Malaysia is chock-full of great cities and places worth visiting, but as the second smallest state in the country, Penang is one of those hidden gems that sometimes gets overlooked by less experienced travellers. But there’s no doubt that Penang is a must-visit destination when visiting Malaysia, and for good reason too. What better season to visit than summer, when Penang hosts exciting festivals, exhibitions, fairs and cultural events.
Penang Port © Gp song/WikiCommons
Culture | Penang Bon Odori Festival
Penang has wonderful cultural diversity, demonstrated in the annual Bon Odori Festival, which celebrates Japanese culture with amazing performances, fun games, and delicious Japanese cuisine. Every year, fireworks are displayed in the evening at 10:00pm, and this year will be no exception. Over 80 stalls will display and sell Japanese arts and crafts, and of course, food as well. Visitors can also try their hand at a little dress-up with yukatas and kimonos for picture-worthy moments. Performances are set to include Japanese folk dance and taiko drums. Ladies are also welcome to enter the Miss Yukata Competition where the winner will receive RM1,500.
Penang Bon Odori Festival, Esplanade, Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 650 5136
Culture | George Town Festival
1 - 31 August
The month-long George Town Festival is a celebration of the city’s precious status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and will feature a wide range of performances, exhibitions, and more. This year’s performance line-up is slated to include up to 90 groups across 145 programmes. Since its very first fun in 2010, the festival has already become a much anticipated annual event in Penang — which, incidentally, ends on the extremely high note of celebrating the country’s National Day on 31 August.
George Town Festival, George Town (various locations), Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 261 6308
George Town Festival 2014 Trailer | Courtesy of George Town Festival
Sport | Forward Oat King Sports Run
Forward Oat King Sports Run is a 21k half-marathon run by the Penang Forward Sports club. The route goes through beautiful George Town and the event has charitable aims. Depending on how competitive you are, runners have two options when it comes to participating in this race: the competitive option or the fun-run option. The competitive option covers the full distance of 21k and starts at 5:30am — with a cut-off time of 3.5 hours. The fun-run option on the other hand only covers a distance of 7k and starts a bit later at 6:30am — with a cut-off time of 1.5 hours.
Forward Oat King Sports Run, Penang Chinese Town Hall, Penang, Malaysia
Dance | Penang International Lion Dance on Stilts Competition
9 - 10 August
The Penang International Lion Dance on Stilts Competition takes place annually and this year’s competition sees 22 teams battle it out in Penang. International teams hail from all parts of Asia including China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, and last but not least, Malaysia. The winning team will be awarded RM10,000. With the preliminary and final rounds taken place earlier this year in May, only the best of the best has made it through to this stage, so the audience can be prepared to see some fine talent — arguably, the best in Asia — go for that grand prize. It will no doubt be quite a show not to be missed.
Penang International Lion Dance on Stilts Competition, Han Chiang Stadium, Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 650 5136
Culture | Eurasia Fiesta
Running for its third year now, the annual Eurasian Fiesta is a party that toasts the cultural heritage of the Eurasian community in Malaysia. Smack bang in the middle of August, the Eurasia Fiesta will be running alongside the George Town Festival this year for double the sensation. Acts set to perform at the fiesta include musicians Kathleen and James Rozells — as not just performers, but event organisers as well. More detailed information will be announced on their official Facebook page closer to the date, so keep checking to stay up to speed.
Eurasia Fiesta, 360 Jalan Macalister, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Music | Eden Charity Concert by Eden Handicap Services Centre
22 - 24 August
This is your chance to be both charitable and get your concert fix if you are looking to spend your money this summer on a worthy cause. Eden Handicap Services Centre — a non-profit Christian-run organisation set up in 1991 — will be presenting the Eden Charity Concert in thePerforming Arts Centre of Penang this August. The charity aims to help the disabled find a supportive community while also equipping them for independence with training followed by suitable job placements.
Performing Arts Centre of Penang, 1 Straits Quay, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Pulau Pinang, Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 899 1722
Music | Once a Month Jazz, Penang Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra
For you music buffs, it won’t cost you a thing to jazz it up this summer with the Penang Philharmonic. These monthly concerts showcase performances by members of the Penang Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra along with special featured guests and aims to provide a platform — quite literally — for artists to perform. The ultimate aim to raise awareness for jazz music among the general public and nurture a positive sentiment in this area of the arts.
Penang Philharmonic, Dewan Sri Pinang, George Town, Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 262 2462
Culture | National Day Parade
The National Day is celebrated on 31 August in Malaysia every year. Although the big parade is held in the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur, Penang does host its own National Day Parade as well. Many organisations participate in the march including school bands, the armed forces, government offices, and also many other local corporations.
National Day Parade, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Malaysia - Penang Butterfly Gardens © McKay Savage/WikiCommons
Penang International Green Carnival
13 - 14 September
Penang International Green Carnival is basically the perpetual event that follows the Green Expo which takes place annually. The carnival hopes to plant in the public a growing interest in striving towards a more environmentally friendly and green Penang. This event is all about raising awareness, with the motto being, ’Be the Solution, ACCT (Against Climate Change Today) Now’. You can expect to find all sorts of fun at Esplanade Park this September including a theme park and exciting talent competitions too.
Penang International Green Carnival, Esplanade Park, George Town, Penang, Malaysia, +60 04 250 3321
Project Occupy Beach Street
Until 28 December
For almost every Sunday of 2014, Project Occupy Beach Street will — only temporarily — close off the street for fun and friendly communal activities that are open to all. As spontaneous as this project may sound, it is actually (casually) affiliated with the government’s Penang Car Free Day initiative. This is to encourage the local community to use the car-free space for creative outlets such as jogging and cycling to busking and dancing. Keep it safe and legal, and the sky’s the limit. Various zones have been designated for specifically activities as well to ensure an assortment of fun. There is an area for young children, another dedicated to the arts, one to sports, and yet another all about supporting a greener lifestyle.
Project Occupy Beach Street, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, Penang, Malaysia, +60 12 430 2251
The Culture Trip showcases the best of art, food, culture and travel for every country in the world. Have a look at ourMalaysia or Asia sections to find out more or become involved.