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Published: October 28th 2012
The journey to George Town was pretty effortless, 5 hours on an air conditioned coach and dropped right in the middle of the city. Travellers really are well served by the various transport networks over here.
The hotel we had booked, 1926 Heritage Hotel, is spot on. Just outside of the mayhem of the very centre, nice big room with balcony overlooking the swimming pool (which is needed given the afternoon temperatures in the mid 30's).
We've spent the last couple of days mooching round the city, which is designated a World Heritage Site. Lots of evidence of its history and ethnicity. As with other places we visited plenty to see related to its colonial past and to the impact of the Chinese and Indian immigrants, which have been central to the city's evolution. Yesterday was spent walking round the colonial district, Little India and China Town. Lots of care being taken to preserve those distinct areas within the growing city.
George Town is highly regarded for its range and quality of food and we tried to explore that. First night we enjoyed a Steamboat. This is like a sort of hotpot which is placed on a small cooker on your table . It contains a broth into which you drop a mixture of foods to cook, these include chicken, sea food, vegetables. Getting the food out using chopsticks is a bit of fun, not to mention messy, so only go for one of these if you have a spare Tshirt. I had initially thought that this was a modern invention for the benefit of entertaining tourists but Wikipedia ( so it must be true) says that its origins go back over 1000 years.
Last night we ate a South Indian banana leaf curry. This consists of a range of vegetable dishes, rice and your choice of meat, all presented on a banana leaf (around 18 inches by 12 inches). Apparently apart from looking pretty and saving on the washing up the reason behind this dish is that the heat of the food melts the waxy covering to the banana leaf, which in turn allows the release of chemicals which enhance the natural flavours of the food. I can't say much about the release of chemicals, but I can testify to the release of sweat from my head - it was a pretty spicey meaty bit. To add to the food experience though we were very pleasantly surprised when a local band set up in the restaurant. Even more surprised when they started up - they were a country and western band. So we were eating our curry off a banana leaf, sweating and singing along to rhinestone cowboy and Joleen and other faves. What's more the band even looked the part - ageing, long hair, denims.
Today we finished up our historical tour then headed to the cool of Starbucks to hide from the heat for a while. A once refreshed we headed out to Panang Hill, just on the outskirts of the city. A vernicular railway whisked us up some 750 metres and gave a great viewpoint to look out over the city, the island of Penang and over to the mainland.
Tomorrow we have a 05.30 pick up to get us to the ferry, which takes us to the train to Kuala Lumpor from where we fly home tomorrow evening. Cruising back through the time zones means we arrive back at London Gatwick at around 06.30 on Tuesday. Time to put the shorts and Tshirts away and get out the winter woollies, methinks.
The photograph shows the bestbwaybto get around the old city.
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