George Town, the capital of the state of Penang, is a city that bears a rich history with its well-preserved architecture and cultural traditions. In 2008, George Town, along with Malacca, was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage city. Take a walk through the Penang Heritage Trail (click here for the map) and experience the grandeur of the buildings that represent the various ethnicity who have lived in Penang over the past two hundred years.
Street of Harmony
Masjid Kapitan Keling Road (formerly Pitt Street) is often known as the Street of Harmony in Penang with its various landmarks of worship. The Kapitan Keling Mosque, at the corner of Buckingham Street and Masjid Kapitan Keling Road, is the oldest mosque in Penang, built originally by the East India Company’s troops in the late 18th century. The mosque we see today is a result of major renovation works that gave the mosque a face lift, including the construction of a tall dome-shaped minaret, largely influenced by Islamic Indian architecture.
a tourist on a trishaw in awe of the minaret of the mosque
Walking north along Masjid Kapitan Keling Road brings you to the oldest Hindu temple of worship in Penang, the Mahamariamman Temple. The front of the temple faces Queen Street, which lies parallel to the east of Masjid Kapitan Keling Road, and within the vicinity of Little India. The sculpture at the entrance is adorned with 38 statues of Hindu gods and goddesses.
the statues of the Mahamariamman Temple
Further on along Masjid Kapitan Keling Road is the Goddess of Mercy Temple, the first Chinese temple in Penang. This temple was built by early Hokkien and Cantonese settlers and remains a popular temple amongst the local community today.
incense burning at the front of Goddess of Mercy Temple
At the junction of Farquhar Street and Masjid Kapitan Keling Road, is St. George’s Church. As the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia, it remains a significant Christian landmark in this region.
the neo-Palladian architecture of St. George’s Church
The clan temples of Penang were built by the different clan associations who originated largely from the Fujian province of China and settled in Penang from the 19th century. Clan associations were formed originally to assist fellow immigrants who came from similar villagers to settle down and seek employment. These temples were then constructed to worship patron deities and ancestors of the clan.
One of the many clan temples is the Yap Kongsi Temple along Armenian Street, built on a piece of land donated by Yeap Choor Ee, a famous tycoon of the Yap Kongsi. Within this temple are ancient tablets of the Yap clan.
the ornate carvings and decoratives of the Yap Kongsi Temple
More Heritage Buildings
Just a few steps away from the Yap Kongsi Temple is Dr Sun Yat Sen Penang Base at 120 Armenian Street. This traditional shophouse was once the base of Dr Sun Yat Sen’s revolutionary party and it is where the country’s oldest Chinese language newspaper Kwong Wah Jit Poh was founded by Dr Sun’s supporters. Today it houses a gallery of Dr. Sun’s personal collection.
Sun Yat Sen base
Next we head towards Leith Street where the remarkable blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion stands with its blend of oriental and western architecture. Built by Cheong Fatt Tze, one of the wealthiest tycoons, this estate earned the Most Excellent UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award in year 2000. Today, the mansion is open to the public for viewing and part of it has been converted to a hotel.
the blue colour of the mansion walls made from mixing lime with natural blue dye from the Indigo plant
the roof decorated with little pieces of pottery
Take a walk towards the Esplanade, where the City Hall with its British Palladian architecture, is worth admiring. Just next to the City Hall is the Penang War Memorial dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War 1.
facade of Penang City Hall