM-4PM during fasting month). Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, the century-old mansion that was named after its owner, a spice trader from Acheh. Adult RM3 and children below 12 RM1.
- Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Church Street, 4 (http://pinangperanakanmansion.com/). Originally the home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, leader of Penang and Perak Hai San groups in the Larut Wars from 1860 to 1884. The mansion is a typical representation of the Straits Eclectic style of architecture ? highly favoured by rich Peranakan families of old. Affectionally called 'Hai Kee Chan' or Sea Remembrance Store, it served as his residence and office.
- Queen Victoria Clock Tower, intersection of Leight Street and Beach Street. This 60 feet high clock tower was presented to Penang by local millionaire, Cheah Chen Eok, in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
George Town has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.
Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple
- Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple located opposite of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, was built in 1805. A pair of elephants (sacred beasts in Buddhism) guard the entrance while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
- Kapitan Keling Mosque was built in the early 19th century, it was named after the Indian Muslim merchant Caudeer Mohudeen, who was also the Kapitan Keling (headman). It is the most prominent historic mosque in Penang and features a dome-shaped minaret reflecting Moorish Islamic influence. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is the place of worship of the Indian Muslim community who have lived and worked around the mosque for over two hundred years. Unlike modern mosques which are mainly frequented on Fridays, the Kapitan Keling Mosque is used by woshippers five times a day, seven days a week. Extremely well maintained next to its rundown neighborhood, tourists can get free tours of the mosque during non-prayer times. Be prepared to take your shoes off. Women must wear a heavy robe provided by the staff.
- Kuan Yin Teng (???, "Goddess of Mercy Temple"), Every day. This is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. Built in 1801 by early immigrant settlers from China, the building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which are said to be its guardians. Undoubtedly the most popular Chinese temple in Penang, the Kuan Yin Teng, is flocked by pilgrims and followers all year round, particularly on the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month. There is a lovely square where puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days. The square is always a centre of bustling activity, and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community. Free admission.
- St. George's Church, 1 Lebuh Farquhar. Named after the patron saint of England. Built with convict labour in 1818, it is the oldest Anglican Church in Malaysia. The building was designed by Captain Robert Smith, a military engineer whose oil paintings of early Penang can be seen in the Penang State Museum. A memorial in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab dedicated to Captain Francis Light, stands in the grounds of the St. George's Church.
- Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram was founded in 1845. One of the world's longest reclining Buddhas (33 meters) resides within this Thai-styled temple. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to four women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.
- Penang State Museum is located near Fort Cornwallis, was formerly the Penang Free School which was built in two separate stages in 1896 and 1906. The museum exhibits paintings the artistic military man Captain Robert Smith and the lovely engravings of William Daniell. Other collections are former Penang Hill railway carriage, a handwritten Qur`an (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran), old Malays weapons donated by the family of the late Dato' Haji Fathil Basheer and etc.
- KOMTAR, the only tower in George Town, is easy to find. It is well worth paying to see the view of the city from the top of KOMTAR. There are also shops around the tower.
- Clan Jetties are numerous and located along the shorelines of George Town. They are worth walking to and looking at, as they provide insight to the way locals live in these traditional huts on stilts.
- Chew Thean Yeang (???) aka CTY Aquarium, 82 Burmah Road. Phone:+60 4 226-8797, Fax:+60 4 229-4049 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia.
- Little India is where many traidional Indian traders selling all sorts of Indian traditional wares such as saris, garlands, trinkets, sculptures, Indian music, handicrafts, Punjabi suits, Singhalese silverwares, stainless steel housewares and accessories since 18th century. Spicy Indian food likes roti canai or thosai are available along the streets either at coffee shop, restaurant or road-side hawker stalls.
- Prangin Mall, next to KOMTAR, has stolen much of its neighbor's buzz and offers a convenient yet sanitized shopping experience.
- KOMTAR (Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak), Penang's first skyscraper and a bit of an eyesore, is a useful navigational landmark but not so good for shopping anymore.
- Gurney Plaza near to the Gurney walk (or Gurney Drive), lot of good food and stuff to shop with.
As in most other Asian countries, the local food is somewhat spicy. However, being a melting pot of different cultures, you can easily find a wide variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine that abounds at almost every street corner. Penang is well known as the "food haven" for Malaysia as one can find many foodstalls all over Malaysia as Penang this or Penang that. It's best to ask the locals to head you towards the best locations for food, though walking in to any "coffee shop" or stall would almost certainly guarantee an experience for your taste buds. Having a basic Malaysian vocabulary of menu items is extremely helpful. Be sure to print out a translation of Malaysian words for basic foods, such as chicken, beef, pork, noodles, rice, etc.
The roasted peanuts at the hawker stalls are extremely tasty and a good deal at RM 1.
Jaya, an Indian restaurant open 24 hours, is a little more tourist friendly than other local restaurants. They offer a wide variety of fresh Indian food, including chicken masala, fresh garlic naan, roti prata, roti cani, tandoori chicken, and curry puffs. The prices are cheap and the food is fast and fresh.
- Teh Tarik (Milk Tea) - Enjoy at any Mamak stall along Penang Road in the evening, chit chat with friends, watching the culture of Penangites.
Beers & Liquor
The Garage located in the upper Penang Road should be the first choice to have fun there.
- Cocos, Upper Penang Road, Phone:+60 4 263-8003. Daily 5PM-3AM, Ladies Night on every Wednesday. Live band. Local delights available.
- Slippery Senoritas, Upper Penang Road, Phone:+60 4 263-6868. mailto:email@example.com.
- Soho Freehouse, 50 Penang Road, Phone:+60 4 263-3331/262-8331, Fax:+60 4 263-5146. Soho Freehouse offers selection of continental food and beer with live band performance.
- Church Street Cafe, 12 Church Street, Phone:+60 4 263-9422
Motels along Love Lane and Chulia Street in George Town area.
- YMCA International Hostel,5 (http://www.penang-hotels.com/ymcapg) 211 Macalister Road. RM66 to RM85 per night.
- Blue Diomond Hotel 422 Chulia Street. Phone:+60 4 261-1089
- Eastern Hotel 509 Chulia Street. Phone:+60 4 261-4597, Fax:+60 4 261-0008
- Oriental Hotel 72 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-4211
- White House Hotel 105 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-2385
- Federal Hotel 39 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-4179
- Hotel Mingood 164 Argyll Road. Phone:+60 4 229-9922, Fax:+60 4 228-0766
- Hotel Oasis 23 Love Lane Phone:+60 4 226-2126, Fax:+60 4 261-3884
- Hotel Rio 64-1, Lebuh Bishop. Phone:+60 4 262-5010
- International Hotel 90-92 1st Floor, Transfer Road. Phone:+60 16 434-2775
- Kowloon Hotel 60 Transfer Road. Phone:+60 4 226-6507
- Agora Hotel 202A Macalister Road, Phone:+60 4 226-6060
- City Bayview Penang,6 (http://www.bayviewintl.com). 25A Farquhar Street, Phone:+60 4 263-3161, Fax:+60 4 263-4124. Tollfree reservation within Malaysia:1-800-888854 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel 1926, 227 Burmah Road, Phone:+60 4 228-1926
- Hotel Continental Penang,
- 5 Penang Road, Phone:+60 4 263-6388.
- 68, Jalan Gurwara, Phone:+60 4 263-6688, Fax:+60 4 263-0299
- Midtowne Hotel, 101 Macalister Road, Phone:+60 4 226-9999 Fax:+60 4 229-5149
- Sunway Georgetown,7 (http://www.sh.com.my). 33 New Lane, Phone:+60 4 229-9988 Fax:+60 4 228-8899. RM120-RM450 per night.
- Berjaya Georgetown Penang,8 (http://www.berjayaresorts.com/berjaya-georgetown/info.html). 1-Stop Midlands Park, Burma Road, Phone:+60 4 227-7111, Fax:+60 4 226-7111 mailto:email@example.com.
- Cititel Penang,9 (http://www.cititelhotel.com). 66 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 370-1188, Fax:+60 4 370-2288. RM130-RM350 per night.
- Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang 10 Farquhar Street, Phone:+60 4 222-2000, Fax:+60 4 262-6333, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 10 (http://www.e-o-hotel.com) . Founded in 1884 by legendary hoteliers the Sarkies brothers, the E&O is Penang's grand old colonial hotel. Rooms from RM 400++.
- Northam Hotel,12 (http://www.northam-hotel.com.my). 55 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Phone:+60-4-3701111, Fax:+60-4-3702222 mailto:email@example.com. Boasts all rooms as suites.
- Shangri-La Hotel Penang,13 (http://www.shangri-la.com/penang). Jalan Magazine, Toll free (Malaysia):1-300-88-7388 Phone:+60 4 262-2622, Fax:+60 4 262-6526, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. This hotel is located next to KOMTAR and Prangin Mall, in the heart of Georgetown.
Be extra careful in shopping malls and crowds, as they are the spots of petty crimes such as pickpockets and snatch thefts.