A charming, multi-cultural, World Heritage Site that some argue is the food capital of Southeast Asia? If you haven't heard of George Town yet, we are here to tell you that it should be on your bucket list. Here's why:
With sizable populations of Chinese, Malay, Indian and British, George Town is an extremely diverse city. Four languages are spoken widely - Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil. Several religions are practiced - Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Taoism. With so much diversity, a traveler could spend a lifetime engulfed in the culture and constantly be learning. The best part? The multi-culturalism spills out in every way imaginable leaving its mark on everything from the architecture to the food.
George Town has a long and complex history. It was one of the first British settlements in Southeast Asia by the British East India Company. There was mass immigration of Chinese settlers in search of work during the 19th centurty. The city was subjugated by the Japanese during World War II and later recaptured by the British at the end of the war. There is a lot to learn about and a lot to see. Thankfully, the historical core of the city is a protected World Heritage Site and there are many historical museums and buildings in the city to visit.
Most of George Town's historical buildings are located within the UNESCO World Heritage zone. The architecture found here represents a fascinating mix of cultural heritage, mostly of European and Chinese style (as well as Indian influence in the Little India area). The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion are two of the most famous and beautiful examples of the unique style.
The Street Art
In 2012, as part of the annual George Town Festival, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic created a street art series around the city depicting local culture and lifestyle. These works often incorporate objects like bicycles, motorcycles and chairs and have become celebrated cultural landmarks. Since then, the street art scene in George Town has continued to develop, with local and international artists making their marks.
Is George Town Southeast Asia's best food city? We'll let you decide for yourselves but we wouldn't argue with anyone claiming it. Expertly blended flavors of Malaysia, China, India and Thailand make it the place to be for foodies everywhere. From perfectly curated shophouse cafes to delicious luxury hotel eats, George Town has something for everyone. But the real treasure is in the inexpensive hawker stall street food stands where you will get amazing food and a truly unforgettable experience. If you're unsure what to try, you can't go wrong with local favorites like asam laksa, char kway teow, or rojak.