By Jaclynn Seah – I’m a big fan of street art in Penang. The streets of George Town have been transformed by street art works in recent years, and I love walking the alleyways to see what new artworks I can discover. What I also secretly enjoy doing is watching the tourists interact with the street art works – it’s a highly entertaining spectacle.
Informal queues tend to form around the more popular works, like the ‘Kids on Bicycle’ work by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic at Armenian Street. Stick around long enough and you’ll see tourists becoming more creative and getting into increasingly absurd poses for the perfect picture.CC BY 2.0 / Phalinn Ooi
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Elviz Low
I wasn’t planning to take any pictures with the street art, but perhaps peer pressure (“everyone else is doing it!”) spurred me into action.
OK I should have been more creative, but there were so many people waiting their turn! Also, I’m pretty easily embarrassed so it was hard to pull off any moves with so many eyes on me.
I’ve spent a lot of time since that first shot-hunting down Penang’s Street Art and here are some tips on how you can take your own instagram-worthy shot when you visit Penang.
Hunting the Perfect Shot of Penang Street Art
This is probably my favourite street art shot that was completely spontaneous. It’s funny because painted on the wall around the corner is a giant tabby cat called Skippy – this rat was an anonymous street artist’s response to that giant cat work!
Where to Find Street Art in Penang
Penang’s street art proved so popular that Penang Tourism actually has an official street art map which you can use to hunt down works. It doesn’t encompass all the works though, especially those found outside of downtown Georgetown or paintings done recently.
Here are two guides that I have put together to help you for George Town and another for the greater Penang area that includes Balik Pulau in the south and Raja Uda on Malaysia’s main peninsular. Remember that while street art in George Town put Penang in the international eye, there is so much outside this area worth exploring if you are looking for things to do in Penang.
You can find this piece in Hin Bus Depot, a once abandoned bus depot now transformed into an outdoor art gallery and home to many street art works. It’s one of the Ernest Zacharevic pieces that is less commonly seen in photos because its location is not as central.
Popular works in central locations are the most recognizable, but also the most photographed, so you have to do something really unique to stand out. Or consider taking a picture with a less popular artwork instead to get your friends marveling at how exactly you discovered this hidden gem in Penang.
Interact with the Art
I find that my favourite street art works are those that cause you to react to it or encourage you to interact with it. That additional step you take to pose or respond to the artwork beyond just looking at it makes the experience so much more memorable.
Be careful not to spoil the artwork for everyone else though! While street art is often at the mercy of the weather or other artists, Penang likes to keep their famous works in tiptop condition. Ernest Zacharevic was invited back to Penang in 2016 to touch up his earlier works from 2012 that were either too faded or vandalized.
When I first saw this artwork in 2014, the dinosaur was gone and the boy was half faded away. This was in taken in 2016 just a few months after Zacharevic touched up his original works
Get Creative but be Quick
Use the time you have waiting for the crowds to disperse to plan your shot, when it’s finally your turn, swoop in like a boss and take your awesome shot quickly.
You don’t need a great camera – but it helps if you have a friend you trust to take a good picture for you. Handing it off to a fellow random tourist is a bit risky!
Wear a striking colour so you pop in the photograph, consider a small prop to make your photos unique, take many shots of different poses at once and then pick your favourite one when you have more time!
A simple prop can go a long way!
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Runmonty
When you’ve taken your perfect instagram shot with Penang’s street art, make sure to leave some time for exploring and eating! Check Expedia.com.sg for the latest deals on affordable flights to Penang. Save when you book your flights and hotels together.
About the Writer
Jaclynn Seah is The Occasional Traveller, a Singaporean travel blogger who is constantly figuring out the delicate balance of working for a living, having a life and how to travel more over at the theoccasionaltraveller.com. This indie traveller loves hunting for street art in new cities, the underwater wonders of scuba diving and the simple pleasure of a nice cold beer on a hot day.