The most photographed place on Armenian Street is probably the Kids on Bikes Street Art by Ernest Zacharevic at the corner of Armenian and Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai). On weekends, a line stretches across the sidewalk of people waiting to take a creatively posed picture with the pair, but I always like to visit it on quiet, weekday mornings when no one is around.
A few steps down the narrow street, you will find the entrance to the Cheah Kongsi, one of Malayisa's oldest kongsi's, a clan association where Chinese living outside of China who have the same surname could join together for support. The original temple was built in 1828 but replaced in 1858 and gradually expanded. The latest addition to the courtyard is an adorable street art mural of a Chinese Cat Procession.
|The modest entrance to the Cheah Kongsi from Armenian Street|
|The Cheah Kongsi as seen from Beach Street|
The next block of Armenian Street seems to be mostly shops. There's a little store with cute and cheap souvenirs catering to tourists. I can tell that I'm feeling quite at home in Penang because the other day, I was complaining that the area was starting to get "a little too touristy," not like it was when we first moved here two years ago. The more expensive and upscale boutiques are a few blocks down. Somehow, I never seem to pass the bespoke Nyonya Beaded Shoes Store or the Cheongsam Gallery that sells traditional one-piece Chinese gowns whenever they are open. On the corner of Lorong Soo Hong (the narrowest street in George Town) is a bike rental shop, the family-friendly Zhang Trading which has tandem bikes, kids bikes and toddler seats. Keep an eye out for more cat-themed street art across from Zhang Trading as well as a steel rod sculpture depicting a rickshaw. One store that always catches my eye is Chin Seng Leong with bikes from a few of the past decades, big clocks and some antiques.
|Old and new bicycles at Chin Seng Leong|
In addition to painted street murals, numerous caricature steel rod sculptures adorn the streets of George Town. These pieces not only serve as decoration, they share small details of this town's history.
|Steel rod sculpture depicting the Grand Float Procession held during the 1926 Year of the Tiger |
and a British tourist observing it .
A bit further down is another intriguing entrance. I haven't actually walked in through this one, yet.
|Entrance to the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple built in 1845|
Many trishaws for hire are located at the corner of Armenian Street and Cannon Street. Riding one is considered a classic George Town experience.
|Rest your feet and ride a trishaw.|
A quick detour down Cannon Street reveals the Acheen Street Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Penang and the area where Arab settlers first lived on the island. More of Zacharevic's street art is down this street as well as another example of George Town's steel rod sculptures. You'll also find the main entrance to the Khoo Kongsi, one of the grandest clan houses in Malaysia. In 1867, riots broke out between rival Chinese clans. Cannon balls were fired from the Khoo Kongsi and left pockmarks on the ground that is now aptly named Cannon Street.
|Looking down Cannon Street|
Back on the corner of Armenian Street and Cannon Street, the Yap Kongsi own both the Choo Chee Keong Temple and the Yap Temple next door. The Chinese-style temple is very ornate, and the outer alter is decorated with symbols from the Tao Teh Ching. The greenish Yap Temple was completed in 1924 and built in the Straits Eclectic style.
|The Yap Kongsi|
Some of my favorite boutiques are located across the street from the Yap Temple. China Joes and Bon Ton the Shop offer clothing, fashion accessories, lifestyle gifts, stationary, and coffee table books. A few doors down at No. 88, Armenian Street is a three-story shophouse with something for the upscale shopper. Fuan Wong, the gallery on the bottom level, sells colorful fused glass and stained glass. Go upstairs to find Jonathan Yun Sculptural Jewelry and gorgeous photographs at Studio Howard.
One of my favorite doors in George Town is located just a few shophouses down the street. Its gilded doors beckon me to discover what's inside. The fortunate guests at Straits Heritage Boutique Hotel are lucky enough to find out for themselves.
|Straits Heritage, the prettiest shophouse on the street, has gilded wooden doors and beautiful examples of traditional tilework.|
As the street curves to the left, I spy numerous pre-war shophouses. If I could pluck the cars out of this scene, I'd swear I had traveled decades backwards in time. This stretch includes Dr. Sun Yat Sen's Penang Base where he lived for six months while planning the 1910 Canton uprising and establishing one of the world's oldest Chinese language newspapers before going on to become the first president and founding father of The Republic of China.
After all this walking around, I usually get rather peckish and start looking for something to eat. Edelweiss Cafe at No. 38, Armenian Street serves Swiss and German food along with some local dishes. Sharing a wall with the Kids on Bikes mural but with an entrance facing Beach Street is Cozy in the Rocket Italian Cucina. My favorite place in Penang for desserts, the most important course of any meal, is China House located at No. 153, Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) across from the Cheah Kongsi.
Woudn't you like to take a stroll down Armenian Street and see this all for yourself?
The Street of Religious Harmony
Ramadan and Penang's Kapitan Keling Mosque
Penang's Vanishing Heritage Trades
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox and "Oh, the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.