George Town, Penang: Armenian Street and What I Bought

If you read the first George Town post, you’ll know our trip was last-minute. You’ll also find out where we stayed and what we ate. I wrote about what we did in the second post, but decided Armenian Street (and what I bought) needed its own post.

(Disclaimer: I am not a shopping advocate. I try to buy what I need, as well as chocolate and local art and books when I travel. I am including what I bought on this trip because I was impressed by the amount and high quality of the local products made in Malaysia by Malaysians.)

On our first morning in George Town, I went for a walk and stumbled upon this little street, which I didn’t know anything about, because, again, I hadn’t done any planning for this trip, which, as I’ve discovered, is the best way to be pleasantly surprised!

I came upon Armenian Street, which is called Lebuh Armenian on street signs and maps, at the northern end. The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel (which seems like a fairly boring large hotel) is here at the northern end of the street; across the street is a small park.

Armenian Park

According to the fascinating The Streets of George Town, Penang: An Illustrated Guide to Penang’s City Streets and Historic Attractions by Khoo Su Nin (a book I now want to buy!), Armenian Street was originally called Malay Lane because of the Malay settlement there. (Malays are natives of the Malay Peninsula; the peninsula comprises a little bit of Burma, a little bit of Thailand, western Malaysia and Singapore.) By 1808, the street had become Armenian Lane because of the arrival of Armenian traders from India. A little more than 100 years later, most of the Armenians had moved on to Singapore. By that time, Chinese immigrants had established their clan houses here.

I think Armenian Street should also be referred to as Shopping Street because it was the best place to shop in George Town.

I popped into a little shop just past the park and found these. I can’t remember what was inside but I thought the packaging was beautiful. The lady in the shop said they had the stamp made just for them.

Across the street from this shop was this neglected building. I love the big plants next to the posts, which seemed to be everywhere in George Town.

Further down on the left, I discovered a beautiful shop called Bon Ton with lots of great textiles from all over Asia (especially India), bags, books, art, postcards, etc. Because I love textiles, bags, books, art and postcards, this is one of the best shops I’ve ever been to.

Bon Ton
Bon Ton

I just bought a few things here, including these page markers.

How cute are these! And at 1 RM = $0.24, I thought they were a cute and useful buy for 12.50 RM ($3). I bought the boys, but they also have a girls set. I love how Four Summers beautifully celebrates the diversity of Malaysia.

Here we approach the intersection — if you go left, you turn onto Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, if you go right, it’s Lebuh Cannon. Here are a few shots from the intersection.

Armenian Street
Intersection of Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Armenian Street
Armenian Street looking south

This is the view looking back towards the northern end of Armenian Street.

Armenian Street looking north

Continuing past the intersection, you’ll find a lot more shops. Just past it, on the left, was a little shop with beautiful Lorong and Lane art prints and postcards. Lorong and Lane products are available at shops throughout George Town, including Areca Books on Lebuh Acheh, Ann & Bee’s Handmade Ornament at the Armenian Street Heritage Hotel and Writer, a cute stationery store just down the street from our hotel on Campbell Street.

Lorong and Lane prints

I especially loved the postcards — most especially the long one — because they allow you to see how all the shop houses look together. The long postcard was 25 RM ($6) and the sets of 5 smaller postcards was 20 RM ($5).

Lorong and Lane postcards

Further down the street, on the right, is The Studios at No 13 Armenian Street, which houses 3 galleries, including the one I liked most — Studio Howard. Studio Howard belongs to Howard Tan, a photographer who takes the best pictures of Penang I’ve seen. The man at the gallery was very friendly and, when I told him how much I liked Studio Howard’s Penang calendar, he gave me a 2018 calendar. The 2020 calendar was 45 RM ($11).

Studio Howard’s 2020 Penang calendar

I bought a few more postcards, mostly from the Pinang Peranakan Museum. All are by Paper Plane Art Studio, but the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion postcard is Lorong and Lane.

Postcards

Speaking of Cheong Fatt Tze, I’m a sucker for (affordable) watercolors. The fantastic gift shop had a small collection of watercolors by Khoo Cheang Jin and I really liked the one of the courtyard. It reminds me of a watercolor I bought of the courtyard at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, one of my favorite hotels in the world. The watercolor was 80 RM ($20).

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion courtyard watercolor

Here are a few shots of the southern end of Armenian Street.

Armenian Street
Armenian Street
Armenian Street

Have you been to Armenian Street? Or have you bought souvenirs that you really loved and showed everyone when you got home? Let me know in the comments.

2 Replies to “George Town, Penang: Armenian Street and What I Bought”

  1. I love reading what you write, and loving your photos. that was fun seeing what you bought. I am right there with you!! its fun to go into the stores, while sitting at home. I think you sent us one of the postcards thank you! I am glad you are having a wonderful vacation!!!! do you miss home??? you shall be there soon. love, aunt kathleen

    1. Thanks, Aunt Kathleen! We really enjoyed George Town. We’re back in Bangkok now — I’ll be posting about our trip soon! Thanks so much for reading!

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