One of the things you will notice when visiting Penang in Malaysia is that it´s packed with colorful, vibrant and stunning street art. There are art pieces everywhere! Especially in the streets of George Town, the capital city of Penang, you will find amazing murals, steel sculptures, and wall paintings on every street corner.
Some of the murals even involve physical objects, encouraging you to interact with the art piece. These are a massive hit among Instagrammers and selfie-lovers. 🙂
The street art expresses the daily life of the people of Penang in a sweet and sometimes funny and humorous way, almost like cartoon comics. As you walk around the streets of George Town, they will put a smile on your face or make you think and reflect about the local way of life in here.
I love street art and had great fun hunting and collecting photographs of the murals and sculptures of Penang while at the same time learning about George Towns history, heritage, and culture.
Here I will give you a guide to the different street arts and murals of George Town, Penang and the artists behind them. I will start by telling you a little bit about Penang´s street art history and why Penang has an unusually large amount of street art.
I will then give you an overview of the different types of street art that you can find when walking around George Town. I will also give you a map with an overview of the most popular and best street art pieces.
Here is my ultimate guide to the most famous and popular street art and murals of George Town, Penang.
Table of Contents:
Where To Find The Street Art In George Town, Penang – Map
The map above: An overview of all the street arts of George Town, Penang – both steel arts and murals/ wall paintings
How To See The Street Art Of George Town, Penang
We simply walked around the streets of George Town with this map (from the official tourist office of Penang) in our hand and found the street art of Georgetown on our own. That way we could walk around at our own pace, stop whenever and wherever we wanted, and grab an ice Teh Tarik (Malaysian ice tea) and some noodles from a street vendor along the way. Walking is a great way to explore George Town since it is a rather small city.
But if you don´t want to walk and are in a rush, you can opt for hiring a bike. A lot of cafes and hotels rent out bicycles. Some even rent out electric bikes. There are also city bikes some places in George Town (like in Muntri Street) that you can easily rent for a cheap price.
Another option is to hire a trishaw. That way you don´t have to walk, you can sit in the trishaw and relax while someone else is doing the sweating. Also, the trishaw paddlers are excellent local guides and know exactly where the street art is located and which one you should see. So it is a double-win, both transport and a guide! 🙂
⇒ You can download a printable PDF-version of the Street Art Map from the official tourist office Visit Penang
If you are short on time and don´t want to do all the research yourself, joining a guided tour is an excellent choice! I recommend this full day George Town City Tour which also included the fantastic Peranakan Mansion Museum which we loved.
This tour gives you all the historic and cultural insight into the uniqueness of George Town. You will have an energetic and knowledgeable English speaking guide with you the whole day.
They will pick you up at your hotel at 09:00 (9 am) in the morning with an air-conditioned car and drive you to the harbor area of George, the Jetties. You will start the tour by walking around the fascinating floating fishing village and market, the Clan Jetty.
From there you will go on a walking tour with your guide, and he/she will take you to see the most important and best sights of George Town:
- Kuan Yin Temple/ Goddess of Mercy – Penang´s oldest temple (built in 1728)
- Masjid Kapitan Keling – a 200-year old mosque
- Sri Maha Mariamman – a beautiful south-Indian style Hindu temple covered with colorful carvings
- St. George Church – a stunning bright white Georgian-style church completed in 1818
- Pinang Peranakan Mansion Museum – The best-preserved and most fantastic Peranakan home in George Town which also has a beautiful temple and an impressive jewelry collection
- Fort Cornwallis – Where the British settled down to build their colony in Penang
You will also eat delicious local food and snacks along the way before they drive you back to your hotel. All entrance fees to the sights are included.
⇒ Click here for the latest prices and more details
Marking George Town – 52 Cartoon Steel Art Sculptures
So you may wonder: Why does George Town of all places have so much street art?!
On the 7th of July 2008, George Town was awarded World Heritage Site status by the UNESCO. The Penang State Government wanted to mark this occasion, and in September 2009 they launched a competition to physically brand George Town and give it a distinct and unique character and identity.
The project was called “Marking George Town,” and the winner was the Kuala Lumpur based studio Sculpture At Work. The concept was to tell the people of George Town´s stories and portrait the everyday life of George Town through a series of cartoon steel art pieces all across the city. They invited several different artists to contribute and make art pieces for the project.
The Penang State Government bought fifty-two sculptures for about 1 million Ringgit. The sculptures were made of black steel by various artists and were put up in the streets all over George Town.
The four different artists that contributed to the project “Marking George Town” were Baba Chuah (5 pieces), Julian “Lefty” Kam (5 pieces), Reggie Lee (11 pieces), and Tang Mun Kian (31 pieces).
Here is an overview of the four different artists of the “Marking George Town” and some of their most famous pieces that you can find in the streets of George Town, Penang:
The map above: An overview of the 52 steel street arts of George Town, Penang – The Marking George Town Project
The artist Baba Chuah was the first to contribute to the “Marking George Town” street art project.
Baba Chuah is a local comic cartoonist from Malaysia. He made five pieces in total to the project “Marking George Town”.
Here are all of the five metal wire art pieces by Baba Chuah that you can find in the streets of George Town today:
Ting Ting Thong
The Ting Ting Thong art piece shows the typical daily street life of George Town in an excellent way.
It is located on a street, Seck Chuan Lane, that used to be the center for market produce (meat, vegetables, fruits and so on). Many hawker stalls were also on this street, and one of the most popular was the Ting Ting Thong hawker who sold rock candy. It was extremely popular among the kids.
The art piece shows Ting Ting Thong himself, an old man, selling candy at his stall. His Ting Ting Thong, or Rock Candy, is a hardened mixture of sugar, seeds, and nuts which cost 1 cent apiece. The candy is rock hard and one has to use a hammer to crack it into smaller pieces to be able to eat it.
A boy looks like he is risking breaking his teeth in order to shew through the rock hard candy stick while a funny cat is looking at him curious to see if he can do it or not. 🙂 Cats are by the way a typical part of the street life of Penang, they are everywhere.
Behind the boy and the candy seller, you see several other hawkers selling traditional Penang food. You see a hawker selling Nasi Kendar, one happy hawker with a big smile is selling Pau, while another is selling dumplings of some sort. Busy housewives are strolling by in the back. One of the ladies who is wearing a sarong, heavy lipstick, and carrying a tiffin is looking at the candy seller with big round eyes obviously tempted to buy some hard rock candy…
- Where is Ting Ting Thong: Seck Chuan Lane, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Did you know that the famous and talented shoe designer Jimmy Choo, who now lives in London and makes extremely expensive high heeled shoes for Hollywood celebrities, is from Penang?!
I did not so it was a total surprise when I saw the “Jimmy Choo” street art and Googled him and found out that he was actually from Penang!
This art piece is to honor Jimmy Choo, who learned to make shoes at the nearby Hong Kong Shoe Store before he went off to London to study design.
In the art piece, you see a happy and proud young Jimmy Choo showing off his newly made shoe with a butterfly design. Next to him is his master shoemaker with a big smile on his face, looking very pleased with his pupil Jimmy. To the left of the master shoemaker, you see a thrilled and eager lady customer who also loves the shoe that Jimmy Choo has made and wants to try it on and probably buy it.
- Where is Jimmy Choo: Muntri Street, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The “Three Generations” art piece hangs high up at a wall so it is a bit difficult to spot. In the art piece, you basically see three generations showing their joy for hawker street food. This art piece perfectly captures the famous Penang street food.
You see a hawker stall with a man making and selling steaming noodles, Char Kway Teow. His wagon stall is filled with cabbage and bottles of different sauces. A tourist with a map in his backpack and a small baby is eagerly approaching the stall to buy him and his baby something to eat. The baby is on the other hand more occupied of pouring milk from his bottle to his plate of noodles.
- Where is Three Generations: Jalan Sungai Ujong Street, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
“Pilgrims” is a pretty big and impressively detailed and busy art piece with lots going on. The piece shows the atmosphere of the many Muslim Haj pilgrims that are leaving on their pilgrim journey to the Muslims Holy Land Mecca. You see the big black ship that will take them to Mecca in the upper part of the art piece.
The site where the “Pilgrims” installation is located, used to be called Lebuh Acheh, also known as “second Jeddah”. At this place, Muslim Haj pilgrims from all over Malaysia, Sumatra, and Thailand boarded ships that would take them to Mecca.
- Where is Pilgrims: Acheen Street/ Lebuh Acheh (the Malaysian name of the street), Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Sadly, the “Yeoh Only” art piece was covered by a construction site when we visited George Town. So this was the best photo I got of it, sorry about that. 🙁
The “Yeoh Only”, mounted in 2013, is a bit different from the previous pieces by Baba Chuah as it involves a physical doorway in its composition (a red door in the middle).
It is also very detailed where the different characters have detailed expressions on their faces and also accessories like a necklace, ribbons in their hair, and hats.
In the “Yeoh Only” art piece, you see a line of Chinese immigrants who have just arrived in Penang. They are loaded with their possessions and are standing in line. Some are even carrying a chicken and a dog!
The newly arrived immigrants are identifying themselves to the host receiving them (the woman to the right of the red door). The woman host is holding up a list and is reading and calling out “Mr. Yeoh?” to the immigrants, who probably all are named Mr. Yeoh since they are all from the same clan, hehe.
The “Yeoh Only” art piece is mounted on the wall of the Yeoh Kongsi (the clan house of the Yeoh clan), who was established in 1836 to look after the newly arrived immigrants of the Yeoh clan, immigrants from China.
- Where is Yeoh Only: Chulia Street/ Lebuh Chulia, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Julian “Lefty” Kam
The comic book artist Julian “Lefty” Kam, who is from Penang, has contributed five steel art pieces to the “Marking George Town” project.
Julian´s pieces are very recognizable as the characters all have pretty big and over-sized heads like the style of a cartoon. He showcases the economical and multiracial historical aspects of Penang.
Today, Julian is the editor-in-chief of Shanghai’s Left Pocket Studio comics division and lives in Shanghai.
Here are Julian´s 5 art pieces that you can see in the streets of George Town today:
Win Win Situation
The Win Win Situation art piece is located in the Muntri Street of George Town. Muntri street got its name after the ruler (or Orang Kaya Mantri) of Larut, a district in Malaysia. His name was Ngah Ibrahim and he got appointed as the ruler of Larut in 1858.
Muntri street was the commercial trading link between the Orang Kaya Mantri or Ruler of Larut, and the Chinese traders of Penang who controlled the mining and smelting of tin ore.
In this art piece, you see a happy Chinese trader called Tauke (to the left) greeting the ruler of Larut, Orang Kaya, before making their deal of tin trading. It looks like the Chinese trader Tauke is selling rice.
- Where is Win Win Situation: Muntri Street, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The Property art piece shows the building boom of new shops and godowns along the seafront of George Town, near Victoria Street, around 1800.
This building boom led to the development of the huge port area that you see in George Town today, Weld Quay. The shoreline in this area was pushed out making a deepwater port which allows huge vessels to dock on the quayside. This makes loading and unloading of good easier.
In this art piece, you see a happy merchant (to the left) and his lawyer discussing the profits they can make of this new development. They look very happy and satisfied with the whole situation. In the background, you see a sailing ship out in the sea (to the right of the lawyer). You also see a poor and skinny Indian worker to the left putting up a sign saying “Proposed Reclamation Project”.
- Where is Property: Victoria Street/ Lebuh Victoria, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
In 1826, the Straits Settlements of Malacca, Singapore, and Penang was created as an administrative unit by the Honourable East India Company (British owned). Their main goal was to protect the lucrative trading route to China. Penang became the main hub for these Settlements for a while. The administration of the Settlements was directed form India.
The “Happy Hour” art piece is located on Transfer Road, who got its name from the transfer of the administration of Settlements from India to the Colonial Office in Singapore in 1867. You see some happy and smiling administration offices for the Straits Settlements who is showing their joy of Happy Hour and are ready for some drinks.
- Where is Happy Hour: Transfer Road/ Jalan Transfer, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The “Main Street” art piece shows the founder of the colony of Penang, Francis Light (to the left). Here Francis is meeting and talking to a young backpacker (to the right). The art piece reflects on the modern time of George Town versus the old days when Penang was newly established as a colony.
You see that Francis is wearing some nice and fancy shoes, probably expensive, and a vest and jacket. While the backpacker is wearing flip flops and is carrying a backpack and a guide book. He is about to jump on or has just gone off a bus.
In contrast to the modern bus, to the left, you see the typical mode of transport at the time when Francis Light lived, a bullock cart. Yep, Penang and the rest of the world has really changed a lot!
- Where is Main Street: Chulia Street, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Narrowest Five Foot Way
The “Narrowest Five Foot Way” art piece used to consists of five different figures mounted onto five different columns that support a shaded walkway. Therefore the name.
Today, however, only four is left. The first figure that used to be on the column to the left, an Indian Dhobi Wallah who is carrying a laundry basket on his head, is gone (either taken down for a reason or maybe stolen?).
So this art piece should be renamed to “Narrowest Four Foot Way”. 🙂 These four figures are left:
You see a Chinese Amah (a woman employed by a family, usually rich, to clean, look after children, and perform other domestic tasks), a young boy running, a coolie, and an English gardener/ botanical. It really shows the multiracial community that George Town used to be and still is today.
Maybe the English gardener is Charles Curtis, the botanical who established the Penang Botanical Gardens (also called the “Waterfall Gardens”) in 1884? Who knows. 🙂
- Where is Narrowest Five Foot Way: Lorong Stewart Street, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Reggie Lee is a cartoon artist from Penang, who now lives in Kuala Lumpur.
Reggie contributed to the “Marking George Town” project with eleven art pieces. I love his pieces as they all have a twist, are always fun and puts a smile on your face.
Here are my 5 favorite art pieces by Reggie Lee that are installed in the streets of George Town:
The art piece Spy reflects on a rumor that before World War II, the Japanese owners of camera shops in this area of George Town were doing photographing and recordings for military use. This intelligence info was then used by Japan to invade Penang and Malaysia at the beginning of December 1941.
In this art piece, you see three spies with cameras, wearing hats and coats. And to the right is a Japanese dance hostess in a beautiful kimono. I love how detailed this art piece is. It is a great use of black and white metal both in the clothes and details like the eyes making it easy to see the characters. The characters also have some great and funny facial expressions. 🙂
- Where is Spy: Cintra Street, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The street art piece “Ah Quee” is located in Ah Quee Street, named after Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee who had the nickname Ah Quee.
Chung Keng Kwee, aka Ah Quee, came from a Chinese Hakka family who had a farm in Guangdong in China. In 1841, when Ah Quee was 20 years of age, his mother sent him to Malaysia in order to find his dad who had gone there some years ago.
Ah Quee managed to find both his father and his older brother. He joined them and the trio made a fortune by tin mining in Perak in the late 19th century.
Ah Quee actually developed the best and largest tin mine in the world at that time. He had around 5 000 people working in his mine. He also had farms where they were growing opium and tobacco, and on the side, he also was involved in the gambling and spirits business. Yep, Ah Quee did pretty good in all his businesses and soon became a very wealthy and famous man.
Ah Quee built his home in Lebuh Gereja in George Town, not far from where this art piece is located. Today his house is converted into the museum Pinang Peranakan Mansion which is well worth a visit. Next door to his home, is his ancestral temple, built for the worship of his ancestors from China. We visited this museum and temple and we loved it! It is the best-preserved Peranakan mansion in Penang. It also has an impressive collection of gold and jewelry which gives you an impression of how rich Ah Quee really was.
In the art piece “Ah Quee”, you see a European businessman greeting Ah Que, but he is having a hard time pronouncing Ah Quee`s name. He tries with “Ah Quee?”, “Ah Kwee?”, “Ah Kooi?”, and “Ah Kui?”. I can totally relate to this as this something I struggle with too when we are traveling in Asia. But Asians are usually struggling with pronouncing my name too, at least my last name, so I guess it goes both ways. ????
In the background of the two gentlemen, you see some old traditional kampung houses which are typical for Malaysia in this era.
- Where is Ah Quee: Ah Quee Street/ Lebuh Ah Quee, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
The piece Quiet Please also goes by the name “Street Fighters” and when you look at it you totally get why. They are really fighting and yelling!
The street where it is located, Lebuh Gereja (formerly Church Street because there is a Portuguese Church here), was the home to the Ghee Hin Secret Society.
When many Chinese migrated to Malaya (now Malaysia) during 1800, they brought their secret societies (or social clubs) with them.
The Ghee Hin Secret Society was one of the biggest Chinese secret societies in the Malaya during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It had especially strong branch organizations in Penang and consisted of Cantonese speaking men from the southern part of China.
The Ghee Hin was a semilegal society where all the members had to take an oath, and they did ceremonies based on Chinese cosmology and philosophy. There were strong sanctions for members that broke the society´s rules.
The Ghee Hin (Cantonese) was in constant conflict with the Hai San (Hakka) societies, of which the street art Quiet Please is reflecting. These two societies also went to war against each other over the possession of tin mines. The Ghee Hin gradually declined in power as British authority spread throughout the peninsula.
- Where is Quiet Please: Church Street/ Lebuh Gereja, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
The art piece “Budget Hotels” really suits its location and is spot on a typical situation in this area of George Town. This art piece is located in one of the most popular streets among tourists, especially backpackers, Love Lane. Most of the old shophouses in Love Lane have been converted into bars, backpacker hostels, boutique hotels, hip cafes, and tourist shops.
In this art piece, you see a bit frustrated and tired backpacker with a huge backpack on his back, holding his soap and towel, while checking into his “5-star Budget Hotel”. 🙂 The owner of the budget hotel is tempting the backpacker with all the other services he offers for a special budget rate, like a massage. This is so typical and a situation we have been in many times. 🙂
- Where is Budget Hotels: Chulia Street/ Love Lane, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
“Waterway” is such a sweet and romantic art piece.
It shows a singing suitor declaring his love to a woman who is obviously married. Her angry husband is standing in the other window to the left, shouting “Oi! You tackle my wife ah?!”.
The singing man in love is in his boat on the Prangin Canal, shipping fruits that seem to be bananas and durians.
The Prangin Canal that runs through George Town used to be an important waterway for shipping goods from the dock area to the Prangin or Sia Boey Market.
- Where is Waterway: Prangin Road Ghaut/ Gat Jalan Prangin, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Tang Mun Kian
Tang Mun Kian is the main artist of the project “Marking George Town” as he contributed impressively thirty-one art pieces which are located all over George Town.
Tang Mun Kian from Malaysia is both an artist, designer, and cartoonist who has an art degree in Communication Design from the Malaysian Institute of Art in Kuala Lumpur. He worked as an advertising art director for a decade in Singapore before he moved to Kuala Lumpur. He is the Creative Director of “Sculpture at Work”, a Kuala Lumpur based art company. He also makes furniture.
Tang´s art pieces are also humorous and show the daily life of George Town spot on in a funny way.
Here are my 8 favorite art pieces by Tang Mun Kian that you can see in the streets of George Town today:
Trishaws are a common sight in George Town. This is one of my favorite art pieces from the “Marking George Town” as it is really funny. It is also one of the most photographed art pieces.
In this art piece, you see a person falling into the cannon hole and disappearing into the ground. The rickshaw driver looks surprised.
“Cannon Hole” is shedding light on the big riot between rival secret societies in 1867. On one side was the Muslim Red Flag Association and the Chinese Hokkien Toa Peh Kong Society. They were in a “war” against the other side consisting of the Muslim White Flag Association and the Cantonese Ghee Hin Society.
The biggest riots happened near the Khoo Kongsi clan house in August 1867. The British Colonial authorities had to bring in troops from Singapore to help with settling down this riot. Cannons were actually fired in the street near where this art piece is located today, making a big hole in the ground.
Therefore this street has the name “Lebuh Cannon”. You can actually still see bullets holes if you look closely at the walls of the surrounding houses.
- Where is Cannon Hole: Cannon Street/ Lebuh Cannon, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Trishaws are a common sight in George Town and very popular among tourists. They have a double function, both as a trishaw paddler to get tourists from one place to another, but they also function as a tourist guide.
Another trishaw art piece in George Town is ” Beca”. Beca is the local name for a trishaw paddler.
The Beca art piece used to include a real trishaw, but it is sadly not there anymore. We were lucky as there was a real trishaw parked just next to this art piece.
“Beca” shows a trishaw driver, or a beca, who is overloaded by some over-weighed western tourists who want to go on a food trail of Penang and try all the delicious and varied food that this island has to offer. They are telling the trishaw driver “Next….Here, Here, And Here”.
- Where is Beca: Chulia Street/ Lorong Chulia, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Kopi O´ Kau!
“Kopi O´Kau!” is the perfect picture of the streets of George Town.
Here you see a traditional and typical coffee shop or a Kopitiam. The modern man (to the left) with the Apple computer or Ipad is ordering some fancy coffee: “One tall double-shot decaf espresso”. But the waitress translates it into old fashion Malay “Kopi O´Kau!”. Kopi O simply means black coffee served with sugar.
- Where is Kopi O´ Kau: Kimberley Street/ Lebuh Kimberley, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The art piece Rotan is mounted onto the wall of a cane furnishings shop called rotan in Malay.
It shows a schoolboy who is returning home with a backpack and a ruler sticking out of his big backpack. His mother (who is standing on the other side of the entrance) is snapping: “Thick, Medium or Thin?” and is holding a report card in her hand.
- Where is Rotan: Chulia Street/ Lebuh Chulia, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
This fun art piece caricature a man in an embarrassing situation. A husband is escaping through the window and hiding for his wife so that she will not discover him with his mistress.
This piece is located in the street Love Lane, where apparently the rich Chinese businessmen of Penang kept their mistresses. Some men even had more than one wife and quite a number of mistresses, and typically kept them in separate houses at different areas of George Town.
Love Lane is one of the oldest roads in George Town, dating back to at least 1801.
- Where is Cheating Husband: Love Lane, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The Shorn Hair is a funny piece where the artist Tang Mun Kian has incorporated a physical object, the red fire hydrant. The boat in the middle of the art piece is “chained” to the red fire hydrant.
In Shorn Hair, you see two hairdressers or barbers that cut the customer’s hair and throws it into the adjoining Prangin canal. The man in the middle who is in his boat on the canal looks a bit surprised and anxious about the whole flying hair thing. And I don´t blame him. 🙂 This was apparently common in this area of George Town. The barbers and hairdressers simply threw the cut hair into the Prangin Canal.
- Where is Shorn Hair: Sungai Ujong Road/ Jalan Sungai Ujong, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Same Taste, Same Look
Penang is the food capital of Malaysia and has some of the best food in the whole of Asia. You can find food from all corners of the world in George Town. “Same Taste, Same Look” celebrates that Penang has a unique multi-ethnic cuisine.
The art piece shows two old men eating dim sum (dumplings), and insulting the server.
Dim sum is very popular in Penang and is a must-try if you are visiting George Town. We had some delicious dim sum at one of the oldest dim sum places in George Town, Ting Tong. It was awesome! In Ting Tong restaurant they still serve dim sum the old traditional way, from a trolley as you see in this art piece.
- Where is Same Taste, Same Look: Cintra Street/ Lebuh Cintra, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
No Plastic Bag
In 2011, Penang introduced a project to reduce the use of plastic bags. The art piece “No Plastic Bag” celebrates this initiative.
Here you see a woman struggling with carrying her groceries without a plastic bag. The man who is selling baskets sees an opportunity to get a sale.
This art piece is located on the outer wall of a shop selling wicker baskets, which fits perfectly.
- Where is No Plastic Bag: Prangin Lane/ Lebuh Prangin, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The Most Famous Street Art Murals In George Town, Penang
The map above: An overview of the most famous and popular street art murals in George Town, Penang – The projects Mirrors Georgetown and 101 Lost Kittens
Ernest Zacharevic, from Vilnius in Lithuania, is the most famous of all the street artists in Penang. He literally revolutionized the street art scene in Penang and has had a huge influence on street art not only in Penang but also in the whole of Malaysia and the rest of the world.
Ernest came to George Town in 2011 as a tourist to celebrate Chinese New Year with some college friends. He had been doing street arts in Vilnius, where it was illegal and his murals were always immediately removed and painted over.
Ernest started to do murals in George Town, at the beginning small pieces. He was surprised that the people that passed him as he was painting would stop and thank him. Even the police did not chase him away but instead gave him a smile and a thumbs up. This encouraged him to do more murals on the old walls of the houses in George Town.
Mirrors George Town
The art pieces made by Ernest soon became very popular both among the locals but also tourists, and in 2012 Ernest was commissioned to do some mural art pieces in contribution to the George Town Festival 2012.
The project was called “Mirrors George Town” and the goal was to portray inhabitants of the city and show the multiculturalism and diversity of George Town. It turned out to be a huge success!
Ernest has a special style where he typically includes physical objects in his paintings, such as bicycles, motorbikes, furniture, windows, and other architectural features. It is quite unique and a fabulous idea! Most of his murals are also at street level and life-sized which makes them perfect to interact with.
His public paintings have become a gigantic hit among both the locals as well as tourists visiting George Town. Here are some of his paintings that he did for the project “Mirrors George Town” in 2012:
Kids On A Bicycle
Ernest’s most famous and popular mural in Penang is the “Kids On A Bicycle” on the street Lebuh Armenian. I love it! It perfectly captures a fun moment from two kids childhood. I love the expression on the kids’ faces, they look so realistic and lively, like you can almost hear their laughter.
The “Kids On A Bicycle” mural has become a major tourist attraction in itself with long waiting lines of people who want to take a photo and selfie. The painting is stunning and incredibly lively.
With the actual bicycle as part of the painting, it feels kind of 3D and alive. It is definitely worth a visit if you are visiting George Town.
The “Kids On A Bicycle” mural was nominated as one of the World`s Top 15 Wall Paintings by the newspaper The Guardian (in the UK) in November 2013.
- Where is Kids On A Bicycle: Armenia Street/ Lebuh Armenia, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Another amazing street mural by Ernest is the “Kungfu Girl”. I think it´s fantastic how the windows are a part of the art piece, and the size of this mural is impressive.
The model for the Kungfu Girl painting was apparently an eight-year-old girl at an art school. I love how Ernest has captured the face impression of the girl and the light on her clothes and hair making it very lively and realistic.
- Where is Kungfu Girl: Muntri Street/ Jalan Muntri, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Boy On A Chair
The Boy On A Chair street painting is so sweet and very lively. You can almost hear the old chair creaking as the boy is stretching towards the jar in the hole above him.
It is fantastic how this old wooden chair fits exactly into the painting of the boy and “lifts” him up as he tries to reach the hole in the wall.
Since this mural is under roof, it is not as faded as many of the other street paintings that Ernest made in 2012.
- Where is Boy On A Chair: Cannon Street/ Lebuh Cannon, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
This is my favorite wall painting of Ernest Zacharevic! I love how the old faded red color of the door is in contrast to the boy with the helmet, and that he has included the old motorbike is clever.
The motorcycle was actually abandoned by a German tourist who had used it to go from Vietnam to Penang. Ernest found it in Love Lane in George Town and incorporated it into his wall painting. The motorbike is an old vintage Minsk motorbike made in the Republic of Belarus. People have over the years restored the bike with a new handle, seat fuel tank, and a lamp.
Just next to the “Old Motorcycle” mural is the “Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur” (it is to the left of Old Motorcycle). Se below for more photo and description of “Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur”. It kind of looks like the boy on the old motorcycle is being chased by the dinosaur and is looking anxiously over his shoulder as he is driving away from the dinosaur. 🙂
- Where is Old Motorcycle: Lebuh Ah Quee, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur
The Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur mural is such a cute and funny piece of art! I love it! It is so vibrant and charming with the boy trying to hold his huge dinosaur in tow. You can almost hear the boy laughing and the dinosaur making a dinosaur roar like in the Jurassic Park movie. 🙂
Sadly this mural has faded a lot over the years, and part of it is completely gone as the concrete under it has eroded.
- Where is Little Boy With Pet Dinosaur: Next to “Old Motorcycle” in the street Lebuh Ah Quee, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
This is the largest wall painting in this project. I was really surprised by how big it actually is! It covers the entire wall of a big building.
It is painted on a wall opposite a big gathering point or parking site for trishaw riders so it fits perfectly to its surroundings.
- Where is Trishaw Man: Jalan Penang, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Children In A Boat
As part of the George Town Festival in 2012, Ernest also painted a mural on the outside wall a stilt-house in Chew Jetty, by the harbor of George Town.
The mural shows two children, a boy, and a girl (brother and sister), playing on a berthed sampan (a flat bottomed Chinese wooden boat) by the shore. The kids also have a black and white pet cat onboard. The mural is apparently inspired by a photograph of two siblings.
Sorry, I don´t have a photo of the “Children In A Boat” mural. But I`ve heard that it is almost entirely gone and faded away by the sun and sea.
But we did find another nice mural in Chew Jetty which perfectly shows family life in this area of George Town in a funny way:
In this mural, we see a father with a big belly resting peacefully in a pink hammock while his children are playing with some fish in a bucket. The fish is about to escape and jump out of the bucket and back into the sea. A cat is sitting high up on the little roof window overlooking the whole situation. Maybe she is thinking about catching the fish? 🙂
- Where is Children In A Boat: Chew Jetty, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
101 Lost Kittens
Since Ernest street murals were such a huge success, Ernest was also commissioned the following year´s George Town Festival 2013.
He then made an art project called “101 Lost Kittens” where his aim was to bring attention to the issue of stray animals in Penang, especially strays cats of which there is a lot in George Town.
Hardly any information was given about the locations of these “101 Lost Kittens” murals when there were finished. Instead, people were encouraged to actively look and search for them during the festival. It was launched as a treasure hunt with QR codes, a Facebook-page, and kids were encouraged to make their own kitten-art. It turned out to be a huge success and very popular. A lot of people, both locals and visitors, joined in and went for a treasure hunt for these murals. That way they learned something new about the city and walked some streets and alleys that they never had been to before.
The “101 Lost Kittens” art project got a lot of public attention both on social media and in the international press. It was a brilliant way to showcase Penang and George Town in particular and get even more visitors and tourists to the island.
The “101 Lost Kittens” series consists of 12 murals, and they all have a common theme – the protection of animals, especially stray animals living a tough life on the streets.
Here are the most popular “101 Lost Kittens” murals by Ernest Zacharevic:
Skippy For Penang
The “Skippy For Penang” mural is the biggest and most striking of the “101 Lost Kittens” art pieces. It also was the one that got most media attention during the George Town Festival 2013.
I love the bright orange color on the cat and its lively eyes. You can almost feel Skippy´s golden fur.
Sadly “Skippy For Penang” has faded a lot in the sun so now you can hardly see it. We actually walked passed a couple of times until we noticed it. The mural is huge, but there is hardly any orange color left.
The real Skippy, who was the model for this mural, was a stray cat who got adopted by the owner of the Langkawi Animal Shelter And Sanctuary. Someone has written a message next to the mural of Skippy saying:
RIP beautiful Skippy! ❤️????
An extra (probably unauthorized) fun addition to this mural is the black rat around the corner looking down at the cat tempting Skippy to chase him. You can find him just around the corner from the wall where Skippy is painted (partly painted on a red metal door). This shows how street art can involve and other artists can participate in an existing mural. This street art piece is called “Rat”.
- Where is Skippy For Penang: Lebuh Armenia, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Cats And Humans Living Happily Together
The “Cats & Humans Happily Living Together” mural is also a pretty big art piece with lots of details like the posters with Chinese writings that the cats are carrying.
Sadly this mural has faded a lot by the sun, but you can still see that it´s colors and details.
I love the cheeky eyes of these cats as they look very determined and strong.
The “Cats & Humans Happily Living Together” mural depicts the procession of Taoist deities through the streets of George Town. The majority of the Chinese in George Town are Taoists (the religion and philosophy). This is a common sight in George Town, except here the humans are replaced by cats. The cats are carrying banners, lanterns, and other religious symbols. The last casts are carrying the sedan chair bearing effigies of the deities.
- Where is Cats And Humans Living Happily Together: Inside the Cheah Kongsi, Core Zone, George Town, Penan
The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This
Sadly, the mural The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This has faded a lot since it was painted in 2013, so it is a bit difficult to see.
The mural has an important message, do not harm animals in any way. I love this mural as it is full of action and has a real attitude. Espen is a huge fan of Bruce Lee. 🙂
- Where is The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This: A back alley to Lebuh Ah Quee, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
No Animal Discrimination Please
The “No Animal Discrimination Please” is such a cool mural! It is actually a play on the color blindness test to check if you can see the right colors on not (red and green). Very smart and unique! Do you see the dog in the middle of the circle? 🙂
Sadly, also this has faded over the years, and there is only one cat left (to the left of the circle). There used to be two black cats above the circle as well.
- Where is No Animal Discrimination Please: A small side street to Armenian Street/ Lebuh Armenian, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat
The wall painting “Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat” is a very sweet mural with a clear and important message.
I love how it connects the typical and popular fortune cats with the real cat in the middle. The cat in the middle is beautifully painted and so lively and it looks very real, especially the eyes. You can actually see each hair on the cat that´s how detailed it is.
This mural is still well preserved and you can clearly see all the details and colors.
- Where is Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat: Victoria Street/ Lebuh Victoria, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Please Care N Bathe Me
The “Please Care & Bathe Me” is another cute cat painting by Ernest. Who doesn´t want to pick up these two cute kittens and bathe them? I sure would! 🙂
This wall painting is a bit difficult to find as it is tucked away in a small narrow lane. It is also rather small and is just above the ground.
We had to search and search for it until we finally found it. This was actually one of the goals behind the “101 Lost Kittens” project, that it would encourage people out into the street to hunt and look for murals at odd places.
- Where is Please Care & Bathe Me: A small narrow lane from Victoria Street/ Lebuh Victoria, Core Zone, George Town, Penang, close to “Skippy For Penang”
Other Cat Street Paintings
Other street artists got inspired by Ernest Zacharevic`s project “101 Lost Kittens”, and several followed up by making cat-related street paintings. You will find many other cats inspired murals all over George Town.
102? Copy Cat!
This is a fun parody of the 101 Kittens series, used to promote bicycle rentals. I find the blue cat adorable with her sad eyes. I just want to grab her and hug her and take her home. 🙂
- Where is 102? Copy Cat!: Victoria Street/ Lebuh Victoria, Core Zone, George Town, Penang, opposite “Skippy For Penang”
Cat In Window
Another cat mural in George Town. This one looks a bit like Skippy, at least when it comes to the color. It is not painted by Ernest.
Hin Bus Depot Art Centre
In January 2014, Ernest Zacharevic held his first one-man exhibition called “Art Is Rubbish/ Rubbish Is Art”. It was held in the old Hin Company Bus Depot which has now become a permanent art center. Here you can see Ernest celebration of reuse of rubbish, where he uses old things like a used coffee bean sack, old wooden doors, broken window blinds, and car engine parts.
The Hin Bus Depot has art exhibitions by different artists. There is also an awesome Sunday Market at the Hin Bus Depot every Sunday. Here you can find cool stuff by local artists, like jewelry, clothes, candy, tea, handbags, art, and toys. You can also find vendors selling all kinds of delicious food, coffee, drinks, tea, snacks, and cakes.
I simply love this Sunday market! And did I mention, there is live music too at the market. So cool! We visited this market twice, and I ended up buying several cool and unique jewelry, a straw handbag, some local tea, kombucha, a small teddy bear, and I got an awesome henna tattoo on my hand. We also had some delicious lunch there.
If you happen to be in Penang on a Sunday, you must visit this market! And if you are not in Penang on a Sunday, you should still visit the Hin Bus Depot to see the art and have something to eat and drink at one of the many cool cafes.
Other Famous Murals In Penang
A lot of artists have been inspired by Ernest and have contributed to wall paintings all over George Town and Penang.
One of the artists that got inspired to do wall paintings in the street of George Town is the Penang-born deaf-mute freelance artists Louis Gan.
He made two world-famous murals that you can find in George Town:
Brother And Sister On A Swing
Louis Gan made “Brother And Sister On A Swing” in 2012. It is a beautiful painting on an old mural wall with an actual swing mounted in front of it.
Right next to the painting is a street sign “Step Bry Step Lane” which kind of fits the painting of the swinging children. The painting was commissioned by the owner of the wall, and it portraits his two young children.
There are two actual swings in front of the painting, one where the children are “standing”, and the other one is empty. The empty one is extremely popular to pose on in photographs (like I am doing in the photo above…..). 🙂
- Where is Brother And Sister On A Swing: In a narrow side street to Gat Lebuh Chulia, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Children Playing Basketball
Another mural made by Louis is the action-filled “Children Playing Basketball”. He painted this only a couple of days after having completed “Brother And Sister On A Swing”.
Like his previous mural, this too is very lively and shows the innocent joy of children playing. I love the details of this painting and the facial expression on the girl as the is jumping of joy.
Louis Gan got criticized for not using waterbased paints and for not obtaining approval of the local authorities. He used permanent acrylic paints in these two paintings. Louis was upset by this and canceled his plans for further projects that had already been planned and commissioned.
- Where is Children Playing Basketball: In a narrow side street to Gat Lebuh Chulia, Core Zone, George Town, Penang, just opposite Brother And Sister On A Swing
One of few female street artists that you can find mural pieces of in Penang, is Julia Volchkova. She is a Russian artist who has made some beautiful street paintings in George Town. She is a talented street artist, and her murals are very photographic.
The “Indonesian Boy” (some places called “Child Mural At Prangin Canal”) is the first mural Julia Volchkova did in George Town. It is still one of Julias most famous murals in George Town. It is fantastic and I love how she has captured the boy’s innocent look and expression. It looks so real! Like the boy is looking right at you.
It is a photographic style portrait of an Indonesian boy which Julia made in 2014. It stands out from the one made by Ernest and Louis as this is in black and white and photographic.
- Where is Indonesian Boy: In an alley on Lg Stewart, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
The Indian Boatman
This beautiful mural is on the wall of a property at 75 Stewart Lane, painted by Julia in June 2014, a few months after she did “Indonesian Boy”. The building is Clockwise Hostel, a guesthouse on Stewart Lane, who commissioned this painting.
This painting of the old man steering his boat is a great celebration of the role that Stewart Lane (where the painting is located) played in the maritime industry of George Town. This tiny alley that connects Stewart Lane with Chulia Lane, is one of the narrowest alleyways in George Town and is loosely called Boatmen Alley. The Hainanese Mariners Guide also had their house in this street, at 26A Stewart Lane.
- Where is The Indian Boatman: Lebuh Klang, a side street to Lorong Stewart, Buffer Zone, George Town, Penang
Julia later, in 2016, made some more mural paintings in Penang. She made three huge portraits in the quiet Balik Pulau: “Telok Kumbar Fisherman”, “Silat”, and “Hakka Dancing Girl”. And two paintings: “Fortune Teller” on Lorong Lumut, and “Red Sari” in the courtyard of a small boutique hotel, Spices By the Park in George Town, at the corner of Labuh Acheh and Lorong Lumut.
Commercial Street Art In George Town
My Own Cafe
A beautiful, bright and quite a new mural on Cannon Street/ Lebuh Cannon. Here we see a traditional village scene with a man carrying some baskets while we see his village and his house in the back. This is a sponsored/ paid street art. It is a portrait of the owner of the cafe where this street art is painted.
This art piece is pretty cool in my opinion, as it is kind of 3-dimensional, and there is kind of like a blueish shadow from the frame and the man.
- Where is My Own Cafe: CannonStreet/ Lebuh Cannon, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
Children Behind Window Bar
- Where is Children Behind Window Bar: 28, Gat Lebuh Armenian, Core Zone, George Town, Penang
George Town is packed with beautiful street art, both of cartoon-like steel frame art and life-like wall paintings of people and animals. The city’s street art is famous all over the world, and it has become a tourist attraction in itself.
Many tourists and foreign artists have been invited to participate in the art scene of Penang through the different street art projects launched by the government. This has also inspired local artists to contribute and show their artistic talent in the open space for the public.
Walking around George Town and watching all the street art is a fun way of exploring the streets of the city, and gives the sightseeing of George Town an extra dimension in my opinion. So if you are planning on visiting Penang, put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes or sandals, and head out into the streets of George Town and hunt down these art pieces yourself! It is great fun! ♥
Where To Stay In Penang
If you, like us, love hotels and guesthouses with lots of character, history, and uniqueness then Penang and especially its capital George Town is a dream destination. Few cities, if any, can match George Townś number of beautiful boutique hotels and cozy hostels set in renovated pre-war Chinese shophouses and old colonial mansions.
Here you find some of the world’s most luxurious boutique hotels alongside wonderfully atmospheric old guesthouses. And the good news is that accommodation prices are very reasonable too, making Penang an excellent place to splurge on a bit of luxury.
For more accommodation options, please read our complete guide on where to stay in Penang.
The Edison is our favorite boutique hotel in George Town. This beautifully renovated colonial mansion is a quiet oasis and an excellent base from which to explore George Towns’ historic districts. Every one of the hotels 36 rooms is spacious, airy and luxurious with private bathrooms and every modern comfort.
The swimming pool is a lovely place to wind down after a day exploring and we loved the free wine and cheese service every evening. The staff is always kind and helpful and gave us lots of tips for restaurants and attractions. We can´t wait to come back. Highly recommended!
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Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel has a long history dating back to 1885 and is the most magnificent of George Towns’ heritage hotels. This beautiful white colonial building has George Towns’ best location overlooking the sea, and staying here is like stepping back into colonial times.
The rooms are spacious with big comfortable bathrooms, several in-house restaurants, a bar, excellent wifi, complimentary minibar, and 24-hours butler service. The swimming pool is right by the sea with spectacular views of the sunset.
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This small cozy boutique hotel is located in the middle of George Town Unesco Heritage Zone, within easy walking distance to all the sights. The hotel has six apartments, all renovated suites that were once the homes of the original inhabitants, and kept in the traditional Straits-Chinese style.
All suites are large with a separate seating/ living room area, and modern comforts such as air-con, flat-screen TV, tea and coffee maker and mini-fridge. Each suite has a private front door which makes it feel more like your own private apartment than a hotel. The restaurant serves a delicious breakfast, and the staff is warm and welcoming.
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A beautiful heritage hotel on Muntri road, right in the middle of everything George Town has to offer, yet in a quiet street. The rooms are spacious and airy, with an elegant shabby chic decor. The downstairs rooms have garden access, while upstairs rooms are close to the mid-sized rooftop swimming pool with its shaded seating area.
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Spices Hotel is a cool little hotel with Arabian inspired decor and a cozy vibe. The rooms are clean and comfortable with wi-fi, air-con, and a flat-screen TV. Some rooms are a little on the small side so take care when you book and consider upgrading to a larger room. The common area is a great place to kick back with a book and relax after a day of exploring George Town.
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An excellent budget guesthouse with basic but spotlessly clean private rooms and dorm beds. Located on the quiet end of Love Lane, George Towns backpacker, and party street, yet just a couple of minutes walk from the restaurants and bars.
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For more details on these and other places to stay, click here to read our complete guide to our favorite areas and hotels in Penang.
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Do you enjoy street art hunting on your travels? Have you seen any of these street art pieces in George Town? Have you been to other cities that are famous for street art? Please leave a comment in the comment area below, we would love to hear your thoughts about street arts! Thank you! 🙂