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Published: March 2nd 2019
We spent a quiet night in the hotel, escaping a bad electrical storm and some very heavy rain. Hopefully the humidity would ease but that was too much to expect as it was just as steamy when we went out to Yin’s for breakfast next morning. We spent some time later in the day wandering the shops - they all seemed to open at odd times. We were looking for some more of the street art but it was either hard to find or painted over. A large cat, featured on many of the postcards, had actually been painted over. You could see the shadow of the painting and it had a painted condolence note written on the wall beside it. I think Toowoomba in Australia, where I live, has much more vibrant street art than Georgetown. However trying to find it gives you a reason to explore the streets and look at the interesting architecture. And there were certainly plenty of tourists doing just that. Another evening I enjoyed a long massage at the spa across from the hotel.
Next morning after breakfast we went to the Chowrasta Markets. The usual kaleidoscope of colour and frenetic movement. The front
of the market was lined with colourful trays of candied fruit. Then the cement butchers area which was being washed out with hoses when we were there. Behind them were the cages of live birds, being slaughtered as you bought them. They were sold by weight - it must be quite a knack to weigh a bird intent on escape. One hapless creature took off whilst we were there, only to be dragged back out from under the bench by the stall owner.
Upstairs was full of stalls of cheap clothes and T shirts and many stalls full of piles of second hand books. None were particularly cheap and most were very old and yellowed. We then wandered down to the iconic historical hotel, The Eastern and Oriental. The old hotel will be closed for total renovation in a few days and it does need it as it was looking very faded and grubby in places. The new wing built beside it though was very plush - that will obviously remain open whilst the other is closed. We were planningto have a drink there but it was very quiet (nobody was around) so decided to find somewhere else with
a bit more life.
We caught the bus back out to the beach area and enjoyed a stroll along the beachfront. There were many jet skis and parasails on the water and the beach was lined with massage shacks. We bought drinks from the hotel later (after I had swapped my book again at their book exchange) and enjoyed them in the gardens as the sun went down. We wandered out onto the main beach road to see the night markets but they were stall after stall all selling the same cheap T-shirt’s etc. Dinner at one of the restaurants was followed by a bus ride back to the cool of our hotel. After dark it is not any less hot - more humid if possible.
We hadn’t visited Khoo Kongsi, one of the oldest clan houses and definitely the most elaborately decorated. Luckily we were there on the weekend of the monthly light festival where the outside is illuminated and performances take place on the opera stage which faces the front of Khoo Kongsi. It looked spectacular lit up, the gilt work was glowing and the detail was accentuated. We couldn’t enter the main temple but planned
to return in daylight hours before we left the city.
Khoo Kongsi is the grandest clan temple in Malaysia and is renowned for it’s beautiful internal murals, carvings and gilt work. The clan house consists of offices, the main ornate temple, an opera stage and 62 shophouses. All set around a granite paved courtyard. It was built in 1851, and rebuilt in 1901 after catching fire from a lightning strike and burning to the ground.
Next day we visited the HIN Bus Depot art gallery area. On a Sunday morning once a month a handmade market is held there. It was close to our hotel and is actually an old bus depot, constructed in 1947 in the Art Deco style, which is a rare form of architecture in Penang. It was a lovely market, interesting stalls and great food and music. All in a very interesting venue, with lots of shady trees and some fun street art on the old concrete walls and outbuildings.
On our last day in the city we hired a driver to take us for a circular drive around the island. First stop was at Penang Floating Mosque. We had visited on a
previous trip to Georgetown and saw it soon after it was built. A very large mosque, surrounded on three sides by ocean. It was cool inside, with the softest carpet underfoot. The large screened panels which formed the exterior helped draw the breeze through. They have relaxed the rules re dress now, previously we both had to wear full floor length robes and head coverings. This time they were happy with our short sleeves and three quarter trousers. I just had to wear a head scarf. And I’m sure the door attendant was the same man...
Next stop was a pleasant walk around the Spice Garden. Probably overpriced but it was cool under the trees and they had a great seated swing that went out over the trees which we had fun on.
We planned to spend some time walking through the Penang National Park - and did until the perspiration took over and we decided that we had nothing to prove so went back to the air conditioned car. The footpath followed the ocean edge but there were certainly no sea breezes getting through the thick undergrowth.
A pleasant drive followed into the centre if the
island. It was heavily forested and quite steep in places. We drove down into the valley to Balik Palau, an agricultural town established in 1794 by the British East India Company. Today cultivation of nutmeg, cloves and durians is the main industry. It is very busy between May and August (durian season) particularly attracting many Chinese visitors who love the quality and variety of durians grown here. They pay very high prices for the fruit and the farmers make more then enough money to live comfortably on until the next durian season.
Pretty country and we passed some very large houses, built by the British and now lived in by local officials and many smaller Malay style old wooden houses. We left Penang next day feeling much more relaxed than we had arrived. A week of some sightseeing, a lot of reading in airconditioning
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