Cultural Textures of Penang, Malaysia

Kate and I arrived after a day of overland travel to the island of Penang, off of Peninsular Malaysia’s western coast.  The city of George Town and the surrounding urban area is Malaysia’s second largest city and is also a Cultural World Heritage Site for having a “unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia“.

Shortly after the British lost the Revolutionary War in North America, they claimed Penang as a strategic colonial outpost.  As one of the Straits Settlements, along with Malacca and Singapore, Penang was an important island along the trading route in southern Asia. George Town, named after King George III, became an administrative center for the British East India Company and Penang subsequently was under British rule and influence for the next century and a half. The remnants of colonial architectural mixed with the religious and cultural sites of the Chinese, Indian and Malay population is a large part of why Georgetown is a World Heritage Site.  The mixture of architectural styles in competing states of deterioration and reconstruction also makes for a photographer’s dream with layer upon layer of visual stimuli!

The textures and patterns in the collage below were photographed in one morning of walking around the heart of Georgetown.  The colorful layers of rust, paint, wood, and tiles were irresistible subjects to photograph and show a non-traditional (but visually exciting) view of the fascinating history of this city.Georgetown is also populated by tons of street art, much of which incorporates the urban environment in the motifs. A great deal of the art also invites the viewer to “participate” in the scene, as Kate is demonstrating below.

Much like Singapore, Georgetown’s multicultural population means it is a great city for foodies. Kate and I had quite a few tasty meals here – sorry, no food pictures (we were too busy eating to take photos!). I think the noodle and dumpling soup and mushroom masala were our favorites…After a few days in Penang we headed north toward Thailand and said goodbye to Malaysia. The diversity of people, places, and activities here were all memorable, and we left having a much better appreciation and understanding of Malaysia.

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