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Published: March 15th 2009
British colonial power!
Cannon at Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown
Georgetown, Langkawi and visa problems! Sunday 15th march 2009
Visiting Georgetown was more than just visiting a city. It was a step back in time, to colonial pomp, redcoats and cannon and the intrepid exploits of the East India Company. Georgetown was the first of the Malacca Straights British strongholds to be secured for the Crown back in Georgian England, followed thereafter by Melaka and Singapore to gain complete control of this important seaway.
In1786, one, Captain Francis Light, second son of a drinking pal to King George 1, landed on the uninhabited island of Penang, thought “This’ll do me”, built a barricade, pitched his tent and within no time at all had built a fort, filled it with redcoats, stolen a huge cannon from a local sultan, and hoisted the Union Jack. Fort Cornwallis, named after the Governor General of Bengal at the time, never saw bloody action, held its strategic position with both cunning and trade, and so remains to this day the finest example of a British fort in Malaysia. Surrounded by grand colonial buildings, Indian food courts and bazaars, the alleys of Chinatown and rickshaws, it is a splendid tapestry of historic interest. Despite fearsome
Georgetown Clock Tower
Marking Queen Vic's Diamond Jubilee
high-thirties heat, our Georgetown sightseeing was most memorable.
Yesterday, we packed our rucksacks once again (they are looking suitably travel-worn now, mine even has a splendid canvas patch covering a hole in the front), and boarded the ferry for the three hour crossing to Pulau Lankawi. The sun shone on calm green and turquoise waters, as we crossed from the Straights in to the Andaman Sea. Langkawi is made up of a group of islands and we are staying on the largest, by a beautiful beach called Pantai Tengah. The hostel we are staying in is delightful, free WIFI, free tea and coffee in the communal kitchen and an “Honesty Bar’ where one helps oneself to the booze and fills in the tab! On arrival we were greeted by one of the three resident pet dogs, whose name is Bandit! What a good omen, because one of our own dogs at home in Spain is also named Bandit. This one here isn’t half as crazy as our Bandit at home, but loves a fuss and cuddle just the same. Here at Zackary’s Guesthouse, we have air con and en suite, comfy bed, a communal lounge with TV and books,
Lovely old buildings
Chinatown in Georgetown
just a little stroll to the fabulous beach, and help-yourself beach mats, umbrellas and even bicycles. Not bad for about five pounds each per night. It is such good value that it is fully booked up (which is unusual at the moment0 with pre-bookings for weeks ahead. Word gets around! The place is full of mostly young backpackers, all pretty nice so, once again, we’ve made a lucky good choice. So far, Malaysia has been tops for cheap accommodation.
We now have one hiccup with our travel plans. The Thai government have recently decided to scrap the No-Visa Entry for complicated political reasons. They did so in February and we have only just discovered the fact. We have checked the Foreign Office website for confirmation and the situation now is that one can only stay in Thailand for 15 days, unless one has gained a visa from a Royal Thai Embassy prior to entry. Malaysian islands are not exactly the place to find such establishments. One way around this problem and it is a problem that is stressing out quite a few travellers here near the Thai border, is to fly in to either Bangkok, Chang Mai, Phuket or
Cheong Fatt Tzi Mansion
"Millionnaire's Row", Georgetown
Koh Samui, where it is possible to buy the visa from the immigration offices at these four main airports. So, our plan to enter Thailand from the sea are thwarted. We are going back to Penang on Thursday and then flying. To Phuket on Friday. Unfortunately we couldn’t arrange both the ferry trip and flight on the same day, but we’ll enjoy a night in Georgetown. We just hope that the visa “goal posts” haven’t moved again between here and Friday and that we score two thirty day visas to travel through the Thai peninsular up to Bangkok. In the meantime, we have five days to enjoy Langkawi.
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