The streets come alive in Penang on UNESCO anniversary

The streets come alive in Penang on UNESCO anniversary

The diverse communities in Malaysia's George Town raise their flags and open their doors to the public to show off the finer aspects of their cultures
George Town UNESCO Heritage Site
British-raised Ghaffar Pourazar, the first Westerner to complete the torture-like training course at the National Academy for Beijing Opera, performs for a crowd in George Town.

The streets of George Town -- the bustling capital of Malaysia’s Penang state -- come alive today with a mish-mash of colorful activities as residents and visitors celebrate the second anniversary of the city’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The month-long George Town Festival has already been going for a week, but today’s the day thousands of people will be out in force around the town’s heritage core zone as the streets descend into a foray of street performances and cultural exchanges.

George Town’s diverse communities -- Chinese, Malay, ethnic Indian -- have already raised their flags and opened their doors to the public to show off the finer aspects of their cultures. 

Among the highlights today is a blast from the past with an open house of George Town’s historic public and private buildings, all of which have free entry throughout the day. Museums, galleries, hotels and offices are all fair game on the trail, along with Indian and Chinese temples, tombs, mosques and churches.

Owners of residential and commercial shophouses are also in on the fun, with a specially created shophouse trail so visitors can get high on heritage sites, while a cemetery tour is being offered to quench the thirst of the more macabre explorers. 

All day around Masjid Kapitan Keling, intrepid travelers can indulge in everything from photographic displays and crafts demos to an exhibition revealing the historical and cultural significance of the humble date fruit. 

And of course, you it wouldn’t be fair to mention Penang without salivating over the cuisine, which food lovers can indulge in at this evening’s showcase of traditional food as they learn to prepare dishes, as well as gorge on them. 

It’s more of the same for the rest of the month with a calendar chock-full of exhibitions and performances. 

Penang is a veritable pool of cheap digs and friendly people, but you’ve only got about three weeks left to live it up with the Penangites.

Be sure to visit the George Town festival website for everything that’s going on this month. 


As a freelance journalist over the past six years Matt has reported from Thailand, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Matt’s stories have been run by AFP, IRIN, Guardian, Reader's Digest and many more.
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