Wealth of cultural diversity

In the coming months, Going Places will take you through the doors of time,back to the golden age when traders and settlers from Europe, Middle East, India, China, Indonesia, Siam and Burma thronged Penang's port. 

Today, their legacies are embedded in the many heritage buildings and places of worship that line the streets of George Town. 

Many of these buildings have been featured in countless articles and magazines but few have delved into the little intricate details and interesting nuggets that speak volumes of a truly muhibbah community.  

Let your imagination be fuelled by these stories as we put each of these heritage marvels under a microscope. 

Among them are the majestic 18th century Kapitan Keling Mosque, Acheen Street Malay Mosque and Benggali Mosque – more than places of worship, these structures represent some of the best examples of culturally rich architecture. 

Today, the Kapitan Keling Mosque’s domes and turrets still exude a British Raj Moghul grandeur, thanks to the ingenious design of German Eurasian architect Henry Alfred Neubronner, while the Malay Mosque’s unusual Egyptian-style minaret is still spellbindingly beautiful.  

BEST VIEW:The Town Hall's balcony provides a vantage point for viewing parades often held at the Esplanade.

Though built by soldiers and convicts from Bengal, the Benggali Mosque’s facade showcases a hodgepodge of international styles.  

And within the vicinity of these mosques, stands the Goddess of Mercy Temple with its ornate roof copings and ridges. There, behind the thick, swirling joss stick smoke, you will find that the most beautiful thing about the place is the tolerance and friendship it inspires. 

Jointly built by the Cantonese and Hokkien communities, the Goddess of Mercy Temple represents the best of both traditions and values. 

Nearby, intimidating 'Door Gods' stand guard at the Teochew Temple entrance, protecting the sanctity of the temple grounds as well as the priceless carvings, porcelain shardwork and multi-layered gable ends within. 

Also, join us as we explore the many King Street temples and guild houses, each with its own history to tell. 

At the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the Hindu goddess Mariam-man in her many incarnations welcome both devotees and visitors to witness the beauty of the colourful and distinctive South Indian architecture. 

More than 38 statuettes of Hindu gods, goddesses and sacred animals at the entrance of the oldest Hindu temple in town leave both locals and foreigners gawking in admiration at the elaborate facial expressions painstakingly crafted by some of the region’s best artisans. 

While the Khoo Kongsi is undoubtedly one of the most famous and richest clans in Asia, the Teoh, Yap and Cheah kongsi also have their own guilds and temples that promise to reveal intriguing tales of secret societies, revered deities and community leaders who helped turn Penang into a thriving trading port.  

High sea adventures of brave Hainanese seafarers and Mar Chor, the patron saint of seafarers, are remembered with the erection of the Hainanese Mariners Lodge and Temple of the Heavenly Mother

To see some of the finest examples of carved and gilded wooden sedan chairs, we will take you inside the Carpenters Guild before making a stop at Malaysia’s oldest and largest goldsmiths’ guild, the Ta Kam Hong

With its Sung Dynasty style dragon pillars, the Goldsmiths’ Guild is the epitome of Cantonese-style architecture adapted to colonial settings. 

While rich in heritage, the inner city buildings are not devoid of humorous tales. The Home of Batu Gantung lodging house was once home to Chan Kim Boon – one of the great Baba Malay literary figures at the turn of the century. His witty works reflect an appreciation for satire which perhaps explained his pen name – 'Batu Gantung', a moniker adopted from the name of a cemetery! 

In remembrance of Sir Francis Light and the founding of Penang in 1786, a small domed structure inspired by the shape of a Greek temple can be found at the St George's Church compound. 

The church itself was designed in a Western neo-classical style based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture and is a sight to behold. Constructed by convicts from India at a cost about 60,000 Spanish dollars (quite a large sum then), the St George's Church remains a prominent landmark, together with the more than a century-old Cathedral of the Assumption nearby. 

Also steeped in history are the Saint Xavier’s Institution, Convent Light Street, City Hall and Town Hall buildings.  

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion with its striking blue facade needs no introduction unlike the lesser known Leong Fee's Mansion with its magnificent European courtyards.  

Places like the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Dr Sun Yat Sen's Penang Base and Wisma Yeap Chor Ee have recently been used as filming locations for international movies, playing host to the likes of Ang Lee, Wang Lee Hom, Joan Chen and Winston Chao. 

In the upcoming instalments of Going Places, we will also take you to the Beach Street banking row and Cannon Square pre-war houses which have undergone massive renovation to restore them to their former glory. 

Most of these structures have been around since the 1800s and are just waiting to be explored! Stay tuned ...  

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