In its first week, the George Town Festival starts with a bang. Part of the line-up includes Macam-Macam Asean, an arts and crafts market packed with entertainment. What better way to celebrate South-East Asia’s amalgam of culture and heritage than with a locally produced smorgasbord of creative products, modern twists on traditional performing arts and exhibitions by local artists.

The Craft Market will dominate Macam-Macam Asean , which takes place at the old Penang State Museum building on Macalister Road, and runs all-day on both the 29th and 30th July. Head over there to browse the stalls selling an array 

of unique, handcrafted goods made by local artisans and entrepreneurs of South-East Asia. A great opportunity to indulge in some keepsakes for you or your loved ones. Make sure, also, after a couple of hours of shopping, to replenish yourself at the Laksa of the Region stall, where you can get a bowl of the famous dish in Penang, Thai or Sarawak styles.

Peperangan Bintang: Star Wars-Inspired Wayang Kulit  includes an exhibition (11am-9pm), talk (5:00pm), a workshop (6:00pm) and the final performance (8:00pm) on both days. Aimed at reviving the traditional puppetry of Wayang Kulit from Kelantan, the show tells the story of Tuan Puteri Leia, accompanied by her two loyal droids Si P-long and Ah Tuh, as she battles against the rising Sangkala Vedeh Empire and keeping peace in the galaxy. Produced by Malaysia’s Fusion Wayang Kulit company, the audience can expect stunning, bespoke Star Wars inspired puppets and an intelligent, engaging story line coming created by brainchild Tintoy Chuo, a professional character designer for high-tech games, that has also experimented with Wayang Kulit superheroes.

Potehi: Kisah Pulau Pinang, another puppet-inspired performance by Ombak-Ombak ArtSTUDIO, takes a more traditional look at local culture. Using hand-made Hokkien potehi glove puppets, Ombak-Ombak ArtSTUDIO presents a tale of love and friendship amidst a cultural backdrop of a lively spice trade, street festivals, pilgrims listening to talks at the mosque, secret society fights, and dancing at the amusement parks in old Penang. The performance is based on local tales, language and folk music in an attempt to re-energise interest in this age-old way of storytelling. They will perform on both days at 9:00pm.

Gus Teja World Music, comprised of seven skilled Indonesian musicians able to play a host of traditional and contemporary instruments, play on the 29th (12:30pm) and 30th (7:00pm) July. With a motto of spreading global peace and love through the universal, spiritual and uplifting language of music, expect an inspirational hour of soothing sounds. On top of that, the audience should be prepared for the revelatory experience of listening to a band that seamlessly blends traditional instruments such as slonding, tingklik, drums, and flute with iconoclastic modern rock instruments like the guitar and bass guitar.
The Fierce Aunty’s No-Nonsense Guide To The Perfect Laksa will launch on the 30th July at Laksa of the Region at 2pm. Featuring Malaysian laksa recipes from Perlis to Sarawak, this book is a must have for any home cook looking to learn how to make one of Malaysia’s most famous dishes. Published by Penang Passion, this cookbook promising an explosion of tasty surprises was written by George Town’s very own Nazlina Hussin, an inspiration to woman the world over who, in the past six years, has become the go-to cooking instructor in George Town with her cooking classes at Nazlina Spice Station. After sharing her knowledge of local dishes with tourists from all over the world, this feisty mother is well placed to start you on your laksa journey.

Are you tempted? No? Well, maybe the fact that Macam-Macam Asean is completely free will sway your decision. Yes, a craft market, two puppet performances, a music performance and a book launch are all free to attend. Of course, any produce and products will come with a price but, being in Penang, they will certainly not break the bank.