That's not a snake...this is a snake!
Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
45Trip End Feb 13, 2011
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As we crossed the bridge that spans the gap between Penang island and Butterworth on the mainland, we could gaze out from either side of the bus and see nothing but sea until the horizon. It was also looking like it was going to be a fantastically hot day, something that came as a shock to the system after almost a week living in the Highlands distinctly British weather. First impressions of Georgetown as we drove along one of the main streets, Jalan Chulia, was that it seemed somewhere in between KL and Melaka - both in terms of atmosphere and architecture
First, however, we headed to our hostel to dump our bags. We were staying at a place called Love Lane Inn to start with. It was on, strangely enough, Love Lane (so called, because in the olden days it was the road were the rich gents kept their mistresses) and was a nice place to start our stay - the staff were (mostly) super friendly and helped us out by scrawling over a map of the town to show us where everything was. We also discovered an awesome little cafe that did amazing sweet and sour crispy chicken, amongst many other dishes, called Angel Cafe just up the road from our hostel, and another fantastic hawker centre a few minutes walk away.
We started out by visiting Fort Cornwallis and the adjacent Lighthouse. It was a nice area to wander round, but nothing to exciting. The Fort was well preserved and had some interesting historical stories - made even more interesting by the English translations which had clearly been translated by someone who has never spoken English before
Next up was a trip to the 'legendary' Snake Temple. It really is exactly what it says on the tin - a temple where snakes roam free around the shrines. Although they struggle to roam too much, given the drugged stupor most of them appear to be in. The attached snake park was a different story. I think we were both expecting a standard walk around looking at snakes in glass cages experience - so it came as a bit of a shock to walk in and see a man kissing a King Cobra but three metres in front of us. And even more shocking was turning round to find ourselves standing in the doorway of an open cage with a python by our feet! It was the kind of place that would make Health and Safety faint - meaning it was fantastic fun
After sorting out our Thai visas, which was remarkably pain free and far easier than was made out, we took a trip to two of Georgetown's best known temples - Wat Chayamangkalaram, a Buddhist temple, and Dhammikarama Burmese Temple. Chayamangkalaram contains a massive reclining Buddha that takes up the majority of the temples area, and the walls are surrounded by shrines for each of the Chinese years (as well as for good fortune, etc) as well as memorials for people who have passed away and (presumably) donated money to the temple. As with most of the Buddhist temples we've seen so far, it was ornately decorated with statues and carvings outside and throughout the temple itself
We also paid a visit to the Penang War Museum. It was a bit more expensive than other tourist attraction on the island (although still nothing by Western standards) but was well worth it. It's basically a big, outdoors museum based around the defense complex built by the Brits before the start of WW2. It was great fun; we got to scramble around the old battlements, pose with remaining anti-aircraft guns, and walk through the underground storage areas and tunnels. Some of the tunnels were pretty creepy - we were handed a flashlight by the attendant and off we went, into a pitch-black tunnel about 5ft by 2ft
After a fantastic time in Georgetown, and Penang as a whole, it was time for us to be on our way again. We had out tickets in hand for the sleeper train to Bangkok. So we grabbed the ferry to the mainland heading for the train station and Thailand.