Category Archives: George Town

Celebrating David Loh’s Homecoming

Journalist David ST Loh left Penang three decades ago to work for news organisations like Reuters, The Star and more recently, The Malaysian Insight.

The internationally-published Loh has spent 26 years in the media industry, of which 21 of them were as a photojournalist. He later moved on to became an editor at the award-winning photographic department of the Reuters Ltd news agency.

He left Reuters in 2016 as Editor-in-Charge (EIC) for the agency’s Global Pictures Desk and today works for The Malaysian Insight.

Previously based in cities like Kuala Lumpur, London and Singapore, Loh’s images have graced many global newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, UK Times and others. He was also part of a judging panel for the ChinaInternational Press Photo Contest 2016.

He has now come full circle and returned to Penang last year and calls this island home (again).

Since then, Loh has been exploring his home state with a revived passion, discovering new and interesting things to see and photograph, on land or from above.

(A 35m table laden with offerings during the Jade Emperor’s birthday celebration at the clan jetties in George Town, Penang)

Using a drone, he scours places that might hold interesting terrain, landmarks and features and he has not been disappointed with every deployment of the drone.

His aerial images will form a part of a curated collection of his work for an upcoming photography exhibition.

(A cruise ship at the Penang Port Cruise Terminal at dusk)

The ‘Over Penang Photography Exhibition’ is part of the George Town Festival 2018, will be held at the Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel, Victory Annexe, 10 Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, Penang.

The exhibition runs from August 4 till Sept 2, 2018.

The homecoming exhibition is aimed at imparting a sense and fresh feel of how the city has changed, in tandem with the island maintaining its essence of combining heritage and progress .

Loh has been painstakingly and continuously documenting Penang Island as the island state tries to find a happy balance between progress and preservation.

(Mercurial lakes at Frog Hill, Tasek Gelugor, Seberang Prai, Penang)

“Penang,” Loh notes, “is such an amazing place where there seems to be non-stop events, activities, things to do, and places to go.

“If you are prepared to go out and look, you will never be bored in Penang.”

Welcome home, David Loh and keep “clicking” and continuing to share with us your amazing work of the Penang we all love!

(All images courtesy of David ST Loh)


Beauty Through Karyn’s Lenses

“Nama Saya: Karyn Leong, dari Melbourne, Australia. Boleh saya ambil foto anda?” (My name is Karyn Leong and I am from Melbourne, Australia. May I please take your photograph?)

This is the opening line that Karyn Coxall-Leong, the gentle visual artist, wife, mother, nurse, photographer and story teller uses when she pounds the streets of George Town and the rest of Malaysia snapping stunning and soul-stirring photographs.

“My life experience and understanding of people has given me an ability to view my subjects compassionately, which adds a unique and intimate dimension to my photography,” says the mother of two who is married to a Malaysian.

“With Malaysian friends and family, I have been most fortunate over many years to travel extensively throughout Malaysia, practicing my craft.

“I always make the time to visit Georgetown and Penang. I have a great affinity for the beauty of this island and its wonderful, generous people.

“From very humble beginnings in rural Australia, I have literally, come a long way,” says Karyn, whose compassionate demeanour is detected the minute she greets you with a warm hello.

And the compassion in her voice and support for women and all they do, tells me that you couldn’t end up with a more gifted intensive care unit nurse cum photographer!

When she is not at work at the hospital, Karyn spends her time in Melbourne capturing special moments in the lives of others ranging from weddings, birthdays, portraits, expecting parents, and baby photos.

Karyn is back in Penang and will showcase her work via ‘A Photographic Celebration of Mature Women in Penang’ @ 147 Lorong Kelawai, Penang.

Entry is via donation to the Women’s Centre for Change.

The exhibition opens on 29 July 2018 from 4pm-6pm.

From 30 July-5 August, viewing hours of the exhibition are from 11am-2pm.

(Karyn Coxall-Leong Portfolio 2018 Penang Life through the Lens Moor Art Space, Moorabool Library / 2017 Salvation Army Orphanage Portraits: Singapore / Portraits of Penang: Georgetown Festival / Artist In Residence Hotel Penaga, Penang Malaysia / Collaboration, Rise Up Exhibition, BMAC / 2016 Women of a Certain Age: Bacchus Marsh)

Her photography can be viewed at:

Pixoto: Karyn Leong

Instagram/Facebook: Karyn Leong Photography

(Images courtesy of Karyn Coxall-Leong)

Breakfast @PulauTikusMarket

This market is one which is known for its slightly higher prices since it supposedly caters to the affluent community of Pulau Tikus.

The goods available never fail to thrill and amaze, ranging from the usual wet market offerings to even stalls selling organic products. Factory over run (branded) clothing items can be picked up for a song and over festive seasons, one can even find Spode and Royal Doulton (more factory overruns) tableware.

Meenaka had to come all the way from Singapore to introduce me to the soya sauce shop found in the market and I am now a regular shopper.

Here are some on-the-go breakfast options found on a weekday …

Amazing Slices of History @ClansKongsiGeorgetown

In the 1800s, these homes offered hope, solace and refuge to Chinese immigrants bearing the surname Khoo, who hailed from the Sin Kang Village in the Hokkien Province.

The 16 terraced-homes, located within the heart of George Town, were referred by the Khoo Clan then as simply Sixteen Houses and they flanked the alleyway from the main entrance to the central Clan Temple and courtyard of the heritage jewel known to many today as the Khoo Kongsi.

The homes were built in the 1860s for the `sinkehs’ (newcomers) literally fresh off the boat from China and the architecture of the homes were Southern Eclectic Chinese in nature. The materials used by the masons of Khoo ancestry to build the homes were timber, clay bricks and lime.

Fast forward to 2018 and the homes have now taken on a more “global” flavour and morphed into 43 specially-themed guest rooms. The Clan Kongsi Georgetown, has taken the place of the homes-of-the-sinkehs and now touted as intimate boutique residences by its curators.

I had a sneak peek of this new kid on the (boutique hotel) block yesterday and walked away very impressed.

Clans Kongsi Georgetown is set to open to the public soon and looks like just the perfect spot to check into during the upcoming George Town Festival (August-September) thanks to its strategic location within the Unesco-listed heritage city. The island’s famed Streets of Harmony (comprising the Acheen Street Malay Mosque, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple, Kuan Im Goddess of Mercy Temple and St George’s Church) is just a walk away, along with a host of nifty shops, hipster cafes, trendy street art and heritage landmarks.

Back to this new gem of a hotel …

Each Clan residence offers three guest rooms, which come with a common living and dining room in the main open courtyard and air well on the ground floor.

Complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea are served daily, while a coffee machine, hot and cold water dispenser and a fridge with a selection of local and canned drinks are also available.

The rooms have been very well appointed with Peranakan touches by way of art and artefacts and the beddings are nothing short of delicious. The showers facilities are also Instagram-worthy and it looks like much effort has been put in to ensure the comfort and happiness of the guest. One interesting feature of some of the suites is an “outdoor” bathroom where privacy is ensured and is a space where you can even retreat to for some natural light and fresh air.

Since the clan houses are all connected, a sense of communal living is promoted in these residences and works well not only for families and groups of friends who are visiting together, but also for the single traveller who can opt to meet others in the common areas.

The disabled and specially-abled have not been overlooked and there is a dedicated suite for those with special needs found in a ground floor unit.

In each unit, guests will find a series of beautifully-curated story cards carrying untold stories inside Khoo Kongsi Cannon Square. They range from tales of how the Khoo clansmen (many of whom were fisherfolk) preserved their unsold catch by preserving them into salted fish. There are also tales of the Penang Riots of August 1867 and its related bloodshed, along with the history of the lampposts and stone lions which till this very day, guard the grounds of the Khoo Kongsi.

After a long wait to meet all the stringent heritage building guidelines and the arduous task of restoring the homes to international hotel standards, the owners of this project appear to have nailed it in bringing authentic heritage to meet the modern world!

Address: 2 Cannon Square, 10200 Penang












9 Years of Arts and Culture Continue …

For the ninth year, the George Town Festival returns and is ready to welcome visitors to the island and continue to give more entertainment, cultural and artsy-fartsy value to Penang residents.

Mark your calendars, book your flight/bus/train tickets, plan your road trips and hotel/home stays, and join us proud Penang Lang in a month (read: August till early September) filled with performing arts shows, from dance to theatre, as well as photography and art exhibitions, workshops, music, creative talks and arts and crafts markets.

On a personal note, a warm welcome back to the anggams-supporters-of-the-fest, Steven, Glen and Meenaka from across the seas and Causeway!

Here are some highlights of the long-awaited list of happenings brought to you and lovingly curated by the tireless festival director Joe Sidek and his equally dedicated and work-around-the-clock team …

• KELANTAN: A Living Heritage (Malaysia)

The show celebrates Kelantan, known as the ‘Cradle of Malay Culture’ and its unique tapestry woven through its traditional and captivating art forms.

• Between Tiny Cities (Cambodia & Australia)

Dancers from Australia and Cambodia use the rituals and movement styles of b-boy dance to reveal the dramatically different worlds that surround them.

• We Cannot Talk About It (Iran)

A dark and gripping performance with intense expressions of suppressed life. From Iranian group The Hole in the Wall from the award-winning creators of Slow Sound of Snow (GTF 2015).

• Yaron Kohlberg feat. Ciaran McAuley & Penang Philharmonic Orchestra

Yaron Kohlberg, the “pianist with the golden hands”, performs a classical music suite with the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, with esteemed Conductor Ciaran McAuley.

• 2062 (Spain & Germany)

An experimental show about a dystopian world, where the “present” is deemed as the authentic protagonist, highlighting borders, walls, new migrations, current affairs, and economic changes.

• Isle of Dreams (Taiwan)

Making its first premier in Southeast Asia, Isle of Dreams is a mythological musical theatre piece featuring Nanguan and Beiguan music integrating with poetry, puppetry and ritual dance in the performance.

• Second Body (Taiwan)

A dance production generating an out-of-body experience. A dark stage, dancer with abstract light projected on her skin, and the study of movement itself.

• BLIND (Brazil)

A social experiment and an interactive art showcase which has travelled the world, soon will be taking the streets of George Town in Penang for the very first time.

• SeaShorts (Southeast Asian Short Film Festival) (Malaysia)

An annual short film festival with over 200 entries. Attending the festival will be notable film makers such as Rithy Pahn, Mira Lesmana, Liew Seng Tat, Pimpaka Towira and Philip Cheah.

ConneXion – Passion Made Possible (Singapore)
A collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), ConneXion- Passion Made Possible will thrill festival goers as part of the GTF closing weekend.  The best of Singapore will be featured through fashion, music, art, dance, theatre, film, talks and food hosted in various venues in George Town. More details to be announced.

• BUDAYA KITA (Malaysia)

A National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN) special showcase of traditional arts and performing arts. More details to be announced.

Most shows hosted at Dewan Sri Pinang and Loft 29 will have its tickets sale via Redtix.

Others are mainly-free-to-attend shows, talks and workshops are available through registration on PopTickets.

This year GTF also focuses on its collaborations with various local creative collectives such as The National Department For Culture And Arts (JKKN), National Academy of Arts Culture and Heritage (ASWARA), SeaShorts, Sisters in Islam, Obscura, Penang House of Music, Penang Philharmonic Orchestra, Penang Foodie and the return of Konsert Kopitiam V.3.

Additionally, there are also alliances through special projects with other countries such as the recently launched “Isle to Isle” project with Taiwan Economic Cultural Office in Malaysia (TECO), “Passion Made Possible” with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) as well as a collaboration with the Arts, Education and Law Group at Griffith University.

GTF also works together in partnership with Penang Global Tourism and hotels such as E&O Hotel, Penaga Hotel along with other hotels, media and venue partners. GTF is currently looking for sponsorship and partnership.

For the newbies, the George Town Festival is an annual, month-long celebration of culture, heritage, art, and community.

Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival transforms the city into a global stage, showcasing world-class performances, installations, and collaborations from international and local artists alike.

With over one hundred unique events each year, the festival seeks to create new and vibrant connections between the traditional and the contemporary, the past and the future.

For more information on full list of GTF 2018 programmes and ticketing please visit

(images courtesy of Joe Sidek and George Town Festival)

#georgetownfestival #gtf2018 #gtf


The annual George Town Festival (GTF), running from Aug 4-Sept 2, 2018 is bringing in the richness of Taiwanese art and culture to Penang.

“Isle to Isle”, is a collaboration between GTF and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia (TECO).

It will showcase a layered series of programmes highlighting the very best of Taiwanese performing arts, creative and art administration, say its organisers.

Programmes hosted throughout the week will be an effort to showcase and create a discourse on Taiwanese performing arts and design and the use of creative spaces to generate people-centric experiences.

“We are very excited to work with TECO along with other well-established Taiwanese organisations on this project.

“There is much to learn from the Taiwanese art and cultural creative industries and we want to bring forth a different approach to art and design to Penang”, GTF director Joe Sidek said.

“What Taiwan has done for its art industry is an exemplary approach for Penang’s growth of the art and design scene here.

“Taiwan is a leading example within the region where the government and private sectors are working together to create a successful platform for the creative industry. There is much we can learn from this,” he added.

Isle to Isle also serves as an effort to create closer ties with the Taiwanese art and design community.

“By partnering with the George Town Festival and establishing Isle to Isle, we hope that we can create a closer bond with Malaysia. What better way to strengthen a great relationship than through the arts,” said Cultural Division Director of TECO in Malaysia, Peggy Chou.

“Through this project we are thrilled to bring to Penang the best of Taiwanese art, design and more”, said Peggy Chou.

Isle to Isle will feature a week of Taiwan’s best art and design showcases to be hosted around George Town.

The cultural week will include The Hsinchu City Youth Chinese Orchestra, Isle of Dreams, Kaxabu! A Language No Longer Spoken?, Second Body, talks and a market showcasing and selling Taiwanese creative products curated by Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, and screenings of Taiwanese films.

The collaboration with Taiwan also includes partnerships with Taiwanese organisations such as the Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Taiwan Cinema Toolkit, Quanta Arts Foundation and Penang-based Mano Plus.

The GTF is a month-long celebration of culture, heritage, art and community. The festival which is now in its 9th year, continues to honour George Town’s spot on the world map as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Watch this space for more world-class acts which are coming to George Town!

#isletoisle #georgetownfestival2018 #gtf

(images courtesy of GTF)

Athene the Spice Girl

I met this purveyor of artisan spices two years ago at her “spice laboratory” in Relau on the island.

The warmth and bubbly personality matched her colourful and aromatic spices as did her passion for cooking and sharing food and recipes.

Faten Rafie (or Athene to family and close friends) is the force behind the ‘Athene Spices’ brand of artisan spice blends and rubs, which are designed and created for home cooks to make easy, yet exciting dishes.

They are all natural, free of artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and MSG-free.

Just staring at the colourful contents of her bottled spices is enough to inspire the foodie in all of us and here’s why:

Her recipes are so easy to follow and end up looking like one has slaved for hours in the kitchen!

Befitting its premium tag, Athene Spices products are targeted at those with greater purchasing power and exposed to international cuisines, and also the health conscious, who do not want oil or sodium in the food they prepare and consume.

For this Ramadhan season, Faten has kindly shared some recipes below which include her famous spices which have found their way into Malaysian kitchens and restaurants at home and abroad.

Together with her businessman husband Azizi Hassan, Faten sources her spices like nutmeg pepper locally, and mix them into their distinct products with labels like Hot Chick Spicy Salt, Lemon Lime Pepper Salt, Mandy Spice Mix, Lebanese Za’atar, Moroccan Ras el Hanout and Hyderabad Biryani… to name a few, for retail and wholesale.

Check out her online spice shop at

If you are in Penang, her spices at stocked at both the Tropical Spice Garden’s gift shop at Teluk Bahang or The Tropical Spice Garden In the City store in George Town.

They make great gifts for Hari Raya open houses or to pop into a festive hamper.

(Images courtesy of Faten Rafie and NST)