Penang owes a significant part of its success as a tourist destination/art capital to a Lithuanian artist called Ernest Zacharevic. If you’ve seen the iconic murals (now turned cultural landmarks) Children on Bicycle and Boy on Motorcycle scattered across George Town, these are Zacharevic’s works, which he created for the George Town Festival in 2014. His works were so popular, the BBC even called him “Malaysia’s Banksy”.
Murals aren’t the only thing Zacharevic has left a mark on in the city – there’s also the Hin Bus Depot along Jalan Gurdwara, a formerly abandoned bus depot turned exhibition space.
The story goes that Zacharevic was looking for a place to hold his first solo exhibition, and together with local artist friends, they spruced up the space and held Art is Rubbish is Art in 2014, with works put together from preloved materials and discarded street items. The response was so overwhelming that they decided to keep Hin Bus Depot going as an independent artist space. Today, the venue is an arts and culture hotpost for young Penangites as well as out-of-towners, especially on weekends.
I’m glad we left this place for last on our Penang road trip, as it coincided with a weekend and there was a bazaar going on, so there was lots to see. There was a solo exhibition running at the foyer titled Recycled or Get Recycled, by street artist Trexus, who made use of materials such as recycled paper and skateboards as well as plastic, breathing new life into them as works of art.
Further in, we were greeted by a grassy lawn as well as several smaller open-air structures. One of these hosted a dozen stalls selling accessories, unique handmade items, arts and crafts, and even knives. Under a tree in the courtyard were more stalls set up under colourful canopies, with a makeshift stage hosting a band belting out chill tunes.
Some of the interesting items on sale include a uniquely shaped jump rope, old cameras and film, egg holders, jewellery, garden accessories, candles, coasters, resin pieces, and other knick knacks.
Unfortunately it started to pour halfway through, so everyone took shelter underneath the main building or the canopies. We managed to snag a brownie from one of the stalls, which we munched on while waiting for the rain to stop. It was warm and crumbly on the outside with a soft, somewhat gooey centre, not too sweet, and full of chocolate-y goodness.
Back at the main bazaar area, we came across a tattoo pop up by Tantoo Studio. The illustrations they had were uber cute, and the price was not expensive, so I got a small one of a flower on my forearm.
It has been seven years since I got a tattoo. I had kind of forgotten how painful it could be lol (also I think my tolerance levels for pain have gone down significantly over the years). Thankfully the process didn’t take long as the tattoo was small. My tattoo artist remarked that I was quite ‘brave’ as I watched her poke the ink into my skin with the needle. “A lot of people are squeamish, so they tend to look away,” she commented. Like a true emo, I said, “But isn’t it better to see it so that you can anticipate where the pain will come?”
We already had lunch at another place, but couldn’t resist some pizza from one of the stalls, which were sold in large slices. The truffle mushroom flavour was seriously addictive, heaped with a generous amount of melty cheese, button mushrooms, and drizzled over with truffle oil on a thin, crunchy base. N’s pepperoni pizza was good too.
Hin Bus Depot occupies a pretty large space – there were more shops at the back, as well as a students showcase for their final year project.
Posters promoting upcoming events. As you can see, the spot is a happening place, with plenty of exhibitions and programmes every month.
And finally, before leaving, we got one kunafa for the road from a lovely Middle Eastern lady. I’ve always wanted to try kunafa since there are so many stalls selling them these days, but never got the chance to until this visit. These sweet and savoury treats are made from dough, spun sugar (hence the stringy appearance) and cheese, with fillings such as almonds, pistachios, and clotted cream. The version we bought was the original, so it didn’t have any fillings. I like the crispy texture on top, and the soft, gooey cheese layer on the bottom. Good stuff!
And that wraps up our 5D4N stay in Penang! I thoroughly enjoyed this getaway, and because we were doing slow travel, I felt like I could really relax and unwind, compared to if I had tried to squeeze in lots of places into our intinerary. That being said, Penang has so much to offer, our time here wasn’t enough to cover all the sights – so I’m looking forward to another trip some time, perhaps to its wonderful beaches.
Next stop: Ipoh!
HIN BUS DEPOT
31A, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Opening hours: 12PM – 7PM (Mon-Fri), 11AM – 7PM (Sat-Sun)
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