Tourism Malaysia

Street Art in Malaysia

The social recognition has now made mural a form of arts with a status. From Berlin to Rio de Janeiro; from Bronx, New York to the fame London’s Banksy, murals are taking its rightful place in other part of the world – slowly but surely. 

Murals in Malaysia are broad in themes and subjects. Decorating (forgotten sides of) a town – murals in Malaysia now take centre stage, presented by talented local artists – or talents from afar. 

Today, there are many places in Malaysia embrace murals or street art – Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and other cities, but let’s update some selected venues for you to grab your camera and – smile!!


This year, Penang street art took another accolade after awarded as the 7th Most Instagrammed City for Street Art in the world. Well certainly, Penang streets outshine the most, if you are looking for something different. By combining a life-size images, plus the original piece or 3D objects, murals in Penang are ‘interactive and real’.

Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic revitalised Georgetown with his unique take on street art featuring children. Pieces like Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur and Boy on Bike are so cool that you can’t help but want to pose with them, commented

So just stroll down the lanes, and take your own sweet time to admire some of the finest ‘free souvenirs’ from Penang. Mind that Georgetown is not only place to find the murals, but also Balik Pulau is also picking up the trend. In fact, Russian artist Julia Volchkova painted her Old Fisherman and Silat (2015) murals there.


Julia Volchkova’s Old Fisherman


Even though the publicity of art murals in Malaysia is dominated by Penang, Malacca also stepped up their game in the street art scene. The state known for its rich history and culture also jumped on the bandwagon with their River Art Project in 2012 where 9 groups of graffiti artists collaborated to produce artworks on buildings along Bandar Hilir river, making art to beautify the city with more Malaysian elements. Aside from the project, many guesthouses and hotels along the river also feature street art murals to add a touch of personality to their walls. An example of this is the “Welcome to Malacca” mural that decorates the side of the 906 Riverside Hotel.

Colourful riverside in Melaka

Local artist Charles Cham has a number of notable murals that grace the more famous buildings in Malacca Old Town such as his mural on the wall of “The Orangutan House” and the more political “Freedom of Speech” mural. Just like the street art in Penang, there are many murals in the streets of Malacca that incorporate the element of interaction with the visitors.

In an alley near Jalan Hang Kasturi, there is an interactive murals lane where the art includes perspective-altering images which allows visitors to pose creatively to create the impression as if the visitors are also a part of the art created. More recently, the cosmetics brand Kiehl’s commissioned for the walls of its store in Jonker Street to be filled with street art that portrays vibrant colours as a celebration of Malaysia’s colourful heritage.


Ipoh Mural Art Trail’s map


The long lines of olden Chines brick shop houses in Ipoh, offer much opportunities for street artists to pen their colours. Like a big canvas, the theme is very much associated to the once a mining town.

So in 2014, Ipoh introduced the Mural Art trail in collaboration with the City Council of Ipoh, – again – Ernest Zacharevic and the Ipoh coffee brand Old Town White Coffee. To make it better, they came up with an Ipoh Mural Art Trail map depicts nine street art mural locations together with GPS coordinates.

As an icing on the cake, another local talent Eric Lai, added up his pieces depicting rich cultural heritage of Malaysia in a joyful and playful way. Now you know why Lonely Planet picked up Ipoh as their favourite destination before!

Ernest Zacharevic in Ipoh



The small town in Johor – Muar – keep the best secret of Malaysian street art for years now. Elegantly adorning the walls of the shop houses, many artists contributed to the decoration of the town which focus on the ‘Malaysian faces and activities’.

For examples, Julia Volchkova’s ‘Loving Sisters’ embraces the love theme of life, and touches our inner feeling with calmness and harmony. Hailed as the biggest mural in Malaysia, it stands out proudly at 11.8 meters x 10 meters in size.

Volchkova in action!

My all-time favourite artist, Volchkova always able to present an ultra realistic piece of artwork, which connect to local elements and sentiments. Caratoes, a Belgium-born artist, also contributed with his works of many themes that made Muar a colourful town to visit.



Not to be left out, the cultural city of Kota Bharu, Kelantan in East Coast, instils a fresh breath onto street art in Malaysia. With interesting themes and vibrant colours, Kota Bharu offers a new outlook for tourists to be part of the town’s heritage.

Try walk past the amusing Riverside area, or the Jalan Dato’ Pati, Kota Bharu, which houses Palestine Street Alley art and around 20 artworks – with different local and international images. These variety of themes and styles – either pop art or realism – simply catch your eyes and thought-provoking. You’ll be amazed that even the road is turned into painted carpets!

Local artists Fazirul Ezran and many more contributed to the scene.


Kota Bharu’s new attraction
Tourism Malaysia

Discovering Ipoh: Old Meets New

By Lloyd Green

There’s a sense of East meets West in Malaysia. A lot of old versus new as well. Ipoh is no different with a unique blend characterised perfectly by its people; a community moulded from the tin mining boom of the 19th century and its position as Malaya’s second greatest city. There’s remnants of that era littered everywhere as well as evidence of a concerted effort to place Ipoh back in the limelight. For a writer and observer, it’s actually quite difficult to articulate this character into words. I see it and I feel it, but it’s like I’m witnessing Ipoh’s transformation as it happens. In the words of a local, “We’re trying to copy Malacca in portraying Ipoh as a popular historical destination, but we’re doing it in our own unique way.”

As such, tourism exists in Ipoh, but not quite in the sense there’s a dedicated industry to cater for it (not yet anyway). For years Ipoh was seen as a ‘passer-by’ town; the post-independence economic decline in the 1960s after the British left rendering Ipoh a shadow of its former self, only frequented by visitors on their way to and from Penang and the Cameron Highlands. It sort of still feels like that — a stopover town — with backpackers staying a maximum of two nights en route to somewhere else. But now locals are open to utilising that rich history to give it a much needed facelift and enticing people to explore Ipoh’s hidden gems.

Ipoh 4

There’s a bevy of museums highlighting the migration of the Hakka-Chinese to Malaysia in the 19th century and their extravagant behaviours at clubs gambling, smoking opium and entertaining girls. There’s also the emergence of urban street art to depict this period through the preservation of historical buildings plus the city’s famous Old Town White Coffee and delicious food, all of which are easy to find. I guess what makes it feel ‘un-tourist-like’ is a lack of designated tourist area and tourists themselves — which for me is a good thing as there’s no threat to its natural appeal.

Ipoh 3

Sure, there’s Old Town, home to archaic colonial buildings and snippets of cultural treasures — grand British buildings such as Ipoh Railway Station and Ipoh Town Hall remind you of Ipoh’s once iconic standing as Malaya’s second administrative capital — but rather than the city’s famous eateries targeting foreign tourists (think Jalan Alor in KL), they are frequented by proud locals enjoying the cuisine.

There’s no real sense of Old Town as a touristy area; more an enjoyable place to explore. There’s no heckling from the streets, instead a nod of the head and pleasant smile and when you do venture into the circus of the night market in search of food, groceries, toys, clothes and household items, there’s a less forceful form of heckling and bargaining. What’s better is there’s that same personal connection with the locals in the suburbs than in the city.

Ipoh 2

Ernest Zacharevic, the Lithuanian artist who made a name for himself in Penang and Singapore has offered his artistic genius to Old Town’s history-steeped walls. Recruited by Old Town White Coffee company to showcase the heritage and history of the city, the eight unique murals give great insight into life here. There’s s also Mural Lane, a series of paintings by renowned local artist Eric Lai, highlighting the many cultures of Malaysia: lion dance, kuda kepang dance, Indian dance, plus a pinch of cheekiness with popular childhood games such as hide-and-seek and mother hen as well as a beautiful waterfall scenery amongst others.This has also transcended into the cafe and juice bar scene with many new venues combining the city’s affinity with coffee and modern artistic influences. Places such as Bougainvillea City Cafe and Happy 8 Retreat Cafe head this list with murals depicting Ipoh’s strong Chinese flavours. Photo source from

Ipoh 1

Ipoh is famous for its food and in particular Ngah Choi Kay or chicken and bean sprout. The best places for this are Lou Wong and OnnKee near the main Chinese market and on Cowan Street. Old Town White Coffee is a must and there’s plenty of family owned Chinese shops specialising in this including Nam Heong which is the original exponent of Old Town White Coffee (and its egg tarts) located on the corner of Jalan Bandar Timah and Persiaran Bijeh Timah. If you’re keen for an adventure, head out of town five minutes to Buntong for Ipoh’s famed Kacang Putih (Indian snacks). This area is famous for the manufacturing and retail of Kacang Putih and makes millions each year selling these savoury treats to England, New Zealand and Australia.



Photo by Abd. Halim Hadi /

For accommodation, I chose a conceptualised ‘self-sustaining’ hostel called Bed Bike Backpackers Studio. It is what it says it is; a studio apartment with modern stylings and is supervised by fellow travellers on their way through Malaysia. There is no reliance on permanent staff with the owner popping in once a week. Information about the city is passed on via a traveller’s journal and the building itself is located within minutes of both Old Town and Ipoh Railway Station. Also check out 27 @ Concubine Lane — a themed residence showcasing life as it was for the Hakka people during the 19th century.