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Top destinations in George Town
George Town is the capital of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with fellow former Straits Settlement, Malacca.
The fort, named for Charles Cornwallis is built on the site where Captain Francis Light, founder of Penang, first landed on August 11, 1786. It 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. Several old cannons (including one that is believed by some locals to have magical 'fertility' powers) can still be found at the fort. There are also small displays of artefacts recovered from archaeological digs inside the fort. The magazine houses an exhibit of old photos and historical accounts of the old fort.
Penang Botanic Gardens
The gardens were established by Charles Curtis of Britain way back in 1884; it's generally known as the Waterfall Gardens by the local community because of a little waterfall located within it. Many locals will come to the gardens to perform their daily exercises like walking, jogging, jungle trekking, aerobic dance, and to practice Tai Chi, (太极) or Qi Gong, (气功). The wild monkeys are supposed to be there but not to be seen. The garden hosts an annual international floral fest as well as a world music festival. [http://www.penangworldmusicfestival.com/].
Dhammikarama Burmese Temple
A Burmese Buddhist temple founded in 1803. At the entrance a pair of white elephants, which are sacred in Buddhism, guard the temple while within a bodhi tree and wishing pond greets the visitor.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Leith Street. Built in the 1890s, and restored in the 1990's (earning it an UNESCO award in 2000), this indigo-blue Chinese Courtyard House in George Town was the main residence of Cheong Fatt Tze, known as the 'Rockefeller of the East' and 'J.P. Morgan of China'. Cheong was a prominent, successful Hakka Chinese merchant who demonstrated his business ability after marrying into a wealthy family, founding the Chang Yu Winery and ending the segregation of Chinese from Europeans on passenger ships. The mansion was built according to feng shui principles by master craftsmen brought in from southern, who used their skills to fashion a sprawling mansion with 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases, and 220 windows. The mansion features in various films including the 1993 Oscar-winning Indochine. Tours: 11:00, 13.30 and 15:00 sharp (RM12, 60-90min, no indoor photography, consider booking in advance). Lodging also available, see the sleep section.
The burial site of Captain Francis Light, Thomas Leonowens and more. Filled with crumbling, vegetation-covered tombs, it bears witness to a century of colonisation. There are around 500 burial sites here, a quarter of which no longer bear readable inscriptions. Accessible through a gate in the rear wall is the Roman Catholic Cemetery, most of whose graves are so old the inscriptions are no longer readable.
Penang Islamic Museum
Located in the Syed Al-Attas Mansion, a century-old mansion named after its owner, a spice trader from Aceh.
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
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. Fire razed the wooden structure to the ground in 1894, it was allegedly struck by 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.
Nazlina Spice Station
You've eaten the food, now it's time to try cooking the dishes. Nazlina's morning classes include the hustle and bustle of a wet market tour to look over ingredients before heading back to the kitchen. Deeply knowledgeable about Penang cuisine, she will give cooking lessons based on the wants of the class. They can make bookings for up to 12 but that's a bit squashed. But if you're lucky there may be fewer people, so you can get a more personalised experience.
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Built in the early 19th century and named after Caudeer Mohudeen, an Indian Muslim merchant who was also the Kapitan Keling, or leader of the Keling community. This historic mosque features a dome-shaped minaret that reflects Moorish Islamic influence and has been a prominent place of worship for local Indian Muslims for over 200 years. Free tours operate during non-prayer times. Shoes must be removed prior to entering the mosque and women are provided with heavy robes to wear. Men who are not appropriately dressed will also be supplied robes.