Exploring the streets of Georgetown
There’s heaps to do in Penang, and between 2 years ago and now, much has changed. Georgetown is quickly evolving into a creative city with many young artists finding inspiration here. The fusion of traditional chinese shop houses combined with modern architecture, occupied with concept stores & cafes, it’s no wonder many people are now flocking to visit or live in Penang. It isn’t just about the great food anymore, there’s so much to see, do and explore. I’m glad I took a quiet trip here 2 years later to free my mind and gain some inspiration, perfect timing too that the Georgetown Festival kicked off just as August came!
Penang is a lot bigger than one would expect, and Georgetown is where most people will likely spend their time. The streets of this quirky heritage city has so much to offer, but it’s not easy to find all the good stuff without first researching for what’s good. I’m no local, but after 5 days of roaming around, exploring and walking these streets inside out, I’ve come up with a list of useful streets that should prove to be helpful for those visiting for a few days. Note that this doesn’t cover all the main attractions and areas, but should serve as a brief overview of what the different streets (around the main tourist areas) have to offer!
FYI, ‘lebuh’ means street, ‘lorong’ means lane, and ‘jalan’ means road. Some of the road names are similar (eg. Lebuh Chulia and Lorong Chulia) and for those who aren’t familiar with melayu, it may be slightly confusing.
This is the main (and the most popular) street that links the Jetty to the other main road Jalan Penang. The whole stretch houses bars, cafes, hostels, street food, convenience stores and agencies. Branching off into streets left and right would take you into many other amazing streets and lanes.
-Street food night market for wanton mee, lok lok, fresh juice and other munches
-Mugshot cafe & Rainforest bakery which is known for their homemade yoghurt and freshly baked bagels
-Banana travel agency is the place to book any trips to Langkawi or Thailand.
-Hainan chicken rice store (closes by late afternoon)
-Vintage stores at the end closer towards Jalan Penang
-Junk Cafe for those seeking decent beef burgers
Lorong Love (Love Lane)
I’d call this the backpacker street. Walk down love lane and it’s sprawled with guesthouses, inns, and bars. Although there are also many little streets behind that lead to newer, cleaner and (sometimes) more affordable hostels and guesthouses as the main stretch is too popular.
-Micke’s Place has live bands and a great vibe for drinks at night
-Guesthouses in traditional Peranakan styled buildings
-Unique Penang Art Gallery features and sells artwork and crafts by local artists
-Plenty of modern cafes that sell the same ol’ sandwich/coffee/pastas
Visually enhancing street. From the beautiful Hainan Temple to multiple wall murals done by artists including Ernest Zacharevic, there are also plenty of cafes here to explore. The guesthouses along this street range from basic budget ones to the slightly more boutique guesthouses.
-Street art & a couple of concept souvenir stores
-Passion Heart Cafe is a modern bakery & cafe that boasts homemade cakes and bread. The interior maintains a traditional chinese shophouse setup with pastel colours and peranakan tiled flooring
-Penang’s first cat cafe is also here. No entry fee, but there is a minimal spending to hang out with them furry felines.
Supposedly an important shopping street for the locals, this street has lots to look at left right and center.
-Campbell street market. Bustling in the morning, this wet market is good to explore for those seeking fresh fruits and produce
-Some quiet cafes are along this street for those seeking coffee or a workspace
-Toh Soon Cafe – THE place to get traditional toast and eggs breakfast. Tucked in a small alley, this small joint serves charcoal toasted kaya butter toast and soft boiled eggs with tea or coffee. They also have little packets of nasi lemak that cost less than RM2. It’s usually packed and busy so be prepared to share tables and be patient !
Jalan Kuala Kangsar (off Lebuh Campbell)
Morning market – fresh fruits and produce, a good place to experience local life and to have some breakfast like fried noodles. If you want to experience or observe local life in the lazy mornings, take a walk down this street before the rest of the city comes to life.
In the evenings, this street is packed with locals and tourists alike, eager to get some Penang street food!
-Street food like kway teow tng, soy milk, char kuay teow, traditional chinese dessert (fungus, ginko nut, longan), kway chap)
-Concept souvenir stores, handmade crafts by local artists
-Vegetarian biscuits for those who crave local biscuits with the lard/chicken oil!
-More cafes selling cakes/coffee (I know. Cafe boom in Penang is getting a bit overboard)
This is THE most touristy and bustling street for artistic finds. It’s so popular because of all the artwork and concept stores that line up along here.
-Street art by Ernest Zacharevic
-Souvenir stores selling postcards, local products & biscuits
-Food carts selling thai ice tea, coconut ice cream, ice balls, snacks & local eats
-Art galleries and museums
-Chinahouse – 14 seating areas house this long stretch of unit that connects Lebuh Victoria with Beach Street. It’s a cafe, a wine bar, a bakery, a restaurant, an art studio, a gallery space, a concept store, and even has a courtyard for alfresco dining. Overly priced food aside, this place has live bands and a great atmosphere!
-Ming Xiang Tai (名香泰) Pastry shop that serves piping hot trishaw egg tarts and signature salted egg yolk biscuits. Also try their herbal drinks!
-Sekeping Victoria is an event space, gallery and cafe worth checking out
The main street that connects to the smaller streets of awesomeness as I’d like to call it. I don’t particularly like this busy street as there isn’t much character. It’s sometimes a little dodgy at night and trishaw drivers can get a little pesky over here.
-Night time watering holes at the north end of the street
-Off the street into Lebuh Keng Kwee houses the famous Penang Chendol that always seems to have a line of customers. Only RM2.50 for a refreshing bowl of gula melaka goodness, you can’t blame the hype for this store. There are a few carts selling chendol so look for the one with the little blue bowls.
Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling
The entrance to Little India, there are many little gems along this stretch worth exploring.
-Masjid Kapital Keling, the famous mosque
-Nasi Kandar Beratur, serves excellent nasi kandar and opens at 22:00hrs
-The Alley cafe for some churros or cronuts !
-Money changers, here’s where you check out different shops to find the best rates for forex.
-At the entrance to Lebuh Pasar, there is a teh-tarik(pulled tea technique) shop that serves darn amazing tea. And the guy really tariks the tea, it’s no joke. I particularly enjoyed their teh halia (ginger tea) – strong and sweet!
For fellow creatives searching for art supplies, these are the places I found stuff and services I needed 🙂
Nanyang Book Co. at Lebuh Carnarvon :
Wholesale stationery supplier. Paint, Pens, Markers, Sketchpads, Watercolour paper and other stationary
Heong Giap Paper & Stationery at Lebuh Melayu :
Wholesale stationery supplier. Paints, Pens, Inks.
Leun Wah Leather Co at Jalan Pintal Tali :
Leather, suede, waxed string, rubber/shoe soles & parts
Star Electro Engraving at Lebuh Melayu :
Stamp & Engraving Services