Exploring George Town

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February 22nd 2019
Published: February 25th 2019
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The next few days in George Town were much less hectic as we paced ourselves in the heat. The gorgeous Peranakan Mansion was first on the sightseeing list. I saw it last trip but as a couple we visited the Blue Mansion then but I felt that this was much more elaborate and wanted Jerry to see it.

The mansion is typical of an affluent Baba a century ago and offers the visitor a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle, customs and traditions of that time. The furniture was heavily gilded or inlaid with mother of pearl. The houses were full of imported European china and glassware, English floor tiles and Scottish carvings. The house included some beautiful stained glass windows and minutely detailed wooden Chinese screens.

We were particularly interested in the large collection of life sized porcelain naked baby figurines. These were given by presents to pregnant Nyonyas as it was though that if they looked at them during their pregnancy their unborn child would be more likely to have whiter skin tone and more Western features.

The museum also housed the Straits Jewellery Museum - a treasure trove of gold and fabrics and some amazing wedding hairpins. A bride wears her hair in a tall tight topknot and it is pierced with up to 100 jewelled hairpins and jewellery pieces. It is a wonder she could stand - with the weight of her head piece combined with the gilt embroidered wedding robe. We were told that she couldn’t lift her head up high due to the weight but that was ok as she was meant to keep her eyes downcast at all times in front of her husband. Another interesting fact we discovered was that gold and diamond jewellery was exchanged for silver and pearls during mourning.

Another day we caught the free shuttle from our hotel to their sister resort at Batu Ferringhi. We followed the beach which was lined with shopping malls and high rise unit blocks. I explored their book exchange, finding a new release I’ve been wanting to read (win) whilst Jerry enjoyed the swimming pool. I curled up in the shade with my book, a salad and cold drink and happily passed a few hours.

Next morning we took a taxi to the Chaoyang Mangalaram Buddhist Temple, a Thai Buddhist temple built in 1845. This temple is home to a Reclining Buddha and houses a large Columbarium where the ashes are stored in beautiful engraved Chinese porcelain jars. The Buddha is 108 feet long and not as resplendent as the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. The exterior of the building is lovely and I think much of the mirrored mosaics must have been recently replaced as they were simply glowing in the sunlight. The three dragons lining the balustrades were stunning.

Across the road from the Thai temple was another lovely temple - the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, built in 1805, is the only Burmese temple and also the oldest Buddhist temple on Penang Island. This temple was heavily gilded and enclosed a beautiful standing Buddha and some very fine wooden carvings.

Malaysia is a multicultural country with an interesting mix of religions and cultures which mostly live together in harmony and with respect for each other’s beliefs and traditions. It is fascinating to see the mix of dress - a hajib wearing young woman chatting to another wearing tiny shorts and a T-shirt, incense burning next to the mosque and sari clad ladies stepping over the shoes scattered on the footpath outside of the small street mosques. Stores sell wooden carvings of Ganesh next to bronze Buddhas, across the road from shops selling the Koran. Last night we were at a Buddhist temple performance when the Muslim call to prayers could be heard over the loud speakers of the mosque nearby. They waited a few minutes before restarting their performance, acknowledging that they respected the privilege that people were allowed to follow their own beliefs.

Our next stop was Penang Colonial Museum - though well within walking distance of the Burmese Temple - the midday heat made a taxi trip the only option. It was a wonderful old house and a very interesting tour. The house itself only had two main rooms - they were surrounded by large open verandah rooms where most of the day to day living took place. The two internal rooms were bedrooms. The kitchen was a separate small house. The highlight if the tour for me were the stunning stained glass windows that were on display. The colours were vivid and jewel like, particularly as they were back lit.

We’ve enjoyed spending the evenings wandering the streets - it is cooler (slightly) and the streets are very pretty as many are strung with red lanterns and coloured lights. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is beautiful at sundown. It was built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers - troops from the East India Company. We enjoy hearing the call to prayer from the mosques‘ minarets.There are many small neighbourhood mosques - you identify them from the dozens of pairs of shoes scattered outside them on the footpath.

Hotel Jen was a great place to stay. The hotel foyer is always buzzing with people. There is a spa across the road where I had a great massage one evening. We’ve been enjoying eating in the evening at the hawker stalls or food halls. Jerry is loving a Tiger beer or two at the end of the day and I’ve found a cider I’m enjoying. We’ve had the best breakfast’s ever at Yin’s Sourdough Bakery every morning. They make a strong flat white and the fluffiest scrambled eggs, plus all their own breads, hams and relishes. We’ve had a couple of interesting desserts. We laughed about Jerry’s dragon balls - ice cream enclosed in crushed cordial soaked ice. A lot of the desserts include sweet corn which is slightly odd to our taste.

Additional photos below
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Another typical dessertAnother typical dessert
Another typical dessert

Crushed ice and cordial, ice cream, jelly balls, sweet beans, sweet corn and fruit

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