Penang, Malaysia


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Asia » Malaysia » Penang » George Town
December 31st 2009
Published: April 12th 2011
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This entry is LONG over due....but never late than never right?

So we left the bright airy life in Singapore on January 1st and flew back up to Malaysia to take in Penang and had what has to be the best airplane food I've ever eaten. Or maybe I'm just biased because Malaysian food has got to be my second favorite ethnic food now. I just can't stop dreaming of it when I've got this craving for ethnic food. Where did all my hawker centers go? All those amazingly good choices that didn't involve a burger, fries, or hotdogs. How I miss you crazy delicious food.

Penang is an island on the Northeast coast that is famous for it's food and colonial architecture. Full of bright colors and striking whites against a sea backdrop, Penang is not only a historical city, but a beautiful one. Trees sway in the distance while the rest of the city bakes in the hot sun. Amy and I got through customs and made it to our hotel with only a slight problem of our taxi not knowing exactly where it was, just the general area where it should have been. When we got to our hotel, I have to admit I was crazy surprised at how wonderful it was. Amy booked us in an old Malay traders mansion. It was stuffed with antiques, big rooms and moonlighted as a rickshaw storage area. Shockingly green and brow, we never had problems finding it. The Segara Ninda comes highly recommended by yours truly!

George Town is full of slowly fading paint and food. Walking around the city kinda gives you a gray feeling. Like an old black and white film, it leaves you with a view of another time and generation that's struggling to keep it's relevance in this modern world. The city center of George Town gave me that feeling. Colors fading and paint peeling as clicks of a camera turn it into a digital memory. The center is slow moving, like molasses, where people aren't in any kind of hurry to get from point A to point B. Where local buses don't go on a set schedule and people loiter in cafes to pass the time. Just the kind of South Asian experience we are all looking for. Where all you have to do is walk down the street to find good seafood and cold beer.

Day 2

We finally moved on the next day and took the bus into Kek Lok Si Temple. Taking the bus in Penang is actually quite fun. The routes go all over the island and heavily used by the locals, so you never go when your going to end up with a lady taking a chicken to market or the youngsters pulling out their Nokia's with some crazy ringtone blaring out of it.

A maze of souvenir stalls turns the hike up to the temple into a rather claustrophobic, but entertaining, adventure. Put off all your souvenir shopping until now? No problem! You can find anything you want on the way up. Tea, shirts, candy, toys for those neighbors kids are all right in reach. People will come to you get the sale.

After a brief break feeding the turtles in the rather sad looking pond that looks to have been built there on purpose and passing through some more respectable looking shops and restaurants, you get to Kek Lok Si. The temple is an absolutely beautiful white and orange turret that shots up in the sky overlooking George Town. Amy and I spent a good bit of time walking around the turret and grounds. You can take a cable car up to the very top where a huge statue is being built. Amazing views of George Town and the surrounding hills made the temple a big memory maker for me.

After discovering that we had more than enough hours left in our day, we decided to be ambitious and head further around the island to a Tropical Fruit Farm. We got on the bus heading to Teluk Bahang and hoped for the best. We got to the end of the road, and discovered that it was't exactly where we needed to me, so we walked back toward the main road, find a roundabout and started walking. There is a rather popular butterfly farm on the road and lucky for us, there were a couple taxi drivers that were just sitting out front waiting for passengers. We went up to one and he radioed another driver that would take us there, wait during the tour and drive us back to the bus stop afterward. I admit, I was really uneasy about this deal of ours. I felt like it was an easy way for us to get ripped off. I mean really, how was I going to remember the amount we agreed to after exploring a fruit farm? But Amy was determined and it was really her choice of destination, so I went along with it and hoped for the best.

It was one of the best decisions of the trip.

The farm is situated way up high in the forest. We just kept going up and up this windy road, passed the local teenage hang out spot by the dam and just kept going higher. The air was crisp, fresh, and it was a sea of green up there. Tours were easy to get on and they included a free fruit sampling. There were all kinds of crazy fruit there. It went from pretty normal, like dragon fruit, to some crazy apply type things, to cinnamon trees, to giant durian. It was just an hour or so of walking around and learning. The farm isn't actually a working farm. It's set up to be an educational farm and teach people about the local tropical fruits and what can actually grow out there. The funniest part of the trip was that our tour guide thought that Amy and I, the most American sounding Americans you'll ever find, were Australian. He often mentioned Australia and that durian is actually grown in Australia. We just kinda nodded our heads and moved along. One of the things I learned while we were there was that most white tourists were actually Australian and that when most Malaysians see a white person, it's automatically assumed that your Australian. Just a heads up.

The next day was our returning to KL by bus day. I have to say, that our bus was pretty awesomely green inside. I laughed the whole way back. Between the green and the bouncing of the bus I was having a gay old time. Amy, on the other hand, was trying to keep from getting motion sick. We stopped at this wonderful rest stop where I got this great bag of what I believe to be star fruit covered in a brown sugar type powder. Absolutely delicious. Wish rest stops in American had those types of venders.

The return flight was pretty early the next morning and we had crazy amounts of time to get through customs and loiter around the airport. It was a rude shock to get back to Japan and find out that it was actually cold there. Why can't I live in the Southern Hemisphere all the time?



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