Gorgeous Georgetown

Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pinang,
Saturday, December 5, 2009

If Alor Star was a glimpse into multi-cultural, multi-religious Malaysia, then Penang totally cemented Malaysia's place in our hearts as a melting pot. We got a 3 hour bus from Alor Star to Butterworth. We had thought we'd be able to get a bus right onto the island, considering it's connected to the mainland by a 13.5km long bridge, but as it turns out it was straight-forward enough to hop off the bus, onto the 50p ferry and then onto the free shuttle bus that does a circuit around Georgetown.

We spent a few days wandering around the streets soaking up the different cultures that change as you turn every corner. The old town of Georgetown has Unesco World Heritage Status, and is full of little streets lined with colonial buildings. Little India has some excellent street food, wonderful 'stretched' tea - poured from a height and served with sweet condensed milk. As we wandered past the sari shops there were smells of sandlewood and the sound of bollywood movies. In Chinatown I was fascinated by the tiny hardware shops stacked full of boxes and drawers overflowing with nuts and bolts, just like my Dad's garage.

In the colonial heart of the town we visited the excellent Penang museum, for a background on how Malays, Baba-Nonyas, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and British all came together to shape Penang island. We past St George's church, the town and city halls and walked around Fort Cornwallis (and had our photos taken next to Captain Light).

We passed the Kapitan Keling mosque, the Indian Sri Mariamman temple and the Chinese temple of Kuan Yin Teng, all on the same street about 2 minutes walk between them. We also had a good look around an old Chinese clan house, Khoo Kongsi. Which was very beautifully decorated and had an interested exhibition downstairs. Upstairs there were plaques showing where the family members had studied, we found a couple who went to Bath Uni, but none for Middleborough !

Twice we walked along the sea front down Gurney Drive to the huge Gurney Plaza, for some retail therapy (window shopping) and all-you-can-eat Korean Buffet at Seoul kitchen (amazing food until the Durian ice-cream - we thought it was vanilla - yuck). We bought xmas hats and felt really festive, every shop is decorated with tinsle and trees and playing classic cheesy Christmas tunes.  We also found a second-hand book shop into the Chowrasta market and finally bought the latest Lonely Planet for Malaysia and Singapore - we bargained the bookseller down by 50%. We are getting better!

The choice of cuisine in Georgetown is as wide as any big city, we ate great cheap street food, proper Japanese at an Izakaya, steak and mushroom pie at an irish pub and twice ate huge Indian curries with mango lassis at Marharaja. We walked to the Eastern & Oriental Hotel with the intention of taking Tiffin on the lawn, but we felt too shabby in our old holey clothes and settled for a nosey around the reception instead.

We stayed at the Hotel Mingood, which had large rooms with a bath and shower, a huge fridge, tv and aircon (all things we have really come to appreciate after Thai Bungalows). Breakfast was huge and was served on the roof terrace with a view over the town, Penang Hill and across the sea to the mainland.  Oh and there was free wifi and ESPN for Paul to watch Birmingham winning game after game:)
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