10 Ways to Explore George Town Heritage Trail Cruise Visitors
For an immersion in George Town’s Heritage Trail, cruise visitor have great options to try out. SmartDory recommends an overnight holiday stay at The Royale Chulan Penang in the heart of the city. This 4-star is housed in a colonial building that dates back to 1892. The hotel faces the Weld Quay, one of the major ports in Malaya. Once teemed with ships from all over the world, the Penang Waterfront was once a transportation hub with warehouses right next to The Royale Chulan Penang.
For visitors and travellers keen to discover Penang’s iconic heritage buildings and monuments, there’s plenty to check out without wandering off too far.
Here’s a handy guide to 10 iconic sights and colonial buildings worth checking out.
# 1 Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower
Also known as the Jubilee Clock Tower, it was a gift by philanthropist Cheah Chen Eok to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The clock tower was built from 1897 to 1902. It stood over 60 feet (18 meters) with each foot representing a year in Queen Victoria’s reign.
The architecture is a Moorish-style. Best photograph of the Jubilee Clock Tower can be taken at the junction of Light Street and Beach Street. Take this as your bearing for the start of the Heritage Trail.
#2 Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal
Swettenham Pier was established in 1903, at the height of shipping activity in George Town. Massive ocean liners and coastal steamers used to dock at the pier. In 2010 Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal was completed. Locals join the popular cruise to nowhere during the weekends for a wonderful night in the casino offshore in international waters.
Today, Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal caters for infrequent berthing of large passenger and cargo ships. Visitors can depart Langkawi / Medan from here. On arrival to Kuah Jetty, in Langkawi, visitors can take a ferry to Koh Lipe, Thailand.
#3 Fort Cornwallis
Fort Cornwallis faces the sea in the north of George Town. Built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century, it is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Old cannons decorate the fort. The largest canon, known as Seri Rambai, was cast in 1603. Ten years later the Acehnese took possession of Seri Rambai and carried it to Aceh. After more than 300 years, Seri Rambai was returned to the fort in the 1950s.
For a bit of a chuckle, here’s a legend I heard when I was a Convent girl in the 1970s. Apparently, Seri Rambai once rose from the sea unassisted when it sank on board a ship. Barren married women place flowers on the canon and sit astride it, to ask for fertility. Of course, naive teenage Convent girls tried that but no one got pregnant as it was for married women.
Watch out for the big sign that says,
“Please do not sit on this canon.”
Entrance Fee (2018)
Adult: RM 20.00 |Children: RM 10.00
With a MyKad | Adult: RM 10.00 | Children: RM 5.00
Opening Hours: Open Daily from 9 am – 10 pm
Visitors enjoy a drive along the seaside promenade called the Esplanade along the edge of the field known locally as the Padang towards Fort Cornwallis, Penang.
Built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century, Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Photo: Doris Lim
#4 Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal Penang | Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal Butterworth
The Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal completed in the 1960s. Ferry steamers now carry train passengers and vehicles from Butterworth into George Town (and vice-versa). The ferry terminal is located adjacent to the Weld Quay Bus Terminal. Ferry commuters are able to take the Rapid Penang public buses to various destinations within the city for some great Penang food.
There was a joke about a young boy who wanted to take a ferry to ‘Pulau Pinang’ ferry to Penang. He watched the ferry come and go. There were ferries to Pulau Angsa, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Payar, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Rimau, Pulau Talang Talang, Pulau Undan but not Pulau Pinang!
Don’t worry as all the ferries head to Pulau Pinang. The scenic ferry ride is also one of Penang’s main tourist attractions.
The ferry fee is only required to be paid at Butterworth terminal.
#5 Beach Street
On Sunday morning, take a five-minute stroll from the hotel and join in the fun of carnival-like atmosphere of Project Occupy Beach Street. The no car day temporarily close the streets for the locals and tourist to use for physical activities. Family with children, young couples, and visitors walk, jog, cycle, dance, Zumba and even skateboard for fun. There are street stalls selling homemade food, drinks, cottage crafts and artisanal products. If you’re into photography, this is the best time to shoot the colonial architecture are found along the Heritage Trail, the central banking district of George Town.
Catch the market between 7 am and 1 pm every Sunday.
#6 Tanjong City Marina (formerly known as the Church Street Pier)
Ferry steamers for cars used to embark from the Church Street Pier, built in 1897 before it was replaced by the Tun Uda terminal. The vibrant orange and white structure is known as Tanjong City Marina. This is Penang first inner-city marinas.
Hai Nan Town Restaurant (海南) is a popular Peranakan restaurant serving Nyonya cuisine located here.
#7 Malayan Railway building | Wisma Kastam
The only railway station without any rails or trains, the Malayan Railway building served as a railway administrative centre. Passengers could buy their railway tickets here or at the Boon Pharmacy (defunct) in George Town. The passenger could board at the Railway Jetty in China Street Ghaut for Butterworth, where the trains are stationed.
Today the building serves as Penang’s Customs Office and its clock tower greets all who approached by sea.
#8 Clan Jetties
Clan Jetties are billed as the last of the old waterfront clan-based Chinese communities on the island. This is a collection of cramped single story wooden houses connected by a maze of plank way. The clan jetties were originally constructed to house port labourers and boatmen who transported cargo from the bigger steamship to shore.
Not to be missed is the Chew Jetty clansmen annual celebrate the Hokkien New Year. On the 9th day of Chinese New Year, thanksgiving prayers are offered to the Jade Emperor. The large-scale community celebration has food offerings of roasted pigs, cooked meats, fruits and sugar cane stalks. Firecrackers are set off and the night sky is ablaze with thunderous fireworks and skyrockets at the stroke of midnight.
If the highlight of your trip is looking for Ernest Zacharevic’s murals the best way to see all of his works at one place is at the Hin Bus Depot. You can easily get an Uber or Grab car to the Armenian Street Heritage Trail. Otherwise, if you prefer to walk around, head to the Acheen Street/Armenian Street Enclave where you can visit the Zacharevic’s most famous “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural. The Street Art Brochure has both wire art and murals for reference.
#10 Eat like a Penangite!
There are numerous cafes and kopitiams within walking distance on the heritage trail. Sri Weld Food Court is the biggest and most popular eateries along Beach Street’s central banking district. It is a 2-minute walking distance from The Royale Chulan Penang. Ali Nasi Lemak Daun Pisang stall at the entrance is popular with office worker and locals who “tapau” from their vehicles. The nasi lemak here is fantastic with a few add-on dishes. It may be too spicy for non-Penangites. The food court opens on weekdays only.
Union Street has Indian Muslim vendors and halal food. Kareem Pasembor Rojak is a must try dish which has been in operation since 1945! Watch out for the mountain of prawn fritters!
If you like Thai food, there’s a stall that is tasty and economical at CF Food Courts worth checking out. At night you can join the locals and eat standing at the Jetty Lok Lok Stall just outside Chew Jetty. If you head toward Street of Harmony then check out Penang’s Sticky Lor Mee next the Guan Ying Temple.
After an inspiring heritage trail, in case you’re wondering if you could dine in any of the fine Colonial Mansions in George Town City, the answer is a loud resounding YES. Many of these are beautifully restored and breathtaking!
If you prefer to stay in The Royale Chulan Penang, the hotel’s restaurants and bar are great places to chill and while the hours away.
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