My journey has taken me north to the island of Penang, where I have found myself taking a step back in time to the colonial city of Georgetown. In 2008 Georgetown became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has since kept and maintained its unique colonial architecture to which it is most recognised for. Amongst the 18th century feel you will encounter a modern Asian city ambience, with cars and motorbikes lining the busy streets, food stalls and shops on every corner, and the vision of the eagerness to expand this classical town.
I had been told that Penang was most famous for it’s food. On any street you can see and smell a range of cuisines, from Chinese, to Cantonese, restaurants to street stalls. You would need a whole month, and a good stomach, to be able to try all the food on offer.
Aside from the world-renowned food, Penang provides a generous offer for art lovers, with the streets lined with various pieces from all over the world. You can find a variety of murals, along with wrought-iron cartoons depicting various historical and modern characteristics of this fascinating city.
And then there are the cats; well not necessarily an abundance of cats roaming the streets but rather an area of town where you will notice an array of Cat murals all dedicated to a very worthy cause, and one that I found well worth sharing the story.
The China House in Penang is a range of heritage buildings converted into a shop, cafe, restaurant, gallery, reading room and bakery, situated on Beach St near the Khoo Kongsi Chinese Temple in Georgetown. The House opened in 2011 and has for a long time supported the work of a foundation in Langkawi that works to rehabilitate and care for neglected, abused and needy animals, The Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary Foundation (LASSie). They also use their gallery to show and promote the work of local artists, as well as working with local community groups and festivals. In 2013 at the George Town Festival, China House worked with a range of artists, both local and international, to set the scene of the building and create awareness about the stray cat and dog issues facing Malaysia, and Asia as a whole. They filled the house with quirky and colourful depictions of animals and all the art is still visible on the walls of the house today.
Surrounding the China House there are a number of Cat murals that had been created by the ASA (Artists for Stray Animals) during the 2013 Georgetown Festival. The piece was named “101 Lost Kittens” and the aim to create community awareness about the care and protection of animals, quite a well worthy topic. LASSie has been working with China House and many other groups around Malaysia to raise awareness about animals. The foundation also does amazing work at the sanctuary in Langkawi, which includes free de-sexing of the animals and community awareness programs. Animal protection awareness is important throughout Asia and it’s wonderful to see such a big example of this right here in Penang.
You can pick up a street art guide at any of the local hostels and hotels and take yourself on a guided tour through the city. It is well worth the visit.