I didn't know much about Malaysia before we arrived in George Town and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be! Even as we lugged our bags around in the midday heat trying to find our hotel, we knew that we were going to love this city, and we weren't wrong.
Our first taste of George Town was our hotel, Cintra Heritage House, a beautifully restored set of Chinese shophouses built in the late 1800s that used to be a hair salon during the Japanese occupation.
In 2008, the inner city of George Town was named a UNESCO world heritage site, and our hotel was on a quiet street right in the middle of it. Exploring this area was so interesting, the roads are lined with old Chinese shophouses, all used for different purposes (houses, hotels, restaurants, mechanics shops, etc.) and all in various stages of repair.
Most of the streets don't have pavements (we would actually celebrate when we found one – no more walking single file! No more dodging motorbikes! An actual conversation while we walk!), and the drivers will go where they want so it's your job to get out the way. But despite this, it's a great place to walk around. Everywhere you look there are beautiful colonial buildings, crumbling shophouses, decorated trishaws and handpainted signs. Plus a lot of the houses have connected entrances that you can walk along, which makes things a lot easier.
Malaysia is made up of Chinese, Indian and Malay populations, and there is a large representation of all of these communities in George Town. They exist harmoniously side-by-side and you can find temples and mosques on the same street. It's a great example of a city that has got multiculturalism right.
George Town has been named Malaysia's most livable city and we loved the pace of life here. If it wasn't for the drivers (the worst), we'd be tempted!
For a guide on George Town's food scene, read my post The best street food in Asia?