Inducted to the Unesco World Heritage Sites on July 7th 2007 along with joint nominee Melaka, because of their multicultural heritage developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between the East and the West in the Straits of Malacca. George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. George Town stepped up to the mark and in celebrating it’s status added to the reasons to visit with an art competition.
On 7 September 2009 an international competition was held aimed at exploring innovative ideas in art and design in public spaces in George Town. There were 40 entries both from Malaysia and internationally. SculptureAtWork won with the design concept of “voices from the people” – and thus, 52 unique, but humourous illustrations in metal work were installed against the city’s building walls.
Their location and descriptions are noted in the great free map “Marking George Town” available from most hotels and the tourist and heritage centers.
Here’s just some of those that we found on our wanderings around this gorgeous city. (keep reading to see the famous Kids on a Bike and more murals).
Right around the corner from our hotel, the Malabar Inn, this is named “Spy” – as, in the early 20th century, the slightly risque reputation of this area was further enhanced by the presence of Japanese camera shops which were suspected of covert spying activities.
“Budget Hotels” – here on Love Lane many shop houses were turned into cheap hotels – making this location very popular with backpackers.
“Cheating Husband” – the local Chinese say that the rich men who lived on Muntri Street kept their mistresses here, hence the name “Ai Cheng Hang” or Love Lane.
“Narrowest Five Foot Way” – this “five foot way” of Wan Hai Hotel is said to be the narrowest in Penang.
“Beca” Most of the trishaw drivers also doubled as tourist guides..
“Mahjong” – “hey at this hour, still play Mahjong” – – the game of sparrows – a favorite game of the elderly.
“Temple Day” – Incense, Candles, Oil, Joss Stick, Flowers? help, help. During the fifteenth day of each lunar month the Goddess of Mercy Temple is packed with devotees seeking divine guidance.
“Tok tok Mee” – tok tok mee (noodles) is so called because hawkers would strike a tok tok sound to signal their presence.
“Bullock Cart Wheel” In the days when your money could be as big as a bullock cart wheel, this was a popular rest stop for the limo’s of the time.
“Quiet Please” – to the dismay of parishioners of the Portuguese Church there, Church Street also housed the headquarters of the notorious Ghee Hin secret society.
“Too Salty”- the Tamils refer to this street as Uppukaran Teru or Salt Traders Street, a reference to the Salt Trading activities.
“Duck” – Also known as Chicken Alley, this lane was once used by poulterers.
“Fire, Fire”- up until 1909 the police doubled as George Town’s fire fighters.
“Yeoh Only”- Yeoh Kongsi was established in 1836 to look after the welfare of the newly arrived Yeoh clansmen.
“Property” – in the 1800’s the shops and godowns on Victoria Street were built at the seafront (there’s been lots of landfill since!)
“Pilgrims”- Much of the traffic to and from the Muslim Holy Land for the Haj went through Achen Street, where tickets for the trip were sold.
“Ah Quee”- This street is named after Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee who generously donated his house to the Municipality for vehicular access ensuring that his name lives on for posterity.
“Too Narrow” – The hand pulled rickshaw was the most popular form of transportation in early Penang.
“Procession” – The Tua Pek Kong Hneoh Grand Float Procession is held in the Year of the Tiger to wash away bad luck and bring great wealth and health.
“Cannon Hole” – A cannon shot fired during the 1867 Penang Riots made a large hole in this area, hence the name.
This is the place where Jimmy Choo, the famous shoe designer started his apprenticeship.
Now, what made Penang’s Street Art REALLY famous was what follows…
In 2012, Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint “a few murals” – including the “Kids on a Bicycle” – other artists have since contributed – and the map shows the more popular ones, but as you wander around George Town, you’ll see more and more.
This is the Trishaw Man.
They aren’t on the official map, but are striking all the same.
The Indian Boatman is super life size and so incredibly detailed. He could have been painted from our trip to the Kerala Backwaters!
Brother and Sister on a swing on Step by Step Lane give you the opportunity to join in too.
“The Children playing Basketball” down a small side alley lets you play with a real hoop too.
It’s not on the official map, nor is it outside a dentist, but this ones for Tom Duff.
Personally, I can’t see the attraction of this kitty- but Penang thinks that you should “Love me like your Fortune Cat”.
Skippy (on the left) is the main attraction, while ratty appears to have been a later addition.
Finally, the famous “Children on a (real) Bike” – you can see the line of folks waiting to get their photo taken even after dark by the shadows.
Even traffic stops are painted here in Penang.
Here’s the cultural girls for you.
They’re right next to this incredibly lifelike Lion Dance – the paint really looks furry –
And outside a small coffee bar is the boy on a chair. You have to straddle a street drain to take this photo.
Another, not on the official map, but painted in such detail that it has you reaching for the directions to find out if you’ve missed something.
Bruce Lee is down a side street and hard to find, especially in the dark.
And finally, my personal favorite. the “Old Motorcycle”.
George Town is a wonderful city for walking around and just discovering – well the city – and these works of art are marvelous way of new and old visitors seeing more and more of the city and the best thing is that it’s free too!
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- What to Eat in Penang
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