I woke up early this morning, determined to see all the wonderful street art sans the crowds of tourists. By early I mean I was out of the hostel by 8:30am, but still that’s early for most backpackers – the hostel was dead quiet when I left!
Penang is famous for its unique street art, which pops up all over the capital of city of Georgetown, particularly in the Old Town. In 2012, Penang municipal council hired Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic to create an attraction that not only brings in tourism but promotes awareness of the rich history in the area. Zacharevic went above and beyond his mission and transformed the old Chinese shop houses around the inner city into works of art that has now become a thriving tourist destination and talking point amongst locals. What made his artwork really unique was the way he incorporated 3D objects into his art. For example ‘Boy on a Bike’ is a painting of a boy on a motorcycle, except the motorcycle is real. This clever trick not only attracts crowds but encourages them to interact with the artwork.
As one of the drawcards to the city, there’s plenty of maps to track down all the street art, yet I found it better to just wander and spot them randomly. However this morning I was in a rush to beat the tourists so I had the main ones marked out on my maps and hoped to spot more as I went. Armed with my trusty camera and tripod (I’d become one of those travellers!) I set out into the morning heat to get snapping. Even at 8:30am, the heat was stifling. I was wearing a long skirt and hat – cos you know, #doinitforInsta – and within minutes I was sweaty as anything.
I walked around what felt like the entire Old Town, snapping photos and admiring the never ending art. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, more appears! My favourites were the tiny pieces in hard to spot places. At around 10am I headed back to my hostel to shower and find a coffee. After refreshing and re-caffeinating, I came across a kooky museum that I just had to visit.
The Wonderfood Museum was all about the history of Malay food and how it intertwines with other countries such and India and China. Instead of the usual museum layout, with lots of words and not much else, this interactive museum has huge plastic replicas of their most famous dishes. I was walking amongst giant bowls of ayam laksa, past pots of char teow keow and kettles of kopi. The staff at the museum know how to play it as well, one girl walked around with me the entire time encouraging me to take goofy photos with all the food. It was hilarious, but I could imagine it would be a real laugh with a group of people. Though once I got over being awkward, it was fun. I left the museum feeling a bit silly but couldn’t stop laughing to myself about the ridiculous photos I now had!
The following day was my last day in Penang before I left for Langkawi. Today I ventured further into Georgetown to Penang Times Square and the huge shopping malls. I’d been told about a little vegan cafe that had raw treats and I keen to find it. Before I found the cafe, I stumbled upon a pop-up market with local artisans showcasing their goods. There was a live band, lots of art and a few delicious little food stalls that I stayed here instead of going to the vegan cafe, which turned out to be a couple of doors down. That night I had one final dinner at Red Garden Food paradise before leaving for Langkawi the next day.
Bring on the beach and island life! I can’t wait!