Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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From Kuala Lumpur we took another overnight train (in a delightfully snore-free and spotlessly-clean private compartment) north to the town of Butterworth, where we caught a short ferry to the island of Penang. A few hundred years ago, Penang was run by the East India Company and was a major trading post and re-supply stop for sailing ships plying the Indian Ocean routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. In the last few centuries, its importance as a center of trade has declined dramatically since ships no longer need to stop here to take on fresh water or food stores. This has left behind a rich multicultural heritage similar to some other historic Indian Ocean ports we have visited like Singapore and Zanzibar.
Penang has much more "local flavor" than the modern and corporate Kuala Lumpur
The private compartment is definitely the way to do train travel
Penang is a cute city with a lot more "Malaysian" flavor than Kuala Lumpur. Todd was insistent on eating himself to death with 3 to 4 meals a day, as the Penang style cuisine is his "perfect food," with its unique combination of sweet and spicy as he kept repeating over and over again. I was a bit intimidated the first time we ate in a hawker center, as I was unfamiliar with most of the menu items, and each individual cart was preparing equally unknown items. I eventually got the hang of it, found some items that I loved enough to pig out with Todd... beside, I was only doing it so he wouldn't feel like such a pig... :-)
Besides eating ourselves to death, we spent a lot of time walking around (necessary to counteract the caloric intake) and checking out all the tourist sites, which included a large British Fort (okay), a renovated Chinese mansion (very interesting), and the local history museum (yawn, but Todd enjoyed it). I continue to be struck by how clean everything is and how polite the people are. And no one has tried to sell us a single thing since we arrived in Malaysia. Anyway, tomorrow we are off to the beach via a two-hour ferry ride to Langkawi. We are looking forward seeing Malaysia's "paradise."