Georgetown, Penang in Photos: Fascinating Colonial Architecture!

Ah, Georgetown! Frequented by foreigners on a Thai visa run, home to countless expats, and popular hang out spot for hippies with either really long beards or really long dreadlocks that can be wrapped into a turban…

I spent over a week in Georgetown, during which time I managed to eat far too many tandoori sets at Restoran Kapitan, and drink way too many mango lassis at Kassim Mustafa. I also made some time to visit the Temple of Supreme Bliss (the biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia!), and the Weld Quay Clan Jetties where communities live on stilt houses above the sea.

A little rough around the edges, Georgetown is not a place I loved at first sight, but it eventually won me over with its amazing Indian food, friendly stray cats, tiny archways and uneven sidewalks.

Here are a few of my favourite photos from my time there:

Georgetown, Penang in Photos: Fascinating Colonial Architecture! An old colonial home in Georgetown, Penang
Georgetown, Penang in Photos: Fascinating Colonial Architecture! An old colonial home in Georgetown, Penang

Long past its glory days but still alluring! Much of Georgetown is painted in pastel colours that brighten up the town. The walls of many homes and storefronts reveal old layers of paint, while in other sections the plaster has completely come off to expose the bricks. The signs of age add a little charm to this place.

Tall foreigner and tiny arches in Penang, Malaysia
Tall foreigner and tiny arches in Penang, Malaysia

This photo goes to show that I am both travelling with a red haired giant and that Georgetown’s archways are made for someone who is, shall we say, petite. The thing with these arches is that they were probably the right height when they were built a few hundred years ago. However, as construction has taken place over the years, and people have tiled and re-tiled the area in front of their shops, many of the sidewalks have risen and the arches have lost their height. If you go to Georgetown, watch your head. ; )

Dim sum and Chinese tea for breakfast in Georgetown
Dim sum and Chinese tea for breakfast in Georgetown

An early morning breakfast (up before sunrise!) at a dim sum restaurant. The large white steamed buns are called ‘bao’, and come with various fillings such as barbecued pork, vegetables, sweet bean paste and yellow custard. This meal is best enjoyed with a big pot of Chinese tea. And the reason we were up for breakfast so early is because some restaurants only serve dim sum for a few hours in the morning; so if you show up too late, all the best dumplings are gone!

Plastic chairs and tables stacked against a wall in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Plastic chairs and tables stacked against a wall in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Wandering around town early in the morning I came across a stack of tables and chairs. Hawker food is big in this city and many street food vendors set up plastic tables so that their customers have somewhere to enjoy their meal. We were just a little too early for the action.

Friendly stray cat in the streets of Georgetown, Malaysia
Friendly stray cat in the streets of Georgetown, Malaysia

I made friends with lots of cats when I was in Georgetown. This city seems to have the friendliest stray felines. I would stop to scratch them for a few minutes, and often times I’d have a cat following me down the street for several blocks. This particular looker was often lurking around our hostel so I got to know him pretty well.

Bicycles in Penang, Malaysia
Bicycles in Penang, Malaysia

A blue bicycle leans against the wall of a home with pale blue doors. It is a common to sight to see people’s windows and doors open to allow a breeze to flow through their homes. Sometimes as you walk past you may see families watching TV, a man taking a nap, or children playing with their toys on the cool floor tiles.

Ornate gate with lion door handles in Penang, Malaysia
Ornate gate with lion door handles in Penang, Malaysia

Walking around Georgetown is a treat for the eyes because you just never know what you’re going to find. You may spot a Hindu temple with colorful deities next to a half burned down structure, and further down the street there may be a sketchy watering hole adjacent to a former colonial mansion turned 5* hotel.

That’s Georgetown in a nutshell. Still evolving and growing into a modern city, while trying to maintain its culture and history.

For more info on travel in Malaysia, you can check out my 1 month Malaysia travel itinerary.

What do you think?
Does it seem like the kind of place you’d want to visit?

Join the Conversation

34 Comments

  1. says: Angela

    I just spent 10 days in Georgetown and it really is a pretty city! I didn’t have dim sum there, just stuffed my face with Indian food!

    1. says: Audrey

      Isn’t the Indian food there amazing?! Between roti for breakfast and tandoori sets for lunch and dinner, there were days when I was eating Indian food 3 times a day! πŸ˜€ I just couldn’t get enough of it!

  2. says: Amanda @ Living in Another Language

    Beautiful photos. The cat picture is just precious. πŸ™‚ I also love the picture of the tables and chairs. You have a great eye!

  3. says: Zhu

    Ah memories! It took me a couple of days to get to enjoy the city. A lot of sights and interesting areas are not obvious at first. I had the best Indian food ever in Georgetown, Little India really came alive in the evening. The “malls” were interesting too!

  4. says: eve

    I had the same feelings when first visited Penanag, yet been there twice already; going to Sumatra, Indonesia and back.
    I am RTW traveler for about 2 years now and Penanag’s transportation is wonderful, especially going to the airport (actually, all over the country).
    I am still looking for a better place to stay in Penang and couldn’t find these beautiful dim sum of yours. Would be happy to get some tips. Thank you. Happy journeys:)

    1. says: Audrey

      The dim sum places are often located down the side streets. Lebuh Cintra (the street) had a really good one that I went to a couple of times. Hopefully you can find it next time you’re there! πŸ™‚

    1. says: Audrey

      Ooo, what was Georgetown, Guyana like? I’ve heard of a few Georgetown’s around the world. Seems it’s a popular name. πŸ˜‰

  5. I never made it to Georgetown (though went to the one in Australia) and often got confused by it – it must be an old British settlement as the name just doesn’t suit being in Malaysia! You’ve intrigued me to visit it now! Cool photos! Jonny

  6. says: Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    I cannot blame you for gorging at Kapitan’s as we did the exact same thing! Their Indian food is seriously to die for (figuratively!), and in our 5 days in Georgetown, I think we ate there 3 times.

    I agree that Georgetown doesn’t necessarily immediately charmβ€”I personally found Melaka a lot more photogenic from the very startβ€”but if you give yourself some time to really dig into the city, I think it definitely rewards you. Looks like you had a great time!

    1. says: Audrey

      Kapitan’s was THE BEST! It’s one of the best Indian restaurants I have ever been to. There were day’s where I would eat roti (at a different place) for breakfast, and then go for tandoori sets at Kapitan’s for lunch AND dinner. Even with all the food options in the city, there were some days where I just couldn’t pull myself away. Haha

      And I agree with you about Melaka being far more photogenic. That city wowed me from the start.

      1. says: Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

        If you go to Hanoi, Vietnam, we found an AMAZING Indian place there. It’s definitely a bit of a splurge (in terms of Vietnam), but it was soooooo good we ate there two nights in a row. The place is called Namaste and I highly recommend it and wish I could go back and eat there right now!

  7. I think I would love this place. I enjoy places that are a little rough around the edges. Question, though… did you ever feel unsafe?
    Love the pic of the cat… his nose is so nice and pink!

  8. says: Arianwen

    I love your pictures, especially the low archway one. It reminded me of Bolivia. I was close to serious concussion on so many occasions!

  9. says: Cam @ Traveling Canucks

    We lived in Penang back in 2006 while Nicole went to university there. This brings back some great memories. I still have yet to find better tandoori chicken with garlic naan!

  10. says: Erica

    I love these large-format posts! From your description and images of Georgetown I think we’d get along very well.

  11. says: Farhad

    Hi Audrey,
    I’m a photographer and also work on Georgetown walls. I am taking photo every Saturday and Sunday. Are you in Penang yet?

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