George Town Festival 2017 ‘s “Macam Macam Asean” at the Penang State Museum is a hive of activities with two prominent displays. Handicrafts and artisanal offerings at the Craft and Creative Market drew shopper and browsers.
Laksa of the Asean region (LOTR) reigns this year with action stations as home cooks, restaurants and regional representatives dish out 24 different types of Laksa.
If air-condition comfort is your thing, then check out the Asean collective room with beautiful works by designers from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
Some of the artisanal products are one of a kind and unique. This is a festival of the ingenuity of the local people of the region.
The Craft and Creative Market has the most prominent display of colourful hand woven items made by indigenous Penan tribe of Sarawak. An NGO has helped the displaced Penan women start a livelihood selling traditional baskets.
Many of these beautiful and practical baskets and bags of all shapes and sizes are snapped up by the public. A full 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of these items help the displaced Penans who are a hunter-gatherer tribe.
The Penan women weavers use strips of plastic to make the baskets. For the bigger baskets, rattan is added to the edges. The popular handicraft shows the rich tapestry of the Penan culture.
Check out the charmed tattoos of the Ibans displayed on the bodies of tattoo-covered artists from Monkey Tattoo Studio, Sarawak.
Legend has it that Iban warriors armed with his spears and charmed tattoos have fought Japanese soldiers armed with guns in the Second World War in Malaya.
Monkey Tattoo Studio specialise in tribal inspired bold and intricate tattoos designs.
LAKSA OF THE REGION (LOTR)
For Laksa lovers, it was the chance of a lifetime to try 24 different types of laksa from all over Southeast Asia (SEA).
So the next time someone says Penang Assam Laksa it the best in the world, you may want to challenge them if they have sampled the best in SEA?
Each flavour is distinctly aromatic and different. From the sour, red and fiery soups to creamy coconut crème smooth varies, the selection is endless. So are the noodles used. Laksa Johor uses spaghetti in lieu of fresh rice noodles. Laksa Bogor uses fine vermicelli noodles. Whilst most Laksa has a decidedly fishy smell, there is even a vegan version available.
The countries represented are Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia’s very own Penang Assam Laksa, Johor and Sarawak laksa, Nyonya laksa and Laksam Kelantan.
Visitors get to vote for their favourite laksa by uploading a picture on Instagram. Local restaurant No Eyed Deer’s which has been serving their Laotian Laksa since 2000 is the most popular stall.
Definitely catchy, many who arrived late missed the Laksa of the Region (LOTR) stalls.
In the evenings, the three main performances to entertain the crowds; the Gus Teja World Music at 7pm, Peperangan Bintang: Star Wars-inspired wayang kulit at 8pm and Potehi: A Penang Story at 9pm.
Gus Teja World Music has the traditional instruments slonding, tingklik accompanied by modern guitars, bass, drums and flute.
Fusion Wayang Kulit’s Peperangan Bintang (Star Wars) tells the story of the rise of the empire. With characters like Sangkala Vedeh, Tuan Puteri Leia and her two droids, Si P-long and Ah Tuh, it was exciting to see the evil force defeated.
Penang’s lilting Hokkien is heard as traditional potehi hand puppets play out a story about Penang. The puppet show put together by Ombak-Ombak Art Studio follow the lives of main characters, Chew, Nya, Li and Kahssim. The story tells of the arrivals of traders and workers from India and China, the British and, the early trading town of George Town. Penang Riots of 1867 are played out. The story ends with the festivities at New World Park.
Macam-Macam Asean is open to public on 29 & 30 July 2017 from 11am to 10pm . Entrance is free.
Find out more about other GTF 2017 events here