Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Penang was a fascinating blend of cultures and one big history lesson, with periods of British and Japanese occupation, and large Indian, Chinese and other SE Asian populations creating diverse foods and architecture (and everything else!). Before I sound too much like a glossy tourist brochure it also came with it's fair share of rotten smells and evil rodents!

We wandered the streets where we'd be surrounded by Chinese temples and clan houses with dragon decorated doors, only to turn a corner and find an elaborate mosque or Bollywood cinema. A few friendly locals seemed to take a liking to us. After we stumbled across Penang's cheapest little bar hidden in an alley (the beer was half the price of everywhere else!) and made ourselves comfortable at the plastic tables with a bunch of Indian guys, an old Chinese man named Lim decided to join us. He told us about his life and Penang, and if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have known about a Japanese festival that was on the following night (we went - it consisted of kimono clad girls on a stage leading the crowd in a bizarre circular dance akin to the Macarena, which everyone copied while slushing around in the mud!). Lim started shouting us beers and before we knew it we were buying each other rounds.

We ended up at a noodle stand where another local decided to make himself comfortable at our table. He insisted on paying for our dinner, then bought us beer 'in the name of friendship'. I think he just needed a sounding board, as he then proceeded to share his opinion on various political issues until he became so fired up we decided to leave him to it!

A few trishaw rides, explorations and escape-the-humidity excursions to an air-conditioned mall later, we bid farewell to Penang and bussed over to Khota Bharu on the east coast so we could head to the beautiful Perhentian Islands.
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