Street art has had a massive boom and renewed acceptance over the last decade, with artists popping up and calibrating our cities with vibrancy and skill. Hong Kong is no stranger to the explosion of colour and symbolism; from enormous murals, takeovers and entire events (we see you HKWalls) to buzzed about mosaics (hello, Space Invader) dedicated to enhancing the 852’s aesthetic and getting people talking. And while big cities like Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing all have their share of graffiti-esque creations, some of Asia’s smaller players are upping their street art game in a BIG way. Art is there to excite, incite and inspire, and with so much creativity this side of the world we’ve rounded up some not-to-be-missed visual experiences just a few hours away from our own city.
Georgetown, Penang – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is one of the most exuberant street art cities in the world. The street art here is varied in its mediums (from murals to interactive 3D pieces) and mostly supported by local government to tell stories of the city’s history. Colourful as they are insightful, these murals line the streets and invite tourists, locals and artists from around the world to share in Georgetown’s spirit.
With an annual art fair streamlining projects (like the launch of the project with famed artist, Ernest Zacharevic or the 101 Lost Kittens project to create awareness around the area’s stray animals); the street art here is about more than just aesthetics. And there are so many murals, big and small, dotted around the streets of Georgetown it would be impossible not to capture an Insta-worthy moment here! Take a rickshaw tour or hop on your own two-legged bicycle and get walking to truly take in the sites.
Fly to: Penang International Airport (PEN)
Flight time: 4 hours
Must see: “Little Girl in Blue” (on Muntri Street) is the most well-known and popular of the murals so be prepared to wait in line for that perfect snap.
Sassy tip: “Brother and Sister” (on Lebuh Armenian) is a lesser known and less crowded mural that captures daily life in Penang and comes with a sweet story behind it too.
Read more: Travel Penang: Top Picks and Local Favourites
Singapore takes its melting pot reputation and expands it into the world of street art, realising its visuals in varied and mesmerising pieces all over the urban playground. But, as a country also known for strict laws (and even stricter enforcement); the street art scene in Singapore is playful and free-thinking and has something for everyone. If you want to experience it all together, with a little shopping and dining included, head over to Kampong Glam: formerly the Arab/Muslim quarter and now an entire district dedicated to art and design (with much of the Middle Eastern influence still evident).
Sprawling streets of colossal creations are abundant, but narrow your search to Haji Lane if you’re unsure of where to start. The open spaces are bright and textured, and tree-lined streets add an energy to the area that keeps you going for more. From a building designed in the shape of a camera to an unusual exclamation mark covering the entire façade of the AMC building; Kampong Glam is Singapore’s hippest art area. But with so many cultural influences; it’s hard not to be submerged in different aesthetic experiences. Take Dickson Street in Little India, for instance, where you’ll be treated to homages of Indian heritage and works including “Cattleland 2” (an updated mural on a previous piece since removed on Kerbau Road), “A Ride Through Race Course Road, “Cricket and Classica” at Tekka Centre and Desker Road for a mural that tells the history and daily life of Little India with purposeful gaps in construction for future development.
Fly to: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
Flight time: 4 hours
Must see: Kampong Glam (AMC Building, Piedra Negra restaurant), Sultan Arts Village
Sassy tip: Little India has some incredible new pieces freshly painted during a festival earlier in 2018 so see them while they’re hot!
Read more: 48 Hours in Singapore: The Ultimate Foodie Guide
Book a flight to our not-so-little liberal cousin and head straight over to the hippest area of Taipei – Ximen – for some incredible street art and massive cultural vibes. Rows upon rows of urban creativity strike you as you meander through the streets of Taiwan’s capital, but it is here in Ximen that the bustling playfulness of street art really comes to life. Kunming Street is the most famous departure point for this artistic journey and is home to some of the coolest and most supported artists in the city; culminating in Taipei Cinema Park: a legal public art space booming with brushstrokes and larger-than-life creations.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, try to peep the displays at an abandoned (and currently petitioned to be demolished) factory. Be warned; this venture requires climbing in through a hole-in-the-wall and potentially encountering those who want the building taken down but the space is known to have some of the best and most socially important pieces in the city. There’s certainly no shortage of street art in Taipei so make sure you’re up for some pursuits.
Fly to: Taipei Taiwan Taoyuan Airport (TPE)
Flight time: 2 hours
Must see: Taipei Cinema Park (Kunming Street)
Sassy tip: If the petition to stop its demolition is successful, check out Nangang Bottletop Factory (Nanga Ng Road). Alternatively, head down to any of the river parks (such as Yingfeng Riverside Park) where hydraulics companies have encouraged artists to decorate the dike-walls and industrial façades with unwavering energy.
Read more: 5 Reasons Taipei Makes for an Awesome Girls Getaway
India may not be the first place that comes to mind when seeking out rebellious graffiti-inspired artworks; but a booming culture around the medium, and areas shifting into designated spaces sees New Delhi hot on the heels of established neighbours around the continent. A sensory overload, in the best way imaginable, India is certainly seeing a massive tourist boom at the moment and the influx of observers has bolted the art game to incredible heights.
Stock up on the flavours of the country before heading into Lodhi Art District for some of the most beautifully animated murals and robust visual experiences in SE Asia. As the first open-air public art space in India, Lodhi Art District showcases both local and international artists and epitomises the effervescence of the industry here. Although there are guided walking tours, set aside a day to explore this emerging art scene on your own and take in some colossal works that will truly capture your imagination.
Fly to: Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)
Flight time: 6 hours
Must see: Lodhi Art District
Sassy tip: “Typography” – a full building shadow-play mural only visible from 9.3oam-2.30pm with the best lighting hitting the façade at exactly noon.
Sun, surf and superfoods. This is most probably your impression of the Balinese town of Canggu and you wouldn’t be wrong. But you’d be missing a key component to the vibe: street art. A surfer’s paradise with an artistic edge? Book us on the next plane out! Canggu is one of the lesser known hubs for street art in Asia but an emergence of urban compositions is changing that. Make your way down to any of the famous beaches, but budget for a few pit stops along the way with some rad pieces playing out on the sides of hostels and communal park walls, or smaller designs lining the streets en route hip hotspots.
Cruise along to ALLCAPS Gallery, an amazing establishment aiming to calibrate the world of gallery and street art through commissioned pieces, and the annual Tropica Festival held in July. And while there’s no shortage of cool constructions in or around the more popular Canggu spots, there’s a lesser known nucleus to be found in Taman Festival Park: an abandoned theme park littered with murals and free-thinking creative ambitions. There’s a lot of urban legend surrounding the space and visitors have attested to its spooky sensations so accrue a squad before the journey. You’ll be hard-pressed to miss the street art in Canggu but be warned – local cows stand guard at some of the bigger pieces around town so be prepared to do the dance for your snaps.
Fly to: Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar (DPS)
Flight time: 5 hours
Must see: ALLCAPS Gallery, Echo Hostel wall mural, Berawa Beach Surf Stay wall mural
Sassy tip: For something a little more off the beaten track head to Taman Festival Park where artists have taken over the forgotten space and enriched it with larger-than-life designs. Just make sure to pack your bug spray!
Read more: Travel Bali: Top Picks and Local Favourites