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George Town (Malaysia)

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Revision as of 12:09, 8 October 2006 by (talk) (Religious sites)
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George Town (Malaysia)

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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, George Town takes its religious resting days. Most of the town stops working for the latter half of Saturday, and all of Sunday. Many 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.

Get in

George Town is Penang's transportation hub. Ferries arrive at the terminal on Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld) on the east city of the city; the bus station is nearby on Victoria Street.

Get around

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. Having said that, there is a chance you master the system by going either to the KOMTAR building or the ferry terminal. There, all busses stop on their route, and if you don't mind going around the city a bit if you actually want to leave it, you have good chances of getting where you want.

Going to the Airport (bus 3-4 from both Feri and KOMTAR) takes forever, as you might wait up to 45min for the bus to come and another 60-120 min to reach the airport. Costs only around RM 4 as opposed to the official RM 35 tariff..

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.

Street names can be confusing: the street signs are in Malay, but locals will invariably use the old English names, e.g. Pitt Street instead of Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Beach Street instead of Lebuh Pantai, etc. Lebuh, Jalan, Lorong, etc. are the Malay words for street, road, lane, respectively.


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.

Historical buildings

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Penang City Hall
Fort Cornwallis
Queen Victoria Clock Tower
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion [1], Leith Street. 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! You can only see the inside by guided tour, which is held daily at 11am and 3pm, for RM 12. There's also the option of staying there, which sets you back from RM 250 to 700.
  • City Hall, The Esplanade (Jalan Syed Sheikh Barakbah), 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 (梁山堂邱氏宗祠), 18 Cannon Street, [2]. 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]. 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 (Lebuh Gereja), [4]. 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 Light Street, Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and King Edward Place (Pesara King Edward). 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.

Religious sites

George Town has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.

Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple
Kapitan Keling Mosque
  • Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple located opposite of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, Burma Lane, 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, Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) 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 (观音亭, "Goddess of Mercy Temple"), Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) 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 Farquhar Street. Named after the patron saint of England. Built with convict labour in 1818, it is the oldest Anglican Church in South-East Asia. 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, Burma Lane, 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, Farquhar Street, 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, 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, Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld), 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 (周天央) aka CTY Aquarium, 82 Burmah Road. Phone:+60 4 226-8797, Fax:+60 4 229-4049 [5]. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia.




  • Little India, junctions of Market Street (Lebuh Pasar) with King Street and Queen Street, is where many traditional 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.

Shopping malls

  • 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, Gurney Drive (Pesiaran Gurney), lot of good food, plenty of stuff to shop and 14 cineplexes.
  • Island Plaza, Jalan Tanjung Tokong, Well planned tenant mix comprising Anchor Tenant, family entertainment & amusement centre, regional/local cuisine restaurant, food court, cineplexes and more than 150 specialty shops
  • One-Stop Midlands Park, Jalan Burma, One Stop is a huge mall with lots of small shops inside.
  • Bukit Jambul Complex, Located at the fast-developing Bukit Jambul area of Malaysia, this RM350 million complex features 414 shops, hypermarket Cosmart, food court, a high-tech amusement centre, six cineplexes and a 40-lane bowling alley.
  • Penang Plaza, Jalan Burma


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.

  • Cendol (Ice delicacies) - Enjoy the famous Teochew cendol at Penang Road during the hot day in Penang.


  • 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,.Local delights available.
  • Slippery Senoritas Salsa Club & Restaurant. Upper Penang Road, (Located in the garage). +60 4 263-6868. [6]. Open 11am - 3am.(Lunch Dinner.Music) 1/2 price drinks until 9pm. Live music/D.J's from 9.30pm. "Ladies Nights" Wednesday and Friday.
  • GLO Dance Club, A8 The Garage, No2 Penang Road, Penang 10000, Malaysia
  • Shamrock Irish Pub, Ground Floor, MWE Plaza, Faquhar Street, 10200 Penang
  • 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.


  • Church Street Cafe, 12 Church Street (Lebuh Gereja), Phone:+60 4 263-9422



  • 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
  • Federal Hotel 39 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-4179
  • Garden City Inn [7] formerly called *Island City Hotel is the cheapy around, at the Penang Street/Chulia Junction, they have a ridiculous dorm, without lockers or even doors, but it only costs RM 6 - good for a very short stay, to get some sleep and a reasonably clean shower. +604-261-070
  • Hotel Continental Penang, 5 Penang Road, Phone:+60 4 263-6388.
  • Hotel Mingood 164 Argyll Road. Phone:+60 4 229-9922, Fax:+60 4 228-0766
  • Hotel Malaysia,[8] 7 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-3311, Fax:+60 4 263-1621 [9]. 3 stars hotel with budget rates. Highly recommended by local tourists.
  • Hotel Oasis 23 Love Lane. Phone:+60 4 226-2126, Fax:+60 4 261-3884
  • Hotel Rio 64-1 Bishop Street. 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
  • Oriental Hotel, [10] 72 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-4211. Location: 5 deg 25'12.47"N ; 100 deg 19'58.51"E.
  • White House Hotel 105 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 263-2385
  • YMCA International Hostel,[11] 211 Macalister Road. RM66 to RM85 per night.


Sunway Georgetown
  • Sunway Georgetown,[12]. 33 New Lane (Lorong Baru), Phone:+60 4 229-9988 Fax:+60 4 228-8899. Location: 5 deg 24'51.44"N ; 100 deg 19'32.88"E, centre of Georgetown, walking distance to KOMTAR and famous New Lane hawker centre (night time). May ask for room without breakfast since there are many food stalls around the area. RM140-RM460 per night. Highly recommended in this range.
  • Berjaya Georgetown Penang,[13]. 1-Stop Midlands Park, Burmah Road, Phone:+60 4 227-7111, Fax:+60 4 226-7111 [14] Location: 5 deg 25'58.62"N ; 100 deg 18'25.05"E.
  • City Bayview Penang,[15]. 25A Farquhar Street, Phone:+60 4 263-3161, Fax:+60 4 263-4124. Tollfree reservation within Malaysia:1-800-888854 [16]. Location: 5 deg 25'18.68"N ; 100 deg 20'9.01"E.
  • Cititel Penang,[17]. 66 Penang Road. Phone:+60 4 370-1188, Fax:+60 4 370-2288. RM130-RM350 per night.
  • Hotel Grand Continental Penang,[18]. 68 Brick Kiln Road (Jalan Gurdwara), Phone:+60 4 263-6688, Fax:+60 4 263-0299. Location: 5 deg 24'43.90"N ; 100 deg 19'43.19"E.
  • Agora Hotel 202A Macalister Road, Phone:+60 4 226-6060
  • Midtowne Hotel, 101 Macalister Road, Phone:+60 4 226-9999 Fax:+60 4 229-5149


Eastern & Oriental Hotel
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion,[19]. 14 Lebuh Leith, 10200 Penang, Tel:+60-4-2620006, Fax:+60-4-2625289, [20]. Lonely Planet's comment: "Relax in a Mandarin-style mansion".
  • Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang,[21]. 10 Farquhar Street, Phone:+60 4 222-2000, Fax:+60 4 262-6333, [22]. Location: 5 deg 25'23.01"N ; 100 deg 20'8.96"E. Founded in 1884 by legendary hoteliers the Sarkies brothers, the E&O is Penang's grand old colonial hotel. Rooms from RM400++.
  • Evergreen Laurel Hotel 53 Gurney Drive (Pesiaran Gurney), Phone:+60 4 226-9988, Fax:+60 4 226-9989 [23]
  • Gurney Hotel,[24]. 18 Gurney Drive (Pesiaran Gurney), Phone:+60 4 370-7000, Fax:+60 4 370-5000 [25]
  • Northam Hotel All Suite,[26]. 55 Northam Road (Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), Phone:+60 4 370-1111, Fax:+60 4 370-2222 [27]. Boasts all rooms as suites.
  • Sheraton Penang,[28]. 3 Larut Road, Phone:+60 4 226-7888, Fax:+60 4 226-3140, [29]
  • Traders Hotel Penang (formerly Shangri-La Hotel Penang),[30]. Magazine Road, Toll free (Malaysia):1-300-88-7388 Phone:+60 4 262-2622, Fax:+60 4 262-6526, [31]. Location: 5 deg 24'49.26"N ; 100 deg 19'49.34"E, next to KOMTAR and Prangin Mall, in the heart of George Town.

Stay safe

Be extra careful in shopping malls and crowds, as they are the spots of petty crimes such as pickpockets and snatch thefts.

Get out

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