Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Made in Penang Interactive Museum for 3D Photo Fun

There's a new museum in historic George Town, and it's on the fast track to becoming one of the most popular attractions on the island. What makes the Made in Penang Interactive Museum so great? They've distilled the essence of Penang its myriad ethnic cultures, foods, festivals, traditions, and landmarks and highlighted them all in one place through cheeky artistic renderings. Best of all, YOU get to be part of the fun by jumping right into each scene. It's an outing that appeals to everyone, from families with young kids, to couples on a date night, to friends who just want to hang out for a few hours.  

You know how people like to take their photo with the twin Petronas Towers where it looks like they're hanging from the Skybridge? Or with the Leaning Tower of Pisa as if they're holding it up or pushing it over? Or as if they're pinching the top of the Eiffel Tower? They position yourself just right, and snap the photo for a great picture. That's what this place reminds me of.

Bring your camera!

First and foremost, remember to bring a camera whether it's on your smartphone, iPad, point-and-shoot cam, or your fancy DSLR. You will want to take photographs. That is the key to the interactive fun of this museum. You might even say that the artists have provided only part of each exhibit. You and your companions are an integral component, too.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
One of the canons at Fort Cornwallis takes aim, shoots, and hits.
Sure, the above picture is a dynamic, 3D depiction of what the British who built nearby Fort Cornwallis intended. Canons were to defend the island colony which was then a valuable part of the British East India company. The cannonball has not only hit its target; its impact cracked the wall, broke the frame, and spilled seawater out into the gallery. 

But what makes this an interactive museum is...

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Yup, it was my kids who fired that cannon.

You are part of the scene.

Up on the second floor, images pay homage to different, famous aspects of Penang. It's a good first stop for tourists to get an overview of the island, but it's also an ideal way to reminisce about what makes this place so interesting. You could almost make a series of postcards entitled "Penang is ______" with the printouts of your visit to this museum. 

A written description in both English and Chinese accompanies each piece of 3D art along with a suggested pose. Of course, if you're like my kids, you're free to improvise as well. 

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
That Tom Yam is spicy hot!
Originating in Thailand, the sour and spicy flavors of Tom Yam are a popular part of Penang cuisine.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Suggested pose and explanation of the Tom Yam artwork.

Look for the round sticker of red clogs on the floor in front of each scene to figure out where to stand to get just the right angle for taking a photograph. Museum staff members can take your photo for you if you want to be in the picture, too. On crowded days, staff also help block people from straying into your photo and keep the queue in order. The "Will you Marry Me? Love Lane" mural even has a charming bouquet of flowers that a staff member will hand you when it's time for your snapshot.

Here are just some of the thirty murals highlighting the best of Penang. Visit the museum to see the rest and insert yourself into these photos. 

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
What's an Aunty's favorite way to tour Penang? On a Trishaw, of course.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Betting on Siamese fighting fish was a popular past time among rural folk.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Crafting handmade wooden clogs is a vanishing heritage trade.
(Trivia: Famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo is from Penang.)

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
The waters around Penang are a dolphin habitat, and the Penang Bridge stretches 13.5 km to the mainland.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
The Penang Ferry started operating in 1920 between George Town and Butterworth on the mainland.

Water fights break out at the Thai Buddhist temple during Songkran, the Thai New Year celebration, each April.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Kids love visiting the turtle pond at Kek Lok Si, the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Carniverous Monkey Cup pitcher plants are native to Malaysia and have their own garden up on Penang Hill.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Durian orchards dot the back side of the island.
Although it's the King of Fruits, my son would like to give its stinky aroma the boot. 

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Char Koay Teow is pretty much my all time, favorite hawker food.
If only the prawns were truly that big.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
The Indian influence on Malaysian mamak (food) is seen in Roti Canai (flatbread) and Teh Tarik (pulled tea).

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Spider Man atop the Queen Victoria Clocktower built in 1897 to commemorate 
her Diamond Jubilee when Penang was still a British colony.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum, 3D art
Peranakans are the descendents of the Chinese who immigrated to the British Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore). This decor is typical to their homes in the mid-20th century. 

What also impressed me is that most of these pieces are actually 2D. They only look like they're popping out of the wall, and there's usually nothing to hold onto. You really have to pretend! Some gals were doing wall sits in the Peranakan room to make it look like they were sitting in the chairs. They must have good quadriceps.

Augmented Reality

Another interactive part of the museum has a few kiosks specializing in Augmented Reality. Step up to one set where a video camera shows your face on a screen with a Chinese opera mask superimposed upon it. With all my family's different head shapes, the mask adjusts itself to fit just right and moves along with the person.

Two kiosks require the QR code on the entrance ticket. Hold it out to the camera, and you are suddenly holding KOMTAR in your hand. Since it's the tallest building on the island and home to Penang State government offices, you couldn't do that in real life. Turn your ticket sideways, and KOMTAR rolls sideways, too. The other kiosk requiring the QR code on your ticket reveals the Penang ferry floating around on the water. 

Your entrance ticket's QR code lets you try out a little Augmented Reality. 

Historical Dioramas

The ground floor houses a few dioramas shedding light on Penang's history. Sculptor Khoo Chooi Hooi created these tiny depictions of life in bygone days from the 1960's Indian Barber to the Nasi Lamak sellers on the sidewalks. When I look at the small sculpture of the Durian stand, I am immediately transported to the smells of the durian stall across the street from my home. 

Historical dioramas of Penang life in years gone past.
(Clockwise from top left: Penang Jetty in the 19th century; smell the Durian stall from blocks away; Teh Tarik is milky, sweet and frothy; pungent and spicy Nasi Lamak for sale; roadside stalls selling Lemang (bamboo rice) are popular during the fasting month of Ramadan)

How the Penang Jetty looked over a century ago.
Also, the building now occupied by the Made in Penang Interactive Museum

A small movie theater on your way out of the museum shows "Pearl of Malaysia," a film about Penang's story. The English version and Mandarin version alternate with one movie starting every 30 minutes. 


  • Bring a camera. I repeat... bring a camera.
  • This museum is best enjoyed without a crowd around. Weekdays or at opening time on weekends are the quietest and the ideal time to visit. (Let's just say that when we were there on a Sunday afternoon that was also the 3rd day of the Chinese New Year holiday was NOT the best time.)
  • Hours: 9AM - 6PM daily; Plan on spending 1-2 hours at the museum.
  • Hungry? A small kopitiam selling drinks, snacks, Cendol, Ais Kacang, and Penang Laksa is located by the ticket booth.
  • The walkway leading into the museum has Malaysia's longest and widest 3D mural. You can enjoy it and take photos for free here without actually entering the museum.

Entrance Fees:
  • Non MyKad holder (non-Malaysians): RM30
  • Non MyKad holder, students and children: RM15
  • MyKad holder: RM15
  • MyKad holder, students an children: RM10

No. 3, Pengkalan Weld, George Town, Penang
Across from the Church Street Pier

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Travelers Sandbox, "Oh the Places I've Been" on The Tablescaper, Travel Photo Mondays on Travel Photo Discovery, and Our World Tuesday. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. I absolutely LOVE 3D artwork and I would absolutely stay at the museum until they kicked me out, Michele! This was soooo much fun to see all of your pictures with your kids interacting in the art. The shrimp picture and mirror picture were my favorites but I liked all of them! Thank you for such a fun post as this made me smile :)

  2. This is AMAZING! And good advice to bring a camera...so many great photo opps available for memorable moments:-)

  3. I really love interactive museums and this is by far the best. Your kids were having a blast, but which one did you get in the picture with?

  4. Hi Michelle,
    Wow, very impressive! These exhibits are so creative and so so clever. I like that each piece depicts local culture. I enjoyed your family's interpretation of the exhibits. Certainly a fun family outing.

  5. What a fun museum and a great way for children to learn about the local history. You would definitely not be happy if you left your camera at home!

  6. A great initiative to get kids to learn about history, and what a brilliant and interesting way of doing it. Loved the fun photos.

  7. Wow, these are absolutely amazing and definitely entertaining for adults and kids.
    And yes, you can't leave your camera at home.

  8. What a great concept for a fun, interactive museum! We would definitely have to visit at a time when it wasn't very busy or we would be holding everyone up while we posed for multiple photos! I hope this is an idea that catches on elsewhere!

  9. what a weird and totally funky museum! definitely on the to-do list should we go to penang!

  10. How much fun is this!!!??? I love this post and what a crack-up of a place to visit!

  11. What a fantastic place. As you say good for everyone of all ages. I know that when my children were around eleven years old I would have had to drag them from it screaming :)

  12. I don't think I'll get there anytime soon, but is sure does look like fun! My son would have a blast in here!

  13. Oh my goodness, this place looks like a ton of fun! So neat and interactive. Just amazing.

    Wonderful to have you at "Oh the PLACES I've been!"

    - The Tablescaper

  14. What a fun museum. 'Aunty' had me laughing but I bet the trishaw driver wasn't!!

  15. This is so cool and I love that your kids are having so much fun posing. It looks so fun and as camera hams I'm sure my kids will love being here too. I like that they have the red clogs sticker to tell you where to stand and the staff are very accommodating. Now, if only someone can bring this somewhere closer to us.

  16. Not only am I impressed with the exhibits - which are phenomenal - I love the selection of photos with your kids having so much fun. What a great concept - and probably the start of a new wave of interactive museums. Mind you - you and Mary both seem to find dome of the coolest interactive museums for kids.

  17. What a great concept, I'm surprised that nothing like this has been done before and I love the humor in the interactive series, thanks for sharing these!

  18. wwo, this seems like sooo much fun. Would have loved being there myself.

  19. wow! this is absolutely amazing. What a fun place for children and adults! I can image you coul spend several hours here. Whoever came up with concept and the artists that made it happen are to be congratulated. Fabulous!
    Have a great week and thanks for stopping by my blog the other day.

  20. What a great job they've done with this. These museums are big in Korea. I went to one in Daejeon, and we had a great time getting into the action.

  21. This looks like too much fun. I will have to add it to my list. Great shots!

  22. What a great place to visit. A definite must on the tourist trail.

  23. What an interesting set, thanks for sharing, have a nice Tuesday

    much love...

  24. Oh my gaaaahhhd I so wanted to take pictures there

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  25. Thank u so much for having such a nice and entertaing stuff for us. I really enjoy your blog and the way you have describe your content.I also have some amazing and wonderful stuff and i wana to share it with you.

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