Thursday, February 12, 2015

Historical streets of Georgetown

 Over the next several days, we traversed the streets of historical Georgetown on the island of Penang. Designated in 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the core zone of Georgetown contains over 1,700 historical buildings. The excellent George Town World Heritage Incorporated organization, housed in a historical building on Lebuh Acheh Street provided some incredibly helpful brochures, walking maps and other information.
Despite the rain, we thoroughly enjoyed our walks through the streets. What a special blend of cultures and communities - particularly the Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Baba-Nyonya. True, I had seen this same mixture in Melaka, but in Georgetown, the scale was much larger. I loved how Georgetown still retained its historical feel and yet was an active residential/commercial hub. It felt "real" - not just a few preserved buildings in an artificial oasis. 

Buildings were in various states of repair, but even the slightly dilapidated ones had a special charm. Some of the colors were quite vivid. Patterns and textures abounded. Architectural buffs would have a field day, observing the historical variances.

Walking down one area, we'd be transported to southern India, as reflected in the shops, stalls, restaurants, smells, and music. 

Walk down another street, and we'd be in China, complete with temples, clan houses, etc. Several mansions of the Baba-Nyonya were converted into spectacular museums. A few mosques of Sumatra style added a little variety, as did the colonial buildings reflecting the British presence (Penang was ceded to the British East India Company in 1786 in exchange for British military protection).

I loved the slightly chaotic nature of the streets and could have spent much longer meandering. Even though we crisscrossed and went through some streets multiple times, I never grew tired of the sights - each time taking in more. 

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