Art by Humans, Art by Nature

For those looking to spend the summer immersed in beauty, Penang should be at the top of the list. Thanks to its 130 million year old rainforest and 5,000 years of human civilization, the island has a wealth of both natural and man-made art. In fact, the whole month of August is devoted to it.

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The George Town Festival is an annual celebration of heritage, art and community that showcases hundreds of unique performances and installations by international and local artists. The festival is a heady blend of ancient art forms passed down through generations as well as thoroughly modern pieces. Two productions not to be missed this year are the Malaysian theatrical performance Under the Kayon Tree and the interactive urban piece Blind.

While the festival runs from Aug 4 to Sept 2, the beauty of one of the world’s oldest rainforests is accessible year round at the The Habitat Penang Hill, a world-class ecotourism site with 200 hectares on the verge of a pristine forest reserve that’s been protected since 1911. Less than 10km from George Town, The Habitat enables visitors to engage with nature on an intimate level through treetop walks, themed gardens, a historic nature trail and stunning 360-degree views of the Malacca Strait, Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean. This unique vantage point made Penang Hill an important military outpost for the British Colonial Administration, which stationed troops on the Hill to watch for approaching ships in the harbour below. In later years, Penang Hill became a retreat for officers and gentlemen of the settlement, who retreated to the cooler climes of the Hill to escape the heat of George Town.

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The Habitat. Photo c/o Andrew Stevenson

Operations Manager Andrew Stevenson, who joined The Habitat during the initial phase of development in 2015, shares that the park’s construction was a challenge at times mainly because every aspect was designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. Stevenson periodically conducts private guided tours to introduce visitors to not only Malaysia’s primordial rainforests but also to Penang Hill’s multifaceted past. Those interested can learn more here.


StraitsJourneys is a place for travelers to find and book deep travel experiences tailored to specific interests. The experiences are presented by carefully selected local experts. Click here to register your interest in StraitsJourneys and be the first to receive our stories, updates and offers.

An Irish-American residing in Singapore, Laura Jane O’Gorman Schwartz is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Shanghai Literary Review.

This blog post originally appeared in the Travel Tips section of Ready to Travel.

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