Penang (14th to 17th March)
Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
87Trip End Dec 29, 2008
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We decided to explore Georgetown on foot, setting off on the Heritage Food Trail, through the old town, expecting to stop and eat at various places on the way that are marked on the map as specialties of Penang. Not one of the food venues on the 2 hour walk was open. Next, we decided to walk the Heritage Trades Trail, also estimated at 2 hours, guiding walkers around the traditional specialist trades such as beaded slipper makers, joss stick makers, fortune tellers, rattan weavers etc, but again, not one of these was open
There are many temples and mosques in Georgetown, but two of the temples are particularly worthy of a mention:
Tien Kong Than, is an old chinese temple, built in 1801. Bizarre in a number of ways -a) the massive pink joss sticks outside b) a slightly manic madman who wanted to be in all our photos (and managed it! ) and kept telling us that the temple was 208 years old and asking us "where you come from?" without realising that he had already gone through this routine not 5 minutes previously, c) the signs inside the shrine telling you to BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS (the only place in Malaysia that actually hints there might be crime around).
Cheah Kongsi, another Chinese temple, is built in the typical Penang style, which apparently means that it is a hybrid between a chinese temple and a colonial bungalow (and it really was!). The building had all the residential rooms you would expect - kitchen, bedroom, lounge, games rooms (complete with mahjong set up) and then in the centre of the building upstairs a huge temple space
Gurney Drive is a long, long road which runs along the water front and is one of many examples of Penang "mixing it up". As you start at one end, the area is a bit like Bournemouth with waterfront apartments for the older generation, these give way to Victoria Beckham style shops, which in turn are next to the famed food stalls (think fairground style!) which were in front of tall 1960s apartment blocks in the style of Luton, and then right at the end of the cape, were cul de sac houses in the style of Solihull (for any non British reader none of these are famous for their brilliant architecture!) .
Despite how this entry reads, we did have some great meals in Penang, especially the local specialty of Penang Noodles, (Penang does not seem to be full of imagination when it some to naming restaurants, for example we ate at a restaurant called "Ribs" - where we ate ribs. Although some other restaurants sounded far less appetizing - "Greasy Fatty Chicken Restaurant" and "Economy Rice". Food tends to be either Chinese or Indian (much like the places of worship and the general population).
Alcohol is three times the price here than in Langkawi and the reason we now know is that the duty free status previously enjoyed in Penang was switched to Langkawi in the 1970s.
After calling ahead on our new Malaysian mobile, we managed to get booked in to the highest rated guest house on the internet, but only on the basis of a shared bathroom
As it turned out a great place to stay..
Our next planned stop is Kuala Lumpur.