Photo: Just eat.

Occupy Beach Street

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You’ve fuelled up on a breakfast of eggs and kaya toast at a local kopitiam or braved the chaos of a dim sum restaurant and are now wondering what to do with the rest of your Sunday morning. Well, for a free, fun frolic to suit all tastes, look no further than Occupy Beach Street.

Join the crowds and Occupy Beach Street!

Join the crowds and Occupy Beach Street!

Despite sounding like a frenzied command to quell the 1867 Penang Riots, Occupy Beach Street is actually a government initiative to promote local creativity, ideas of healthy living and social interaction within a car-free environment. It is easy to imagine a project based on such lofty ideals ending with a whimper in the scrap heap of well-meaning yet untenable social experiments: But this is Penang! This is Beach Street, one of the city’s first and finest!

What you find instead is a pedestrianised zone on the northern end of Beach Street (or Lebuh Pantai as it may be marked on your map) buzzing with a festival-like vibe. Side streets, also shut to traffic, are divided into thematic zones. In Lebuh Bishop’s Sport Zone take your pick from a quick game of street soccer, a whizz around on a scooter or maybe even a jiggling, wiggling Zumba class. The corner with Lebuh Gereja marks Cultural Zone; expect actors dressed as Chinese gods and goddesses, street performances and live music, the noisy, carnival atmosphere drawing in a clapping, bopping crowd. On the opposite corner Play Zone will make even the most stubborn, heat-afflicted toddler or child smile with, on any given Sunday, drawing, sand sculpture, giant board games or colourful clowns making balloon swords and sausage dogs.

Organic honey, just one of a plethora of healthy snacks on offer

Organic honey, just one of a plethora of samples and snacks on offer.

Vivid red canopies, the colour of Chinese dragons, quiver along the edges of the main drag, providing welcome shade to a riot of craft and food stalls. If you still haven’t managed to spot your dream souvenir, you might just find it here among the T-shirts printed with unique doodles and illustrations, customised passport holders, scarves, hand-made jewellery, purses, teddies and key chains.

Thirsty? Grab a freshly squeezed juice or an iced cappuccino. Peckish? Nibble your way through an ice cream that looks like a flowerpot, a kaleidoscopic mass of candy floss, a selection of dragon’s beard candy or any number of free samples; or try the only things we could find that might just conform to the project’s ideal of “healthy living”: a herbal egg and a spoonful of organic honey.

Browse the stalls of colourful crafts

Colourful crafts.

Beyond the music, food, games, performances and shopping perhaps the best thing about the market is the chance to cross this most handsome of streets without having to watch out for, or breathe in, the combined belchings of buses, cars and motorcycles. But perhaps even more so the opportunity to talk, clap along and mingle with the fun-loving, creative and energetic locals who give Penang its special flavour.

If you’ve had your fill of festival frolics, mere streets away a delicious thali, biriyani or tandoori waits in Little India or lunch at any number of cafes further along Beach Street. If you are still hankering after more culture, step into shady Whiteways Arcade on Beach Street itself, a former British Emporium that now houses art and photograph exhibitions on the first floor. Don’t forget to stick your head out of the shuttered windows and gaze down at the swirling whirligig, framed by red, on the street below.

Occupy Beach Street
Beach Street/Lebuh Pantai, Penang

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Location map for Occupy Beach Street

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Penang.
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