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George Town is the capital of the island and state of Penang.
Things to see
Preserved by strict zoning laws, the gently crumbling but largely intact shophouses of Georgetown offer a glimpse into the town's colonial times. Restoration works are slowly progressing.
• Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Leith Street. The winner of UNESCO's Asia-Pacific Heritage 2000 Award for Conservation, the building's eclectic character is a reflection of the times at the end of the 19th Century when the myths & magic of the Chinese Kingdom embraced the glory of the British Empire in a whirling pool of cross-cultural energies. The sprawling mansion has 38 huge rooms, 5 courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 windows! You can only see the inside by guided tour, which is held daily at 11am and 3pm, for RM 12. There's also the option of staying there, which sets you back from RM 250 to 700.
• City Hall, The Esplanade (Jalan Syed Sheikh Barakbah), is a well-preserved colonial building from the heyday of the British Empire since 1903, at a cost of 100,000 Straits Dollars.
• Fort Cornwallis, Light Street. Built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, first landed in August 11th 1786. The fort was first built in 1793, but this site was an unlikely spot to defend the city from invasion. In 1810 it was rebuilt in an attempt to make up for initial strategic planning errors. In the shape of a star, the only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine, and a small Christian chapel. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort.
• Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, 18 Cannon Street. Built in 1850 by the forefathers of Khoo family who emigrated from South China, as a clan-house for members of the Khoo family. In 1836, construction of a new temple began and was completed 8 years later, but fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, allegedly struck by the lightning. Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor's palace, which provoked the gods. A scaled-down version was later built in 1902 and completed in 1906. The richly ornamented carvings of the roofs, walls and pillars reflect the art and architecture of ancient China and made of the finest wood. Expect to finish a visit to Khoo Kongsi with a sore neck! Open 9-17 weekdays, 9-13 Saturdays; entrance RM 5 for adults.
• Penang Islamic Museum. 128 Armenian Street. Phone:+60 4 262-0172, Fax:+60 4 264-4692. Wed-Mon 9.30AM-6PM (9.30AM-4PM during fasting month). Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, the century-old mansion that was named after its owner, a spice trader from Acheh. Adult RM3 and children below 12 RM1.
• Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Church Street (Lebuh Gereja). Originally the home of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, leader of Penang and Perak Hai San groups in the Larut Wars from 1860 to 1884. The mansion is a typical representation of the Straits Eclectic style of architecture - highly favoured by rich Peranakan families of old. Affectionally called 'Hai Kee Chan' or Sea Remembrance Store, it served as his residence and office.
• Queen Victoria Clock Tower, intersection of Light Street, Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and King Edward Place (Pesara King Edward). This 60 feet high clock tower was presented to Penang by local millionaire, Cheah Chen Eok, in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Georgetown has a profusion of sites of worship of all different faiths.
• Dharmikara Burmese Buddhist Temple located opposite of Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, Burma Lane, was built in 1805. A pair of elephants (sacred beasts in Buddhism) guard the entrance while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
• Kapitan Keling Mosque, Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) was built in the early 19th century, it was named after the Indian Muslim merchant Caudeer Mohudeen, who was also the Kapitan Keling (headman). It is the most prominent historic mosque in Penang and features a dome-shaped minaret reflecting Moorish Islamic influence. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is the place of worship of the Indian Muslim community who have lived and worked around the mosque for over two hundred years. Unlike modern mosques which are mainly frequented on Fridays, the Kapitan Keling Mosque is used by woshippers five times a day, seven days a week. Extremely well maintained next to its rundown neighborhood, tourists can get free tours of the mosque during non-prayer times. Be prepared to take your shoes off. Women must wear a heavy robe provided by the staff.
• Kuan Yin Teng ("Goddess of Mercy Temple"), Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) Every day. This is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. Built in 1801 by early immigrant settlers from China, the building is decorated with intricately crafted dragons and a pair of stone sculptured lions which are said to be its guardians. Undoubtedly the most popular Chinese temple in Penang, the Kuan Yin Teng, is flocked by pilgrims and followers all year round, particularly on the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month. There is a lovely square where puppet shows and Chinese operas are staged on the Goddess of Mercy's feast days. The square is always a centre of bustling activity, and there is an octagonal well in one corner, which was once a public well for the Chinese community. Free admission.
• St. George's Church, 1 Farquhar Street (Lebuh Farquhar). Named after the patron saint of England. Built with convict labour in 1818, it is the oldest Anglican Church in South-East Asia. The building was designed by Captain Robert Smith, a military engineer whose oil paintings of early Penang can be seen in the Penang State Museum. A memorial in the form of a Greek temple with a marble slab dedicated to Captain Francis Light, stands in the grounds of the St. George's Church.
• Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, Burma Lane (Lorong Burma), was founded in 1845. One of the world's longest reclining Buddhas (33 meters) resides within this Thai-styled temple. The temple was built on a piece of land given by Queen Victoria to four women trustees as a gesture of goodwill to boost trading relations with Thailand. The guardian dragon and statue at the entrance are both ostentatious and spectacular.
• Penang State Museum, Farquhar Street, is located near Fort Cornwallis, was formerly the Penang Free School which was built in two separate stages in 1896 and 1906. The museum exhibits paintings the artistic military man Captain Robert Smith and the lovely engravings of William Daniell. Other collections are former Penang Hill railway carriage, a handwritten Qur`an, old Malays weapons donated by the family of the late Dato' Haji Fathil Basheer and etc.
• KOMTAR, the only tower in Georgetown, is easy to find. It is well worth paying to see the view of the city from the top of KOMTAR. There are also shops around the tower.
• Clan Jetties, Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld), are numerous and located along the shorelines of George Town. They are worth walking to and looking at, as they provide insight to the way locals live in these traditional huts on stilts.
• Chew Thean Yeang aka CTY Aquarium, 82 Burmah Road. Phone:+60 4 226-8797, Fax:+60 4 229-4049. The largest live fish shop in South East Asia.