PENANG offers a heady and exotic mix of various sights, cultures, buildings old and new, intoxicating scents and lively sounds within the narrow streets of Georgetown steeped in age-old history. While a conducted tour in air-conditioned comfort might do for some, what better way to absorb all these than to undertake your sight-seeing on foot with the aid of a handy street map.
From Fort Cornwallis, stroll down Lebuh Pantai, the financial sector of Penang with its ultra-modern buildings housing banks and commercial institutions. Then turn right into Lebuh Bishop with its stores of embroidery works, silks, batik and antiques. A left turn takes you into Lebuh King featuring traditional row houses and temples. Another right turn brings you to "Little India" at Lebuh Pasar. This is the place for sarees, Indian trinkets and jewellery. The sweet scents of flowers and incense pervades the air as do the tantalising odours of spicy Indian curries that whet your appetite. Little India is also Chettiar territory where money lending flourishes to this day.
A short walk brings you to the intersection with Lebuh Pitt (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling). This street owes its fame to the places of worship of various races Kapitan Kling Mosque, The Kuan Yin Temple and the temple dedicated to the God of Wealth, Tua Peh Kong. After the intersection of Armenian Street, Pitt Street gives way to Cannon Street, so named for the crater in the street said to be caused by the firing of cannons by the British in 1867 to quell the triad riot. A short walk away takes you to the magnificient Khoo Kongsi or Clan house of the Khoo family - a living testimony of fine Chinese architecture featuring ornate carvings and other decorative features.
On the other side of town at Jalan Pintal Tali are junk shops where you may chance upon a rare antique item or fascinating bric-a-brac in porcelain or glass. The main throughfare, Jalan Penang, is lined with pre-war shophouse offering a range of modern goods - from textiles to electronic and photographic equipment. At Lebuh Campbell, the heart of Penang's Chinatown, are traditional Chinese medicine shops offering exotic oriental herbal remedies and jewellery shops glittering with gold.
And if you get tired, you can flag down a trishaw and still continue your tour at a leisurely pace. As for the delights of the city outskirts and the mainland, you still have the option of a conducted tour or a self drive car!