A Dose of Culture at the George Town Festival

Good news everybody. I go home Monday! Hooray! Peter left Penang yesterday so I have been alternating between periods of mad productivity and total and utter laziness. It is absurd. Although I am beyond excited to be home with my family (hello mom’s cooking!), I am cherishing these few days alone to keep my own schedule. In other news, I have FINALLY edited all my pictures from BEFORE my crazy two week journey to Cambodia and Thailand. So expect the actual trip photos sometime in November. Haha! (But really). Before that madness begins, here are some pictures from the George Town Festival which took place here in Penang last month. It was fun! ______________________________________________ gtownfestival1 The day before Carina and I embarked on our long journey, we headed down to Georgetown to partake in the festivities around Victoria and Armenian Street. Despite living in Penang for almost 5 months, I had heard almost nothing about the George Town Festival and had no idea what it was all about. Well I pleasantly surprised to find a fun street festival with several streets closed to traffic and a lively crowd entering various art museums, shops, restaurants, and temples opened specifically for the event. This was a perfect opportunity to explore George Town by foot without the fear of being mowed down by car or motorbikes. We were blessedly free to wander and visit some really awesome places in the city. gtownfestival2 gtownfestival3 gtownfestival4 We found some cool art galleries, one with beautiful photography on display and another with interesting magazine cover art dangling from hangers. These galleries are housed in old buildings that have not been updated or renovated much if at all. I loved the wonderful juxtaposition of glossy art against peeling paint and crumbling stone. It was really quite beautiful. gtownfestival7gtownfestival5 gtownfestival6 As we walked around, we encountered some dance performances as well as the famous street art murals by Ernest Zacharevic. These murals are absolutely exceptional and I am determined to see them all if possible. Many of the murals have actual props like bicycles, chairs and motorbikes attached to the wall like the “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural below. Other murals interact with various part of buildings like awnings and holes in the wall. These murals are clever and an impressive addition to the Penang urban landscape. gtownfestival8 gtownfestival10gtownfestival11gtownfestival9gtownfestival15gtownfestival14 While walking down Armenian street, we encountered many of the Chinese clan temples formed in the 19th century. First we found the ornate entranceway for Cheah Kongsi, one of the oldest Hokkein clan temples in Penang, and were drawn in towards the glowing lights at dusk. A film festival would take place in the expansive courtyard later that evening but we decided to push on. gtownfestival12gtownfestival16gtownfestival18gtownfestival17gtownfestival19 But first, Carina and Peter had to get a few pictures with their new Hokkien friends. gtownfestival20 We continued down Armenian street stopping to visit small shops and street stalls selling everything from hazelnut juice to trinkets from China. I was captivated by the beautiful building exteriors, each with their own character. We witnessed spontaneous taiko drum performances, youths throwing Chinese yo-yos and women walking by in beautiful kimonos. I was struck by the calm but busy energy of Georgetown that positively drips with culture. This is a side of Penang that I rarely see but when I do, it blows my mind. gtownfestival21 gtownfestival22 gtownfestival23gtownfestival24 gtownfestival25 gtownfestival26gtownfestival29 As we neared the end of the festival, we were drawn to yet another elaborate entranceway beckoning us with a warm glow as people flowed in and out. We emerged on the other side and found ourselves in another huge courtyard, this one filled with rows of locals selling a variety of handcrafts under the grand Hock Tiek Cheng Sin Temple. I bought a few bracelets and Peter bought some cologne before going inside the golden temple.  I am always blown away by the ornate beauty of Chinese temples. In Penang, these beautiful temples were actually the base for Chinese clans and organizations at war with each other in the 19th century. It makes sense that the extravagance and lavishness of these temples were a form of competition within Penang’s Chinese community. In that case, I am not sure who wins because they are all exceptional. gtownfestival30 gtownfestival32gtownfestival31 gtownfestival36 By the time we left temple, it was getting dark. Carina and I still had to pack for our flight the next day so we knew it was time to leave. This George Town Festival event was amazing and I loved every second of it.  I am so glad Carina found out about this event and pushed us to go! It was a perfect prelude to our long trip and only added to my excitement and trepidation of our travels to come. gtownfestival37 As I continue to explore Georgetown, the more I love Penang. There is so much here just waiting to be discovered. Till next time…


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