George Town, Malaysia, 2008

2016
The city of George Town, Malaysia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People say if you want to know what Singapore was like in 1960s, visit Penang.

Since the World Heritage status, George Town had experienced rapid gentrification. Developers are turning historic shophouses into hotels, cafes are displacing traditional trades. I first visited in 2008, when the city was at the cusp of becoming a World Heritage Site. I returned again in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013. More and more shophouses were renovated, there are more hotels, more cafes, and a greater awakening of heritage. But at what price? Gentrification is inevitable.

2008, just before the first waves of gentrification sweeps through the old city centre, I found charm.