George Town, Penang is a hipsters dream! The type of place that hipsters all around the world are trying to create. In George Town it hasn’t been a conscious effort – it has just happened organically.
The city is dotted with bicycles and brightly coloured houses, boutique coffee shops sit right next to junkyards, graffiti is an art and street food is 5 star. It is a city that is spilling out over the edges.
The population is growing quicker than the development (though there is plenty of that happening). Cars fill the streets finding a park almost anywhere, shop fronts on top of shop fronts, full of life and activity. All give the impression of a bubble about to burst.
Somehow it has retained its laid back island attitude, no one walks too fast and the hawkers don’t hassle you once you smile and say no. Everyone smiles all the time and are always there to answer your questions – it is definitely a no worries, no dramas kind of place!
Being an old colonial town there are a lot of historical things to see and do, but if you feel like getting in touch with your inner hipster put down that guide-book, grab your vintage camera (or buy one at one of the many stores that seem to sell everything) and head into the heart of the city. Let your nose and eyes be your guide… you won’t regret it.
Street Art in George Town, Penang
Ok, I know I told you to put away your guidebook before, but you can get it out again. George Town’s street art scene has become so well-known as a tourist attraction that you can now pick up maps from the information centre that detail where all of the major pieces are. Well worth doing as some of them are down little alleyways that are hard to find. In hunting for each peice I ended up seeing more of George Town than the main roads. What’s more, I found some great places to eat… which kept me energised for each new artwork. Keep your eyes peeled though as there are loads of new pieces that have cropped up and aren’t on the map. As for the map, you can grab a physical copy from most hostels or the information centre, or download it HERE.
Nick Knacks and Arts and Crafts in George Town, Penang
Looking for a unique gift for that hipster friend who has everything? Well, I guarantee you will be able to find something in George Town. From bicycle baskets to hand-made batik sarongs – you can find just about anything. While you are shopping sip a coffee out of a bag and take a couple of selfies to make the afore-mentioned friend jealous. And the best bit is that it is cheaper than anything you would be able to buy back home!
Street Food in George Town Penang
On every corner, you can find some delicious street food at a backpacker-friendly price. To find the really great places, however, watch the locals. There are a number of places that at lunchtime have a line around the block. Work out which ones they are and try to get there early to beat the mobs… that way you may just get a table and a few moments to do some people watching.
For dinner one of my favourite places to go to is Red Garden – Food Paradise. It isn’t as cheap as some of the street stalls but it stays open late and you can drink beer – which isn’t the case with the street stalls. The best part of the Red Garden is that it is filled with a variety of different stalls for you to choose from. Why not start with some satay skewers, then have a laksa, maybe some nasi goreng and then finish with some mango sticky rice!?
George Town has a lot to offer that you wouldn’t expect from an old colonial town on an island off Malaysia. I definitely recommend spending a day doing the “hipster trail” so that your eyes can feast as much as your stomach!