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Chinatown, George Town Penang

A selection of photographs of Chinatown in the recently UNESCO World Heritage-listed Malaysian town of Penang

Following on from our recent aerial pix of Penang’s George Town post here’s a few shots of some of the lovingly restored buildings of UNESCO-listed Chinatown Penang (Pinang) at street level. First up – the 19th-century Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Leith Street is probably the most iconic of George Town’s Chinese heritage buildings and certainly one of the most visited sites in town.

Entrance to Cheong Fatt Tze mansion
Entrance to Cheong Fatt Tze mansion

The distinctive blue colour is actually derived from natural indigo die mixed with white wash and is apparently very effective at resisting the discolouration and fungal growths that are so common in this humid tropical climate.

Commonly known as the 'Blue House'
Commonly known as the ‘Blue House’

Next up showing a not so natural-looking shade of turquoise is this spectacularly restored building just off Love Lane. Sounds cute but the street actually got its name from the preponderance of houses of ill repute located there. When we first visited Penang the above building was semi-derelict and Love Lane did still contain several decidedly dodgy ‘hotels’ and massage parlours but it’s now lined with numerous nicely restored houses and trendy coffee shops – times change.

Chinatown Penang
House of the Rising Sun…..

Next up is a rather fancy doorway, probably from a temple somewhere, but we do confess we’ve unfortunately forgotten!

Anyone recognise this elaborate doorway?
Does anyone recognise this elaborate doorway?

The following pic features a pair of restored shop-houses on Armenian Street. Ground floors of both are faithfully original though only the left-hand shop shows the original upper floor. Shop-houses are the traditional ‘default’ Chinese dwellings found in towns and cities right across Southeast Asia from Phuket to Battambang and Kuching to Singapore. Downstairs was the shop part with the families living upstairs which jutted out further than the ground floor thus providing a shaded sitting area in front of the house. This is normally open between each house creating a continuous shaded arcade which would have also been appreciated during the tropical rains. Perhaps more contemporary concerns with privacy or personal space have meant that, as you can see with the right-hand building, many have been blocked off.

Chinatown Penang. Shop-houses on Armenian Street
Shop-houses on Armenian Street

Whilst up on Armenian Street you could do worse than take a break at the Edelweiss Cafe – not a very traditional name but another beautifully restored old shop-house converted into a bar/cafe/restaurant by an old friend of ours Teresa. Not really a Swiss restaurant as such it actually offers an eclectic mix of food including, yes certain Swiss specialities, but also plenty of Asian options and in our experience – everything’s good!

Chinatown Penang. Edelweiss, edelweiss.....
Edelweiss, edelweiss…..

Could go on adding photos of Chinatown Penang for a while – there are so many great buildings and sites and that’s before we’ve even mentioned ‘Little India’ – but just go and check it out for yourselves. Our All Points East walking tours of George Town are organized in conjunction with the Penang Heritage Trust so we have expert local knowledge, insight and anecdotes on hand to accompany the visit. You can find all our Malaysia itineraries here.