Street Art and Cat Frenzy in Penang

Penang-1After my recent adventures in the wild, it was time to mix it up again and spend some time in a proper city. Malaysia’s colonial gem Penang, renowned for good street food and its street art, seemed to be the place to be on my way up the Malaysian Peninsula. In between I had a brief stop on the Perhentian Islands which I didn’t find too worthwhile. Hence I decided to post no coverage of this leg here. However, coming from the Perhentians, I took a minivan over to Penang and once again I lucked out. I booked on a very short notice and found a driver who just had to drive a minivan back to Penang for an upcoming group tour. That meant he was going without passengers, just me. I had the whole van for myself which made the rather long ride an diverting affair. I arrived late at night in Georgetown and was dropped off right in the middle of Chinatown. I found a good hostel and was eager to go exploring the next day. My mission was to find all of, or at least a big part of Georgetowns famous street art.

Street Art Central Georgetown, Penang
I heard a lot about the street art in Penang but wasn’t too sure about how to find the spots which were said to be sometimes well hidden in little back alleys and courts. Fortunately the internet has some great resources for finding Penang’s street art. The two that helped me the most, were the following:

Google Maps on Street Art Georgetown
Street Art Brochure Penang

Equipped with the map on my smartphone and braced for a long walk with a hearty breakfast, I set out for my Penang mission. What I didn’t consider however was the incredible heat in Georgetown. It was blazing hot that time and as soon as I left my hostel, it became clear that this mission would have to be broken up. A break around noon seemed like a good idea.


Little Children on a Bicycle


Awaiting Trishaw Peddler


Boy on a Bike

Brother and Sister on a swing

Brother and Sister on a swing

Georgetowns street art is basically spread all over its Old Town with a lot to discover on the west side. Just wandering around the little lanes and busy streets, in and around Chinatown and Little India is worth an excursion. But looking for the hidden art gave the whole thing a different twist. The most famous pieces were hand drawn by Lithuanian born artist Ernest Zacharevic. His art is very distinctive and among other murals and sculptures in Georgetown, I liked his best. My favorite ones were “The little Girl in Blue” and “Brother and Sister on a Swing”. So rich in detail and so lively. I found a few nice murals but then just had to head back to the hostel for my noon break.

The heat was almost unbearable and resting underneath the hostel’s air condition watching a movie was just the right remedy. The hostel was situated in Love Lane, right smack in the heart of Chinatown. The atmosphere was relaxed and since I stayed for about 4 nights, I was able to get to know some of the staff and some long time guests a bit better. It was good fun but the best member of staff was the house cat though. It always seemed to guard the entrance and checking out the incoming guests. At night the little tiger became more active, roaming the streets of Old Town Georgetown. The next morning he was usually to be found totally knocked out on the couches in the common area. What a life….

Our little hostel guardian.

Our little hostel guardian.

Fully booked! Go away! Actually he was only yawning here ...

Fully booked! Go away! Actually he was only yawning here …

Cats everywhere in Penang
Penang in general is absolutely crazy about cats. You see them everywhere and unlike in other places in Asia, where they tend to be very shy and scared of humans, they were very tame and trustingly here.  You could spot one literally around every corner, patrolling their territory and maybe looking for some treats from the humans. Penang’s cat frenzy is best signified by yet another piece of street art, a mural named “Skippy for Penang”. This literally huge specimen seems to be watching over Penang and its human inhabitants. Apart from this prominent piece, there are quiet a few others which feature cats and Penang’s love for them. All of this made the city even more likable than it already was.

Penang – a place of past, present and future
The Chinese influence is just ever present with little and bigger temples spread across Georgetown’s Old Town and traditional businesses tucked away in the many little alleyways. A lot of colonial architecture has been preserved or restored which gives the place a very special atmosphere. At the same time new and fancy business make up for a great and very distinctive mix. Artsy cafés exit just beside an old school Malay / Chinese food place and hip backpacker bars can be found next to traditional craft workshops or street food stalls.

Last thoughts…
Penang and Georgetown was a place to relax and unwind for me. Besides my quest for Georgetowns street art and aimlessly wandering the streets, I didn’t do a whole lot. I played some basketball with the locals at night, watched movies, went our for food. That was about it. But the atmosphere of the city makes you just feel home and at ease and that was exactly what I needed before returning to bustling Kuala Lumpur to catch a flight to Myanmar / Burma. Penang has more to offer than just Georgetown. Penang Hill, the national park and some supposedly nice beaches seem to be well worth visiting. I personally was happy to just take in the atmosphere of Georgetown and take it easy for a few days.

Categories: Culture, Malaysia | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Street Art and Cat Frenzy in Penang

  1. Alex

    Nice account of a place that wasn’t on my radar until now…the street art is beautiful, and so different than what I’ve seen in Valparaiso, Chile (another street art capital of the world)…thanks for sharing your impressions as always.

    • Hey Alex, thanks for your feedback. How are you doing anyhow? Youe hint at street art in chile sounds very interesting. Hope I can see it someday. I am in Vietnam right now. Did a great motorbike tour in the far north. It was amazing. Cheers bro, have a great weekend…

  2. Awesome pics!

    • Hey there, thanks for the feedback. Some of the pics turned out nicer than I thought. I like the one of the keymaker as well. You also into photography…

  3. Now I have a reason why would I want to visit Malaysia. It would be Penang and its lovely street art. The thrill that the little boy feels cuddled to his sister while riding that bike is just too infectious. Did you get to meet any of its artists?

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hey, its a nice place and I havent even explored so much there I have to admit. I just took it easy. Penang has much more to offer…. are you planning to go to Malaysia?

  4. been considering it for next year, 🙂 but I’m still torn between Penang and Siem Reap

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Thats a hard one because they are so different. I guess the main attraction Angkor in SR is hard to beat. It is more of a highlight than Penang. But besides the temples SR is just a big tourist hole without much flair and atmosphere. Let me know what you decide…. I will go back to SR very soon because, believe it or not, I missed to see Angkor while I was in Cambodia 😉

  5. I love that painting of the little boy holding on to his sister, his face looking like he’s on a thrill ride. There seems to be a bit of a bike theme in addition to cats! Were there any images, either in paintings or other objects, of a cat with one raised paw (the maneki neko, or lucky cat)?

    That’s so neat that some of the most famous works are by a Lithuanian artist! 😀

  6. As far as I can remember, there wasn’t a picture of this cat. But I am actually missing one picture and I know it was a cat piece. I know where I saved this picture but I am also pretty sure that it doesn’t feature that lucky cat. Why are you asking? Have you seen a mural like that somewhere?

  7. I love your pictures. The blend of street art and historic buildings give the city a unique feel unlike any other place in Asia. I’m really excited for my trip to Penang next year. – oh and their infatuation with cats is also a plus.

    • Yeah the cat thing is indeed amusing and charming. I like dit as well. Great that you will be going soon. Food in Penang is super as well. Greetings from Vietnam, Philipp

  8. Esabela

    Now I understand some of my friends why they like MY. I went to KL more than a year ago and was not at all impressed. My first experience of Malaysia was before the millennium and was not impressed either – too resort-y and tourist-y. But this kind of MY is truly interesting; I am glad I am finding myself reading your blog a lot recently. Thanks!

    • What you describe is my final expression of Malaysia as well. Too developed and too much laid out for tourists. I guess Malaysian Borneo would be different but I didn’t have the time to go there. And KL is definitiely not one of my favorite cities in Asia…. not really appealing to me …. So same here.

  9. Esabela

    Just to further share, I have also finished reading a travel blog in the summer (our Philippine summer) and I loved it – I felt like I was able to know more about the writer while finding out things about me I already forgot about. That effect contrary to the supposedly more obvious feeling of wanderlust. I guess the places the blogger visited were just not my favorite cup of tea. Having said that, reading more of your blog makes me want to go back traveling more often again – so THANK YOU! (*^_^)

    • Hi Esabela, thats a good story and I am happy that my stories and posts were a bit of an inspiration for you. I also want to go back to traveling..same as you. Hopefully not before too long ….

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