Streets of Georgetown

Prewar houses @ Stewart Lane

In July 2008, Penang (Georgetown) became a designated UNESCO Heritage Site (together with Malacca), thanks to the efforts of conservationist who have worked tirelessly to preserve Penang , the historical parts as they are and have been. This should prevent further demolition of historical homes and sites to make way for modern and tall buildings and a reminder to Penangites and visitors alike how lucky we are in fact to be able to visit or live in a historical site which is still thriving as it was before, okay – plus a few minor adjustments to modernisation. There is still some work to be done on the side of the Penangites and the local government, to restore dilapidated buildings, preventing further pollution and congestion in the historical parts of Penang and keeping the areas clean.

Pathway between the prewar houses

The most intense part of Georgetown that reminds you well why it was awarded the UNESCO Heritage Site in the first place , is the older part of Georgetown, close to the port. (Weld Quay). Penang has been a port since time immemorial, where traders from near and far have docked and traded. As such you see a cacophony of people, some settling down and eventually became local Penangites. You have Armenians, Jews, Arabs, Indians, Sumaterans, Jawanese, Chinese , Dutch, Portugese and English to  name a few who have ventured to Penang and made her their home.

Airwells typical in the prewar houses

Sir Francis Light accordingly in the history books, has been rather pivotal in the development of Penang as a trading port. He ‘founded’ Penang 1786. He moved his famil from Thailand (then Siam) to Penang and died there in 1794 from malaria. You can find his tomb and statue in the Protestant Cemetery at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (Northam Road).

One of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s base in Penang

With that development, the building and heritage sites you find in Penang are such mix blend of architectures – it is as precious as Venice. I hope it will never be neglected lest the future generations will never come to know of their hometown’s  rich and unique history.

The most interesting area is downtown Georgetown – from Beach Street, Church Street Armenian Street, Muntri Street, King and Queen Street – stretching all the way to Light Street and Penang Street. See Map below:

Penang was also a major stronghold of the Peranakans (nyonyas and babas) and Mamaks (Indian Muslims, Indians originating from the Southern part of India) besides the local Malays and Chinese Hokkiens and to a degree Eurasians and Jews. This rich fusion of cultures quite likely has made Penang  a food paradise. As time passes, Penang became well known for her cuisine and hawker street foods and mamak stalls – reflecting the lifestyle of her forefathers, the settlers – quite unchanged, fast food for the common people, this food heritage grew, so much so, Penang was and is known first and foremost for her food, later the beaches and lately now her heritage too.

Typical finishing of the facade, patterned tiles

And if you are already at Weld Quay, you must not forget to pop into the Jetty Clans, where chinese settlers divided into clans lived on houses built on stilts sprawled out to the sea. Each clan (according to their surnames) are accorded a part of the jetty to build their homes. They still live there until today. 

For more on Penang Heritage please visit these websites:

Therefore if any of you are in Penang, you must visit these heritage sites – they are truly unique and Penang is the only few places you can walk around in this living museum and still get the feeling as if you are peeping into the past, in a casual and laid back atmosphere.

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