Georgetown Festival: cool culture in Penang

Colonial charm, vibrant streetscapes and fabulous hawker-style fare – the Smith team is never short of excuses for a stay in Penang. For the next two weeks, there’s even more reason to swoop into this north-west Malaysian island, as the Georgetown Festival runs until 15 July.

Georgetown Festival, Penang – Manganiyar Seduction

Photography exhibitions, opera galas, theatre, films and music are all part of the lively line-up, with standout sessions including multicultural celebration Live Heritage and contemporary Rajasthani musical Manganiyar Seduction (pictured above), both from 6 to 8 July, as well as a screening of short film festival Tropfest in the Penang Botanic Gardens on 15 July.

Georgetown Festival, Penang – arts hotel Straits CollectionWHERE TO STAY
The art appreciation doesn’t have to end when you check in to your hotel either… In Georgetown’s Unesco-listed Heritage Zone, Straits Collection (left) offers a choice of one or two bedrooms in four shabby-chic shophouses, with unique alfresco spaces, including open-air bathrooms.

Owner Narelle McMurtrie has worked her magic on the rustic wooden interiors, blending a reverence for the traditions and crafts of Penang with a kaleidoscope of colours and textures. Located on Georgetown’s hottest shopping strip, Armenian Street, this hub is also home to bijou boutiques and the Studio@Straits art space, where the festival’s Beautiful Junk exhibition and designers’ workshop have set up shop until 15 July.

Georgetown Festival, Penang – China House galleryA five-minute walk away, Narelle’s latest project, China House (right), is similarly inspired. Spread over three historic buildings on Beach and Victoria streets, it’s a maze of galleries, coffee houses and hip dining dens. It’s also hosting a slew of events, including the Songsang art exhibit, Sketching Georgetown collection and GoodFlers comedy show.

With last-minute availability at a host of boutique hotels in Penang, plus direct flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, there’s still plenty of time to get your festival fix.

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