7 Minutes with Gwen Lu on her hometown Penang

7 Minutes with Gwen Lu on her hometown Penang

Penangite at heart

Image: Gwen Lu

It doesn't take much to convince anyone that is Gwen Lu is a model. Standing at 177 cm with razor-sharp cheekbones and an androgynous look to kill, this Malaysian beauty is made to strut down the runway and grace fashion magazines. Even though Gwen had the opportunity to work and live in New York, Paris and London, this self-proclaimed "thirsty traveller" has a special place in her heart for only one city; Penang. Currently in Athens, Greece, the lanky less takes time off her hectic schedule to share her favourites in the Pearl of the Orient - just in time for the team to take notes for the #buroroadtrip!

We know you were born and raised in Penang. Can you tell us more about your hometown? 

I grew up in the mainland, Bukit Mertajam. My family moved to Air Itam, Penang Island when I turned 7. 

How was it like growing up there? What's your fondest memory of the place?

Like every Malaysian child before the Internet existed, I grew up playing eraser battle, mulut itik, batu seremban, congkak, masak-masak, and board games. My fondest memory would be our weekly visit to my grandparents in Padang Tembak. They used to run a tiny shop that sells music cassettes, videotape rentals and gold fishes. 

How has growing up in Penang influenced your style?

As a teenager I used to wear XL T-shirts with baggy pants, and I was obsessed with New Balance sneakers. I had very short hair cut due to the strict restriction about hair lengths in my high school. I guess that influenced my tomboyish look.

What's your favourite neighbourhood in Penang? 

My favorite neighborhood in Penang is Balik Pulau - a peaceful sleepy town set amongst rice paddies, fruit orchards, goat farms and a fishing village. You can still find traditional Malay houses on stilts, old colonial buildings, small local industries making belacan and bedak sejuk. It is also a food haven with its famous Balik Pulau Laksa, 'pasembur' and the best durians. 

Tell us your go-to restaurant on the island?

My favorite place to eat in Penang is on the streets, from breakfast to supper. 


If I were to visit you in Penang for a day, where would you take me?

Suffolk House for an afternoon tea; Macallum Connoisseurs for caffeine-fix, rattan and bamboo crafts at Seang Hin Leong; 'tau Sar piah' from Ghee Hiang; nutmeg juice, nutmeg balm and rojak paste from Cheong Kim Chuan; spices and herbs from the colorful Little India; Kimberly Street 'koay chiap'; Penang Road 'cendol'; Lorong Selamat 'char koay teow', 'oh chien' (oyster omelette) in Tiong Nam coffee shop.

That's an extensive food list! If you could only have one famous Penang delicacy for the rest your life, what would it be?

Asam laksa!


If you were deserted on Penang Island, what three things would you bring with you?

A camera, films and a book.

Lastly, If you could sum Penang up in three words, what would they be?

Heritage, exotic and food!

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