"Where are you from?" the cab driver asked, looking us over through his rear view mirror.
"I work in Singapore," Jeff said.
"Oh, Singapore is a beautiful country," the cabbie said. "Penang today is what Singapore was like twenty years ago."
If the cabbie's statement is true, then Singapore has come a very long way in the past two decades. Penang is gritty, polluted and at times hectic. The city was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008, which means the core and buffer heritage zones of George Town are to be preserved from further development. In these zones you'll find rows and rows of old shophouses in various states, some immaculately preserved while others are practically condemned.
The city center is small; we covered most of George Town's core heritage zone on foot in a day. You can also hire a trishaw to take you anywhere. There are lots of places to eat; we grazed on hawker food throughout the day as we wandered around. We found a few areas that were developed for tourists and travelers such as Upper Penang Road and the Red Garden Night Market, but for the most part it felt as though we were trespassing through locals only neighborhoods. The people of George Town seem to go on with their days whether there are tourists around or not. It's an easy and relaxing place to visit for a quick weekend trip.