Georgetown is a tribute to the English (for putting it on the map), to the Chinese (for making it what it was), to the Tamils (for adding diversity) and to the Malays (for making it what it is). In the twenty-first century it stands out not so much for being the crowning jewel of a tourist area, but for being a rich and complex cultural enclave in what is undoubtedly Malaysia's industrial heartland. And unlike Hoi-An, which is the closest thing I can think of by way of comparison (given the narrow lanes, rickshaws, endless eating houses and local colour), Georgetown is very much a living city - though tidied up and inviting for the tourist - full to bursting with commerce, schools, hospitals and cemeteries.
The Hokkien Khoo Kongsi Clan House temple houses some magnificent carvings and reliefs
The Cheong Fact Tze (Blue Mansion) boasts 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 windows
Within the UNESCO world heritage area are to be found a number of cultural and historical points of interest that are worth visiting: the Blue Mansion, the Chew Jetty, the Penang Museum, the Protestant Cemetery, the Pinang Peranakan Museum and Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, the Town Hall, Sri Mariamman Temple, Fort Cornwallis and the excellent Museum of Batik Art to name a few. In between all of these are the boutique hotels - really converted shop-houses and old Peranakan mansions - that offer old world charm with the trappings of modern luxury to satisfy the most fussy sybarite.
The Pinang Peranakan Museum is a must-do to get a flavour of how Babas and Nyonyas lived at the height of Penang's affluence
The old Protestant Cemetery is full of many Old Calcutta and East India Company worthies
But once you are done with the touristy hotspots (which can all be completed in a day), you can get down to the serious business of observing street art, eating local food and savouring the good stuff in the cafes and bistros at leisure. For this is what makes Penang so special: the quaint and humorous touches that accompany the depiction of art and heritage; the flavourful mix of Chinese and Malay cooking; and the laid-back cafes that cater to every taste, age and wallet. As one of the three Straits Settlements (the other two being Malacca and Singapore), Penang is worth a visit no matter whether you are a jaded history buff, a discerning gourmand in search of new tastes or an accidental tourist looking to escape for the weekend.
Mural as shop advertisement
Young boy on old motorcycle
The Sinhalese lady
A renovated shop-house
With wonderful doors and courtyard
Traditional Roti Kanai
Not all activities are traditional
Even a wreck can be put to use for the purpose of art
A sense of scale
Even the cafes are not devoid of the artistic touch
Outside the Sri Mariamman Temple
The Indian Boatman
All photographs taken with the iPhone 7 Plus (with the OOWA wide lens attached occasionally).