Penang = George Town. This may sound confusing to the outside people; ie visitors to Penang. Why called Penang and not George Town? Penang is the State. George Town is the capital city of Penang. And yet, people who were born and grew up in Penang will still call George Town as Penang. But when asked where they were born. Their standard response is either George Town if born in the city or name of one of the outskirt town (or suburbs) like Air Itam or Bayan Lepas. I think the reason is that in the older time, “Penang is George Town”. Majority of the population lives in George Town. All activities happened in George Town. There is nothing outside of George Town except “kampong” (village). It is the heart and soul of Penang. But, time has changed over the last few decades. Penang has grown. The kampung has become a satellite town. There are buildings and services and shops. Some have shopping malls and hypermarkets. George Town was slowly dying off from her glory days until UNESCO saved her from becoming derelicts and historical buildings being knocked down. The older part of George Town is now recognised as a UNESCO world heritage listed site, one that deserved to preserve her heritage, cultural values and architectural buildings dated back to preWWII, the Straits Settlement and Colonial past.
Each time I come home to Penang, it is a must that I walk around the streets of Penang. When I say that, I am referring to the streets gazetted by UNESCO in George Town. It is colourful and interesting. It reminds me of my childhood days. I will always find new things. On this trip, there are new tourists’ friendly signs pointing to the important historical sites. There is the familiar “Little India” which is one of my favourite even if I am not buying anything, but to smell the aromatic spices in the air. There are the street vendors “hawker” stalls selling all kind of Penang food. Some of my favourite streets – Armenian Street, Beach Street, Victoria Street, China Street, Church Street, “Street of Harmony” or Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling (Pitt Street), Love Lane, Muntri Lane, Chulia Street, Rope Walk and Campbell Street.