Snapshots of George Town

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Frances Wilks takes a look at the ways GeorgeTown has changed in the four years since UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site.

Since achieving World Heritage status four years ago, George Town has changed quite considerably. Although there have been some new buildings erected, most of the construction taking place in GeorgeTown since 2008 has been renovation. There has been an explosion in the number of boutique hotels created from all sorts of property, and each are themed in a variety of ways.

The George Town Festival, a month long celebration of culture, both Malaysian and global, is now an annual fixture on the calendar, while pedestrianisation is beginning. Living heritage and the unique crafts of the city are being protected, and debates are taking place about ways to make George Town a liveable, creative city.

Civic City

Perhaps the first thing you notice about George Town is that there is a sense of civic pride, reflected in tidier pavements, street furniture, and tree planting. New trees and benches make Acheh Street a delightful place for a gentle stroll.

George Town World Heritage Inc has been set up in this magnificently restored building to manage, monitor, and promote the city as a world heritage site. Along with the Penang Heritage Trust, this organisation does much to educate on and offer support to projects aimed at restoration and renovation.

Creative Walls
Many of the buildings in George Town have been given a fresh coat of paint in the form of a special limewash which helps the buildings to breathe. Also, look out for the new wall art springing up all over the place. Here’s one (in a lane off Armenian Street) celebrating one of the icons of the city’s past: the rickshaw –  complete with Valentine’s Day graffiti (stick-on hearts which were later removed).

The Penaga Hotel, at the crossroads of Hutton and Transfer Streets, has been exquisitely restored. One of the exterior walls has been decorated with this fun scene that is slightly marred by the electricity wire!

Green City
George Town is greener than it was – not only with trees, but with a better public transport system. This Penang Rapid Bus progressing up Chulia Street makes a visual statement about the need to care for the environment.

Metro Bikes, based at Weld Quay, now runs bike tours of the city so that you can sight-see in a green way.

Beach Street is now car free every Sunday, allowing this young man to cycle safely in the middle of the road. Organisations are also starting to hold events in this wonderful open space. Notice the restored buildings on the left: Whiteaways and the Logan Building, both of which were recently completed.


The interior space of the Logan Building on Beach Street complete with renovated cobble stones and a cool garden.

Ancient and Modern
St. George’s Church on Farquhar Street is the oldest Protestant church in South Asia. Recently restored, the two hundred year old church was built on plans very similar to plans for a church in Madras, South India.

The new Rice Miller Complex is being constructed on Beach Street. It will contain low density housing, a hotel, and offices, and the building was designed with heritage in mind.

This article was written by Frances Wilks for Penang International.
Source: Penang International June-July 2012
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