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Picture of the day – Georgetown, Penang

Restored buildings in Georgetown's Chinatown
Restored buildings in Georgetown's Chinatown

One of the lovingly restored old buildings in Georgetown’s Chinatown. As well as the extensive Chinatown area, which incorporates Little India, there’s plenty of Victorian era British colonial buildings such as the old Penang Town hall, Fort Cornwallis, St George’s Church, Penang Museum etc as well as the fascinating old Chinese clan jetties along the east shore of Georgetown. All in all a very worthy, and overdue, 2008 addition to UNESCO’s world heritage list!

We’ll repeat the link to the excellent Penang blog we mentioned a couple of days back – ‘Penang Tips’ , and here’s a link to the UNESCO page for Georgetown. (Note that Georgetown, or George Town, is the main city and capital of Penang island and Penang State.) As you’ll see it was actually a joint application and joint listing for Georgetown and Malacca, (Melaka), which is kind of shame since the former more than merits inclusion in its own right and frankly the last thing the truly lamentable Malacca City Council or planning committee or whoever is responsible for the town ‘planning'(sic) deserves is any kind of acknowledgment or reward! To our minds Malacca is an example of precisely how not to plan and develop a historic town and the current state of Malacca town centre is nothing short of scandalous. (e.g. the new shopping centre built on the park that was itself situated on reclaimed land at the foot of the old Portuguese Fort A Formosa. Malaysia’s not Singapore or Hong Kong -was it really necessary to reclaim land from the sea for development and was there nowhere else to reclaim land than right in front of the historic waterfront area and having built a park on said land was it really necessary to then construct a shopping centre and business park there for …’s sake!?! If that’s Malacca City council’s view of development and their idea of preserving important heritage sites then why didn’t they just dig up the (ex)-waterfront area, (which those inconsiderate Dutch and Portuguese had built in an inconvenient place), and rebuild it all in some suburban theme park???

Anyway the silver lining is that presumably some UNESCO consultation will be required in any future plans and hopefully further development disasters may be avoided? (Could they also remove the plastic hibiscus flowers from the lamp-posts please!? It is supposed to be the national flower of Malaysia – do Malacca City Council not employ a single gardener who is capable of growing real hibiscus in that climate – duh!?!)

Anyway……..back to Georgetown and another excellent site worth checking out is the Penang Heritage Trust site – a Georgetown NGO dedicated to preserving the city’s architectural heritage. We’ve actually been running our Penang tours in co-operation with PHT for many years and their excellent and highly knowledgeable guides and interesting programmes have made it a highlight of our Malaysia itineraries.