We took a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and because sometimes really great stuff just happens, we arrived just in time for George Town’s annual art festival.
George Town is, at the best of times a hugely vibrant and quirky city so to be there during George Town festival was nothing short of amazing.
In our short time there we experienced so much art and culture it felt like the city was trying to impress us.We stayed at cool little hostel called The Frame Guesthouse. The location was great, as was our room and the price but damn the floorboards were noisy. Every time someone walked along the corridor, it sounded like a herd of elephants had just moved in. Earplugs tho.
Aside from the art all over the place, there was so much stunning architecture to gawp at. George Town festival takes place in August, when the city becomes full to the brim with art in every imaginable form. Exhibits, installations and performances take over public spaces, restaurants and venues large and small to accommodate a vast festival programme featuring local and international artists.What was originally a two day festival initially began to honour the city’s UNESCO status, which it was awarded in 2010. Since then the festival has blossomed into a month long affair. We spent hours wandering through the various art spaces enjoying everything on offer. Even when there are no festivals on, George Town boasts an impressive amount of street art. There are even maps available to help you find it all. I’m not sure we got close to seeing everything but it seemed like around every corner there was a new mural to admire. We were also lucky enough to witness the Hungry Ghost Festival being celebrated by the Chinese Taoist and Buddhist community. During the 7th lunar month the community goes to great lengths to entertain the spirits from the underworld, who are believed to come and visit their living relatives. Theatres are set up across the city for performers to put on traditional Chinese operas, plays and puppet shows. The make up was unreal. We saw huge tables filled with edible offerings. Plumes of smoke from incense sticks filled the air and one evening we were even able to catch an incredibly acrobatic dragon dance. The whole thing was pretty wild! While people did attend the theatrical performances, it was not uncommon to see actors performing to mostly empty chairs, as after all, these shows were for the spirits.We ate incredibly good food in George Town. We were spoiled for choice with the amount of Indian food on offer. The parothas were SO good. We were also delighted to be able to eat some of the best sushi we’ve ever had at Sushi Kitchen, a fully vegan restaurant offering a huge variety of Japanese food which tasted and looked sublime. They even had a fried sushi dish which was one of the most delicious things we’ve ever tried. The most special place that we ate at was Tofu Village. It’s hard to explain how delicious the noodles and sweet potato fries at this place were. We went back several times, partly because we developed an instant addiction to the food and partly because the owner, Nicky is a wonderful beautiful woman. She was totally accommodating to our vegan-ness, suggested amazing stuff to try and even brought out a selection of all of the different types of noodles so we knew exactly what we were ordering.
We found plenty of delicious street food to try. Everything from steamed buns to deep fried mushrooms to glutonous ricey-nutty-sugary stuff. There were tonnes of beautiful temples to wander into and around. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a big Islamic festival. We weren’t able to gather exactly what it was in aid of, but we were invited to sit under a huge marquee and enjoy food and drink while listening to some gorgeous singing.A lovely new Indian Hindu temple was celebrating its opening while we were there and once again we were invited to take part in festivities. Other incredible things we spotted during our stay included this guy who had been painting lamp posts silver…Then there was this guy doing knife head massages… This restaurant where everyone was colouring in the tablecloths… The most amazing collection of second hand books in the market… This incredible print factory… And then there was this hand which pretty much sums up our time in George Town…