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There’s a fusion of high-teas and Eastern cultures in Georgetown
Georgetown is the capital of the Malaysian island of Penang and rejoices in multiple cultural influences. The old town area has its fascinating shophouses, mosques and more than a fair share of British colonial style buildings. The new town has a different excitement with shopping malls and skyscraper buildings. It is the old part, though, where you’ll find the colour, character and reputedly, the finest food delicacies in South East Asia. Such is the local affection for days gone by, that high-teas and hazy memories of the British Raj survive with enthusiasm. It’s time to take tea and savour some enticing Georgetown blends.
Dining out in Georgetown – means eating on the street
Once you have shaken off the possible limitations of your hotel’s dinner menus, there’s a brave new world, out there, on the streets of Georgetown. This is where you’ll sample a diversity and authenticity of dishes served up from street-lined stalls. Malay and Indian cuisine has prominence here and resistance is futile as you submit gladly to the aromas that are wafting around these ancient alleyways. Char koay teow is stir-fried rice noodles. This is an all-time Penang restaurant favourite but, for some reason, it always tastes better when purchased from a street stall in old Georgetown. Chinese and Malay dishes (Nyonya) are typified in Laksa curry which is served with a coconut sauce. Then, versions of Satay are to be found – seemingly quite literally - on every street corner. You’ll just love these and numerous other specialities in a legion of Georgetown restaurants. They won’t taste quite the same though as those you purchased, extremely cheaply, from that Georgetown street hawker.
Georgetown’s fascinating facts … and not a lot of cobblers
The island of Penang became the first British outpost in 1786 and the name Penang is a derivation of First Island. The capital; Georgetown was named after Blighty’s King George III and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the old town streets of Georgetown are an ongoing source of fascination. Out of town, though; there is even more to discover. At Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, for instance; the majestic views are to be wondered at and are accessed via the ancient, funicular Penang Hill Railway. *It’s worth noting that, when ascending to these Penang Hill heights, the heat and humidity disperse and the air is refreshingly cool. Many of these and similar excursions are well-organised and can include pick-up from Georgetown hotels. Solely … as a point of interest; renowned Penang-born shoe designer, Jimmy Choo learned his trade while watching his shoe-maker father at work. This may sound like a lot of cobblers but it’s really just two, Choo … and absolutely true.
There’s a great hotel selection di/ at Georgetown
Georgetown has hotel accommodation designed for fat and skinny-thin wallets; as well as everything in-between. At one end of the scale, there are inns and guest houses offering shared dormitory, bunk bed facilities. These have obvious appeal for backpacking and other budget conscious visitors. You’ll probably be sharing somewhat indifferent bathroom facilities, but members of staff are often so helpful and friendly that any worrying concerns disappear quickly … down the plughole. Step up a notch in your search for hotel accommodation at (*at is translated as di in Malay) Georgetown and you’ll find more space; maybe a bit less noise and if you are really lucky, a swimming pool. If your hotel is a short walk from the centre of things; look on this as an advantage. Eat from snack-stops along the way and save quite a lot financially. At the top end, the financially blessed will find boutique-style hotels, free parking, swimming pools, fusion restaurants, great value and facilities. Many are also accompanied by a lot of flowery self-promotion.
Jazzing things up di Georgetown’s festivals
Heading the list of celebrations and events is the Georgetown Festival. This annual celebration covers a month-long period with a theme emphasising local culture and arts. Its popularity now extends beyond Asia to appeal to a global audience that flocks to the city’s hotels. Japanese culture is celebrated at the Bon Odori Festival with fireworks, food, fun and games. The International Lion Dance on Stilts is also a … mane … event in Georgetown’s calendar. Then there’s a monthly jazz event staged by the Penang Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Green is big in Penang where the International Green Carnival provides theme park fun at/ di Esplanade Park. On 31 August, National Day parades are to be witnessed throughout Malaysia. Few are more enthusiastically undertaken than the one in Penang.