Exploring Penang: Art, locals at work, and my favorite market in Penang

For a couple nights I moved over to Georgetown, the capital city on the island, which was named after Britain’s King George III. It was founded in 1786 by a trader from the British East India Company. In 2008 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s some really interesting areas to take a wander through. I like the personality and mishmash that goes on around each corner. You’re never sure what you’ll stumble upon next. There’s a collection of streets with colorful and unusual street art, which features the 101 Lost Kittens Project that is meant to bring awareness to the stray animals.

Walk down every little ally way and look in every nook and cranny to find hidden pieces.

Throughout the city you find people of all ages hard at work practicing their craft. Many of them are older, and when I spoke to them were sad at the prospects of their skills dying out because the young people aren’t interested. I spent close to an hour watching an old Chinese blacksmith work on hatchets. He was an artist in every way of the word. Meticulously he would heat the metal to intense temperatures before pounding it with a mallet on an anvil. Once happy with this progress, he would take the super heated chunks and use a big machine to stamp out and flatten the pieces to the exact form he was looking for.

So much work was put into every piece, and I’m sure it would be cheaper to just go buy one at a big store, but his are a piece of art, full of his personal energy. Another old man built handmade chairs. He sat in complete concentration and weaved long strands of palm in perfect patterns to make the seats. It looked like very intricate work, which took a lot of patience. He was an artist as well.

Each chair has it’s own small touches and is full of his hard work. Just like the blacksmith, it would probably be cheaper to go down to the store and buy a factory made mass produced chair for a lot cheaper, but you get what you pay for. There’s a lovely lady who sells traditional Chinese fortune cookies (new years cookies). The ladies hand make them all day and fill plastic jars to sell. It’s her grandmothers recipe, and she has kept the tradition going. They use a unique contraption to make them. It’s sort of like a small round waffle iron on a long handles. The inside is very thin to make them just right. A small amount of the “batter” is spooned on to start. They are then cooked over hot coals, and once finished folded into the cute little shape.

Chinese cookies in Georgetown, Penang

Chinese cookies in Georgetown, Penang

She gave me one to try and they’re delicious. She admitted that her cookies were at least double the price of cookies made from machines, but they have time and love into them. You can buy a cheap bag of them at a large supply store, but you’re missing out on being part of a tasty family tradition. It’s sad to think of these artists skills dying out as they die out. Most of the next generation aren’t interested in these pursuits. There is a small market in the early evening on the corner of Lebuh Acheh and Lebuh Armenian (streets), which is full of every sort of odds and ends imaginable. It’s like a little flea market where each person lays out their sheet on the ground and displays whatever knickknacks they have. You probably won’t find it on any maps or google searches, but it’s there. Some guys have a bunch of broken electronics and cords, some all types of toys, or clothes, or just piles of things that you never would have imagined being sold together in one spot.

The place is full of characters, and is a good spot to just hang and people watch. Little kids dart around under the adults looking for fun things to tinker with. Groups of men argue over prices, and inspect every item. Old guys with faces that could tell a lifetime of stories.

One guy sat on the ground and fed chunks of raw meat to a whole group of cats. From the look of it, this was a daily occurrence. A nice guy who loved to talk gave me an old Chinese note in a sleeve. He told me that his grandfather had given it to him and now he wanted to give it to me. He turned out to be friends with cat-man, and we had a great time goofing off.

The start of a beautiful friendship was at this market when I found my riding partner. He loves christmas and celebrates it year round. I rescued him from a crummy life on the street for a dollar. He had been through some rough times and couldn’t speak anymore. Back at the hostel I performed emergency surgery to try and save his voice, but it was a losing cause. In the end I was forced to cut out his voice box. I think it might be for the best though, I don’t need someone riding on the back who will be jabbering away all day long annoying me. The other positive is he only weighs about a pound. I don’t have enough room to fit a girl on the bike, but my new christmas buddy is perfect.

About Trueworldtravels

Following my heart around the planet. Bringing to life the unique world around us through writing and photography.
This entry was posted in Kawasaki KLR650, Malaysia travel, markets, Motorcycle world travel, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Exploring Penang: Art, locals at work, and my favorite market in Penang

  1. Anonymous says:

    That was one of the weirdest and best posts you’ve ever done. And some of the photos are flat out excellent. Nicely done. I’m really enjoying the trip in this vicarious way.


  2. Elaine Segura says:

    Glad you will not riding alone this Christmas.❤️🐚❤️🎄


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