Day 121

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Before leaving Georgetown, Penang there were two more sights I wanted to see. First up was the Khoo Kongsi. This is a meeting place and place of worship in the heard of China Town for the Khoo clan. The clan moved from East China to Penang and quickly became one of several key clans in the area. They built this house as a place where family members could be honoured during life (by plaques noting academic success i.e. Bachelor Degrees) and after death by tablets for ancestral worship. The clan can trace their family tree back hundreds of years and are on their thirtieth generation. Each clan member's middle name actually states which generation they are from. It was nice place to look around and it felt like I was back in China for a while.

The second place I visited was Fort Cornwallis. A certain Captain Light from Suffolk was first to use Penang Island as a port and quickly turned the low populated island into a thriving port. The fort was never used in any kind of battle but was a focus for the towns administration in the early days. I took a few photos and headed off after about an hour.

I left Penang at about 12am - that meant getting back on the ferry and arriving on the mainland at Butterworth again. I wanted a bus to Taiping where I would spend the night and check out the Taiping Zoo Night Safari. I had to wait 3 hours for a bus to leave in that direction but the journey itself only took an hour.

Taiping is a grubby little town and I didn't see another westerner the whole time I was there. I found the Peking Hotel which had an ok write up in the Lonely Planet and checked in. The room was very basic and I had the feeling this whole stay in Taiping might have been a mistake.

I waited till 8pm when the zoo opens for the second time in the day and walked to it. I'd arrived too late to see it during normal daytime opening hours and had a little trouble finding it in the dark. It was a long old walk to the zoo - probably about 45 mins and just felt plain weird walking out there - no houses, no shops just roads through parkland and cars going by every now and then.

I was relieved when I finally saw it and headed for the cashier. I asked her how many punters were in tonight and she said about 30 which was encouraging at least! If she'd have said 3 I might have walked back home again. It turned out the 30 were all Malaysians and they had all boarded a shuttle train which would whizz them around the zoo and give commentary in Malaysian. That left me on my own to walk round a zoo in the dark not sure whether I'd visited all the bits, or what exactly I was looking for!

To its credit I did enjoy what I saw - lots of nocturnal animals being fed and just doing their own thing in the evening. Taiping Zoo has many nocturnal species and that's why they had the idea to open at night. If I saw a light on, I would head for it, and then squint at the sign to read what was in the cage! Highlights were the Malaysian Flying Foxes (Large Fruit Bats), Leopard Cats, African Lions feeding, Chimpanzees, and Malaysian Bears.

I left the zoo feeling like I'd done something a bit different and walked the 45 minutes to the hotel. My pictures were really bad so I'll just upload one or two to give you the idea of it!
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