A Bit of Colonial influence of days gone by!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Friday, February 25, 2011

The flight from Phuket was good - check-in pretty straightforward.  In the plane I was sitting next to a journalist who hailed from Germany but has been living and making a living in Bangkok for over 20 years.  He was a most interesting man, who writes travel guides for different parts of Thailand for German and Scandinavian tourists.  He spent the flight time giving me some very good advice on things to do - off the beaten track - out of Bangkok, and made some notes for me so, even my flight time was productive!!  His information will, hopefully, come in useful if I return to Thailand at a future date - in the meantime, it will all be stored away in my notes!

I flew with an airline called Firefly, part of Malaysian airways, and part of the deal was a free transfer from the airport into the city - about 30 to 45 mins depending on traffic.  I then to a taxi to my hotel, which was well situated for sightseeing.  On arrival at the hotel, I was met by really friendly and helpful staff.  I had previously contacted an optician Patrick Ong -  again he came with a recommendation - who picked me up from my hotel and took me to his shop for an eye test and fitting etc.  I picked out the frames and sorted out the lenses with him - paid my money and picked them up today (1st March) after a final fitting - they are perfect - again, really high quality and a lot less than home prices.  Patrick's service was excellent - coffee provided when I arrived at his shop - the day after I had the appointment he sent a beautiful cake to my hotel as a gift!!  Can you imagine that happening at home?  You have heard about service with a smile - well, he had it in spades!

Since last Friday - with enormous thanks to Rod and Wendy, who paved the way for me - I have spent my time as follows:

25th Feb - evening arrival - glasses fitting - dinner and bed

26th Feb - went to Chew Jetty and saw the local fishermen and their village and life - then took a hop on, hop-off bus all around the city to get an overview of the place. Took a bus up to Batu Ferrenghi and visited Lone Pine Hotel, where my friend Ian had stayed, back in the 60's when this was the only hotel in this area - a real colonial feel to the place.  It has been closed for 2 years and re-opened last November, with the addition of more bedrooms and other facilities, but all the original parts have been restored to their former glory.  I had a light lunch there,  after having a guided tour of the place - taking some pics for my friend back home, so he can see how it has changed since his days there.  It is now owned by the Eastern and Oriental group, who own the Grand Dame on the waterfront of Penang.

I then went back to the hotel, showered and changed for evening buffet dinner at The "Grand Dame" the Eastern and Oriental Hotel - again on the advice of Rod - wonderful food and an amazing hotel.  This had to be booked two weeks previous as it is very popular.  This hotel seems to be favoured by Brits and other Europeans.  It is a very elegant place with excellent service and attention to detail - however, it comes with a hefty price tag, as you would expect - especially for locals - comparable to London prices.

On Sunday, I found the Catholic church (St. Francis Xavier) and went to 10 am Mass there.  Would you believe, the people who were sitting at the next table to me at lunch at the Lone Pine Hotel, were sitting in front of me at church!!  He tapped me on the shoulder and said "I wondered if you would be here" this morning?  Again, this Church was obviously built by the British and is very colonial in style - a beautiful setting also.  After Mass, I visited Cheong Fat Zse mansion for a guided visit.  This Mansion was one of the homes of a very prosperous business man - the interior came from materials brought from Scotland (intricate decorated tin panels, British tiles from Staffordshire for all the flooring and Chinese wood and lacquering work.  I was there for about one and a half hours.  The place now doubles as a boutique hotel, to help with the upkeep costs of the place, because when the old man died the place was left to his 2 year old son - trustees took over the running of it and "lost" all the money in the trust fund - how?  Greed, fraud, etc etc - no one knows exactly where it all went.  It is now owned by an architect who bought it and restored it, but all the furniture was put in containers and shipped to Melbourne, Australia by the family.

On Monday, again on the advice of my trusted friend Rob, I hired a taxi and guide, who picked me up from my hotel at 10 am and planned the whole day for me - based on the things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see.  We started off by going to see a Thai and an Indian Temple - I will write in their names later as I do not have the correct spelling with me!  The Ch.... Temple with the Reclining Buddha was the most interesting.  I spent about an hour in these two temples.  My next stop was a Batik Craft Shop where I saw the staff hand-painting material for scarves, dresses, sarongs, curtains etc.  They were beautifully decorated - a real work of art.  Then on to the Botanical Gardens.  As it was beginning to swelter, I decided to avail of the little train-like trolley, to carry me and just spent the time admiring all the species of trees, plants (Annette, eat your heart out!) greenhouses, orchids etc etc.  Needless to say, I took lots of pics.

We next went to see organic orchards, a waterfall (not very full as not the rainy season), through the Penang National Park, up into the mountains, and finally to Kek Lok Si - a wonderful temple, where I spent over an hour, wandering around in amazement.  There were loads of steps to climb at this place and I was absolutely shattered by the time I left there - it is the humidity that will get you every time.  I never thought a cold shower would be such a welcome luxury!!  We got back to the hotel at about 4 pm after a most interesting and enjoyable day.  I can fully recommend this guide - at RM20 per hour it was excellent value.

!st March - up early and down to China Town and the Indian market to see how all the locals operate and go about their day.  It was a perfect time of the day - sun not yet up and a nice breeze blowing.  I have been experimenting with foods where the locals eat - and I have had lots of help and advice on what to try!  It has been a great experience but, my adventure with chopsticks has been a disaster - if I was depending on feeding myself by use of chopsticks I would either be here this time next week still eating the same meal OR my weight loss programme would be in new territory!!  Maybe, I should persevere and go home a new svelte trim woman - on second thoughts, that would take a miracle!!  I also went to see some of the Clan Houses today - again names escape me - but will fill you in later.

Tomorrow, I fly from Penang to Kuching for my foray into Borneo - more new pastures.  I will continue this when I am about to leave Kuching on 7th March.  
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Steve on

Hi Brigid - it all sounds wonderful and glad you are enjoying it. I would persevere with the chop sticks if I was you!
I am off to Salt Lake City on Thursday - can't wait to see them all.
Take care - love from Steve

Roseanne on

Hi Brigid, It all sounds very exciting and exhausting you'll need a rest when you get home. It certainly makes my 9 days golf in sunny Spain sound very dull, but i enjoyed it. Looking forward to your next entry.
Regards Roseanne.

harry on

keep going girl, enjoy it and keep us updated , love sheelagh and harry

Malcolm MacLaren on

Practice makes perfect! Hunger would help concentration...so practice picking up coffee beans with chopsticks. Once mastered... Linda was made to do this by her Japanese host family. Trip sounds fascinating. Malcolm

Maureen on

Spoke to Wendy this morning she enjoyed Penang as well. Sounds lovely and hot, freezing playing golf today!! Wish I was meeting you in Borneo. Have a good time Maureen X

sheila on

glad you enjoyed penang. Tony and I vcalled there when we sailed home from Hong Kong. Also went to Port Swettenham, K.L. too. Did you go to the Batu caves. We were impressed by three different religious establishements side by side along the main drag from the port where the ship was berthed. We were followed for about half hour by a rickshaw bloke waiting for us to get tired of walking!! he gave up in the end. Carry on enjoying your trip and look forward to next episode.

Norma & Jim on

We are really envious of your trip to Penang as it is one of Jim's favourite places and we hope to return sometime. You are now going on to Borneo which we loved. We went on a Bliss holiday there and we all would return tomorrow if it wasn't so far away. The guys really enjoyed the golf! Getting on the course at 6.30am was ideal. Look forward to your nexgt report.

Rod & Wendy on

Great blog Brigid - captured the feelings we had for Penang - we couldn't find the Batik factory though we tried - The Lone Pine did a similar buffet to the E & O but on alternate Saturdays.
xx Rod & Wendy

matt howard on

Alright nan been keeping up to date with your travals sounds amazing im very jealous.Hope your safe and well and continue having fun cant wait for your next blog on your great adventure loads of love matt xxx

Alice on

A day of rain is keeping me in, catching up on emails.  We thought of you when we did the Manley Scenic Walk, in both directions, and walking to Glenelg a couple of days ago.  We are loving Australia as much as ever.   Enjoy your travels too.

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