Penang - a Melting pot of cultures
Trip Start Nov 30, 2009
142Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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We've had a great time over the past couple of weeks scouring the Helpx.net website for possible places to help out here in Malaysia, but also in Australia and New Zealand. With accommodation prices in Oz being about 4 times what we’ve been used to in Asia we’re definitely going to need to find ways keeping costs down if we want to have any hope of having any money left in the budget for trips to the barrier reef etc. Luckily there are hundreds of willing hosts on the Helpx site, so we’ve now got ourselves sorted to help on a farm here in Malaysia, a vineyard in Western Australia and a cattle station in Northern Queensland
We left Langkawi by ferry to Penang, just over 2.5 hours by fast ferry. I think the people who run the ferry company must have a slightly warped sense of humour as the selection of on board movies was Poseidon, followed by the Perfect Storm. Great, just what you want to see while you’re stuck on a boat, movies about disasters involving people stuck on boats! Kept one eye on the horizon for rogue waves until we were safely docked in Georgetown and made a quick note of the emergency exits and lifejacket procedure just in case!
With a history of immigration from China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and of course Europe Georgetown is a real melting pot of cultures
The tourist association here in Penang really has its act together in terms of free maps and information. There is a fantastic food leaflet that highlights all the traditional dishes of the region and tells you what they are made of and where you can find them. Takes some of the guess work out of trying to figure out what some of the street food is and for once means we can order with confidence instead of just pointing and hoping! Wish we could have had one of these for each country we visited so we could have some idea what some of the delicious things we’ve eaten actually were.
On our second night in the city we allowed ourselves to be charmed by a friendly trishaw driver (a three wheeled bike with the seat at the front the same as the cyclos of Vietnam) and took his recommendation for somewhere to eat
Decided to extend our sightseeing beyond the city and caught a local bus to visit a newly refurbished heritage home, Suffolk House that used to belong to Francis Light. He was very important to the development of Penang as a major commercial hub within Asia, opening up trade routes with the rest of the world. Proved to a real hidden gem, beautiful house, that has been restored from the brink of total dereliction. They haven’t had a big launch as yet and are not included on any of the tourist’s maps or literature so only gets a handful of visitors. One of the staff took the time to come out of her office and told us all about the restoration project, the history of the house and their future plans. Very impressed when we told her we were National Trust members as they had acted as consultants on the project and she even offered to give us a discount.
Stop two of the day was to visit a huge temple complex known as Kek Lok Si temple. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and sprawls its way up a hill via narrow staircases and a rather high tech funicular lift. They continue to add to the temples and are currently building a giant statue and pagoda at the top of the hill
With our birthdays coming up we decided it might be time to treat ourselves to a slap up meal as an early celebration. Somehow we’ve managed to schedule ourselves voluntary work on both of our birthdays, not great planning, but just seems to be the way things have panned out. Kev has an unfulfilled ambition of eating in a revolving restaurant, and so was delighted to spot one overlooking the bay in Georgetown. Arrived at 7 which was perfect timing for the sunset buffet, great views over the city as the sun went down, including watching 2 huge cruise ships making their way into the port. Revolving while eating took a bit of getting used to, as the wall and window next to me stayed static while the floor and our table moved. The buffet was also stationary, meaning if you took slightly too long to make up your mind and dish up you moved along and left the dish behind! Slightly scary moment when I realised the strap from my handbag had almost slipped down the gap between the moving floor and the wall and was about to jam the mechanism! Could have been interesting!