During our trip to Penang, we had only 4 days to explore this city. Most of the time, we spent it around George Town area. Sure 4 days are just not enough to explore a city, it’s just never will. But I found it very exciting to have that 4 days around George Town. In fact, it’s kinda thrilling to explore a city with a different thing to do, a quest.
An adventure, a quest, a mission…
I know it might sound a bit dramatic. Just for fun, alright? But yeah, I’m sharing what we felt when traveling to Penang. As per usual, we all as travelers always set up our itinerary, doing our research where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to stay, et cetera, et cetera. Same thing with this Penang trip. You can see the whole itinerary on our Penang Travel Journal.
However, there’s one thing that all over the internet talking about Penang, the street arts. Which is kinda gets my attention when reading about Penang. It looks like a really promoted things to do in Penang, even things about Penang itself. After some reading, I get it, it’s the ‘hype’ now for tourism in Penang to ‘see’ their so-called street arts. Particularly, George Town street arts.
The Beginning of Penang Street Art
It all began in 2008 when the oldest portion of the city center designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, which is George Town. It is considered as an architectural gem because it contains one of the largest collection of pre-World War II and rich of cultural influences.
Because of that, in 2009, a project called “Marking George Town” initiated. It was an idea competition for UNESCO World Heritage Site. An idea to use art as a story-telling tool about Penang rich culture, social, and history. The company, Sculpture at Work, commissioned by the state government, creating all 52 steel rod caricatures, amazing artworks.
The streets of George Town were named after the trades, people and events, which means every street has its own unique story. With the rising rental, many of the original inhabitants moved out and with them, the stories as well. So, the idea is to put the stories back into the city.
Tang Mun Kiang
Marking George Town Sculptures Creative Director
Source : timeout.com
Then in 2012 during George Town Festival celebrations, a Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned by the state with an art project called Mirror George Town, a collection of murals spread within the city. These murals from Ernest are the most popular among others. His paintings are the only one acknowledged by the Penang official tourism. Which you can download a free brochure about street arts in Penang.
At first, people in Penang are just not aware of these arts. But as time goes by, people learned more to appreciate public art. Now, when you visit Penang, it became one of the main reason to travel here. Getting all the fun to find and taking pictures of these street arts.
Following Ernest, more and more artists doing their arts on the street. Two of them which artworks getting famous are Louis Gan, a local Penangites which deaf also mute, and Julia Volchkova, a Russian artist which started her work at George Town in 2014.
Remember Your Priority
The first thing that you have to know about this street art hunt all over the city is that you cannot find everything in one day. In fact, maybe you will never find all of them. Some are hidden, some are easily go unnoticed, some inside a building, some are just too far to reach by foot, or most likely you’re done with all the sweat and the heat chasing one art after another. You know Penang, it’s 33 °c under the sun.
My advice is to take it easy and do the best you could with your window time and have fun! Really, that’s all that matters when you’re traveling, right? What’s the point of this ‘treasure hunt‘ if not for the fun? 😎
Here We Go
Remember that these street arts can be found in murals, both in 2D and 3D, and also some sculptures I talked about earlier. There’s a lot of them, almost impossible to get them all unless you made it your only things-to-do during your visit.
We got 56 total street arts, 16 out of 52 sculptures, and 40 mixed murals and random street arts we saw. I say mixed because there are ‘legit’ arts and yeahhh…. ‘not so legit’ arts? Legit like the ‘well-known’ and the first to appear. Not so legit like ‘new’ and kinda copying the hype. Well, you be the judge, art is art anyway. Let’s just be positive and appreciative to those artists.
I’ve prepared for you a map that has a pinned location for each and every street arts we manage to find. Plus, some other street arts we couldn’t find. Later at the end of the post. Meanwhile, here’s all the street arts we photograph according to our timeline, from the very first sculpture that we saw till the very last giant mural we saw on our hotel side wall. Enjoy!
Not so much? Yeah, it’s been raining almost all day, so yeah we’re kinda had a hard time to take a picture for every street art we found. We thought we will just do it later on the third day, since we set a plan to hunt those street arts on that day. Stick to your plan, guys!
This is the only sculpture we passed when walking to the Blue Mansion from our hotel. We’re just casually walking and took a quick snapshot of it because… priority, people. Like I said, we planned it for the third day. We had Blue Mansion, Fort Cornwallis, and Penang Hill for the day. Those places enough to kill a day.
Day 3 : The Hunt Began
That’s 38 spots in one day! Good God, that was exhausting. We walked pretty far, though. Going around here and there, back and forth, horizontal and vertical. 😂 #likethatispossible
I sweat my shirt just before lunch. We’re going out at about 9, we spent a good one hour – one hour and a half at the Camera Museum, an amazing place for you photography enthusiasts. Around 11, I’ve succeeded to change my light green t-shirt into dark green, all dark green from the neck to the waist. All sweat, d*mn hot. So hot. I had to buy a t-shirt at one of the local shops on Armenian Street for RM 20. Just because it’s too wet.
You know what? An umbrella or a hat would help… Go get one, champ…
Our last day was only for two things: souvenirs and to capture the street arts we missed before. Trying to get our hand as many as street art as we can. By ‘missed’ I mean missed on purpose and not on purpose.
Tips, Tricks & Things
Sometimes we just don’t like to wait too long just to take a photo with the street art, so we skipped it for later. Some other times, we found new street art on the street or places that we’ve been before.
It’s just not there yesterday… How can they suddenly appear?
Well, that makes me want to share to you guys a few things to be your tips and concern about this street art thing. Here are some of my thoughts:
Timing is everything.
You know the concept of time. When it’s the right time, it’s great. When it’s the wrong time, it sucks. Try to avoid the hot mid-day sun when hunting these street arts down. Get up early in the morning, or do it later in the afternoon. In my experience, I found the peak hour, where seems like every tourist going out hunting street arts is between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The worst time is after lunch hour, around 2 p.m.
Plan your route.
With all the maps and clues on the internet, you can try to plan your way to find those arts. It’s much better since you can avoid the too crowded area during peak hours. You can also save your energy walking around going back and forth the same street just to find another street arts that actually just a few meters from the murals you took 3 hours ago. Learn your map, make sure you don’t get lost.
For some street arts which located at a crowded area with tourists such as Armenian street and Cannon Street, most likely you will easily find those arts. You notice a wall that has tourists starring or even queueing to take pictures, that’s probably what you’re looking for. But you also can miss those arts in such a crowded area because it’s too overwhelming, too many people too many objects, too many cars can sometimes block you from the sight of it. We did several times, mostly because of a parked car. So, eyes of an eagle, alright? Look around.
I know, I know, you’re excited. You probably also exhausted and tired after the long chase. Maybe you are thirsty and hungry, or maybe you just want to quickly get it and be done with it. You can be a jerk or be a considerate tourist. For some arts, like I mentioned earlier, there are queues for taking photos. Especially those located at the crowded street and those which ‘legit’ (popular) enough.
If you are queueing, please be patient, we’re all waiting for the same thing, with the same purpose, in the same adventure. Smile, get in line, have a good chit chat with whoever you’re going, or just play with your phone or something. It will come, sooner or later, your turn. If you don’t want or cannot wait, walk it off. Come back later. Or if you don’t mind you’re not in the picture with the art, then snap it WITHOUT interfering with other people’s turn.
If you are the one who’s in the turn, PLEASE think of other people, too. Be quick, take a pose, snap your phone, press your shutter, be done with it. You won’t believe how many times I saw what I think kinda selfish when tourists taking pictures with these street arts. Some took so many photos with more angles than a professional photographer could ever think of, some took with more styles than a professional model could put up to, some are queueing representative for an entire line of the family they brought (Grandpa, grandma, daddy, mommy, uncle, uncle, uncle, aunty, aunty, aunty, brother, sister, cousins, pets……… neighbors……. You get it…).
If you are the one who cut the line, while there are other people already queueing for like 10 minutes, you can go to hell… Or if you are the one who ‘pretend’ like you don’t see any queue, or you don’t know what queue is, or you forgot how to queue, you should just stay at home. You’ll see it at some point. Give it a try.
Chances are you will ran out of battery for your smartphone or camera quicker that you think. I did, so bring your extra battery.
It’s a very important thing to stay hydrated. Under the scorching heat of the sun, if you do it midday, you’ll need more than just a bottle of water. Carry with you an isotonic water if possible. Remember it’s Malaysia, check the temperature.
If you’re easily sweating like me, you might want to carry in your backpack an extra piece of clothes. Or spend some extra money like me. Or just let it dry itself if you’re comfortable with it. Maybe just take off your cloth, go naked. Who knows what might happen, right?
That being said, doing this overrated ‘hype’ things in Penang is a lot of fun. It almost feels like a competition with all your allies and enemies after the same thing. It’s a genius thing to set up things like street arts to attract tourism like this. It’s a free entertainment for tourists who wants to have fun around the city. It can also be sort of an adventure for more adventurous and competitive people when traveling.
Just remember to be chill and relax, smile, and enjoy the treasure hunt. Keep in mind, there’s no winning or losing in this. Just for the fun! That’s all I can share with you on this post about Penang Street Art. If you find this useful, please share with your friends and family. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for updates about more places we’re about to cover. Until next post, bye!
Be sure to check our Penang Travel Journal.
Thanks for reading! Check these links below if you want to get some deals on your next trips, as well as we will get something in return to keep us on track. 😉
- Book your next flight to Penang!
- For you guys Indonesian, book your flight here with promo price.
- Check the price for Chulia Mansion, great location, great price, and great breakfast.
- We want to try the Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La at Batu Feringghi, but because a thing or two we didn’t. It’s a great resort for holiday.
- Or if you’re looking for another stay in Penang at a discounted price.
- Claim your $26 for free when you book with airbnb.
- Book your airport transfer pick up $17 only.
- If you plan to go by bus to Penang, check out busonlineticket.com or easybook. They both are recommended bus and train booking site for Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.
- Enjoy the beautiful landscape of the city from Penang Hill for only $26.
- Explore George Town with a guided half day tour for only $19 or a heritage tour for $27.
- If you want some culinary experience, try this Heritage on a plate tour for $50.
- Capturing your best travel moment with the best camera for you.
- Safety first people, get a travel insurance if you’re traveling.
- Check more on our resources page!
This is the map showing all the street arts we captured as well as many street arts we couldn’t find within our window time. I made this map with a bit help of two sources, penang-traveltips.com and timeout.com. Check out their site, great resources for Penang.