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The Artful Streets of Penang

Blog #2: Penang | Malaysia


"I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism.

Thoughtful street art is like good fiction –

it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see."

-Carla H. Kreuger


Prior to 2017, I had no idea where Malaysia was in the world and had only hear of one city, Kuala Lumpar. Up until 5 days ago, I simply thought that Penang was another major city in Malaysia. However, to my surprise it is not. It is a state in the north western region of the country that is divided into two groups: Penang Island and Mainland Penang. The majority of my time was spent on the Island.

In 2008, Penang’s historic capital city, George Town was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia". It was also name home base for me while exploring Penang.

The main attraction in Georgetown is the street art, that can be found throughout the city. Before visiting I had no idea what to expect from the art. My initial thought is that there will be colorful graffiti in an alley in the downtown area. Boy, was I wrong. The entire downtown/old city is sprinkled with artful and creative murals that add color and a jovial nature to the city. Many of the pieces merge traditional painting with 3-D aspects; which creates an interactive experience and allows you to be a part of the artwork.

Fortunately, street art is not the only pop of color on the streets of George Town. The city is full of "good men" [as our tour guide would call them] selling colorful trinkets and rides on their artfully decorated triksaws [a mode of transportation that Penang is known for]. In addition to the colorful people, the streets were lined with elaborately decorated temples; which were ever more over the top than normal due to my visit being only 3 days prior to Deepavali [Hindi Festival of Lights].

Though Malaysia and Singapore are close in location and have a shared history, in my eyes that is where the similarities stopped. It is hard to believe that only 50 years ago Singapore was still a part of Malaysia. Whenever I mentioned that I lived in Singapore to a local I always received a similar response, "You know, Penang is a good representative of what Singapore used to be like."


Malaysian Street Art



Temple Artistry



Making a Living on the Street


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