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Time to rediscover.....

On the streets of Georgetown, Penang

We decided that in order to rediscover a little bit more of our own adventure we needed to see more of the Penisular of Malaysia and try to find out more about it as a country. We decided we had to go to Georgetown in Penang not only because its inner city is a World Heritage site but also because it is a regular stop for backpackers and travellers alike wanting to get a bit of the Chinese and Indian influences that have shaped Malaysia.

I've found that although being spontaneous with turning up at places and finding a place to stay is fun and adventurous you have to play it smart as well and plan ahead to make the transition in a new place easier and less stressful, and by god we needed stress levels to be minimum after dealing with Sarah's illness. I have been using Agoda.com for booking accommodation and it has rarely steered me in the wrong direction. I knew from researching that to get the feel of Georgetown we needed to stay in a place within the Heritage site. A lot of reviews were giving Munturi House a good score so I booked it and was pleased with my choice. The building itself was used as reading club to promote revolutionary ideas back in 1911 and its decor had a very distinct Chinese feel to it.


Now it has to be noted that Penang is uber humid and the sun when we went was incredibly fierce, this unfortunately meant the comfort of our room was not as pleasing however it was always nice to be able to chill in the reception area and be able to walk out onto the streets and feel in the thick of it. If you go to Georgetown make sure you explore on your feet, most of time wherever you go this is always the best way to get a feel for the place you are in but this is totally true when it comes to this World Heritage site. As I mentioned before the Chinese and Indian influences are particularly present in Georgetown and you notice this as you walk through the streets because at one minute you are looking at a Chinese temple with dragons and bright red colours and then the next street a Indian temple with elephants. This is all set to a backdrop of colonial buildings which stems from the British East India trading company staking its claim to the area, more on this in a bit.


Bags unpacked and supplies ready we set off on foot to take in the scenes, it was quite early in the day and there wasn't much going on but we decided that the best plan would be to take a walking tour of our own supported by tour book and tripadvisor city guide. (I tried to act as the guide ). Before we set off we did venture around to find some food and came upon a small restaurant claiming to have 'Famous Penang Chicken'. Intrigued we took a seat as the friendly Chinese gentleman who was cooking announced his famous chicken as an option and beckoned us in. To call the dish famous was a bit of a stretch because it was half decent chicken with soy sauce and a bit of rice, not quite the razzmatazz dish I thought we might be getting based on the slogan. But a good meal nonetheless.

Departing the resturant we made our way to the museum which gives a good description of Penang and Georgetown's beginnings. Named after King George III and was founded by Francis Light who worked for the British East India trading company. Being a strategic hub for shipping between India and the East from the likes of Chinese, Francis Light with the help of the British government offered help to the Sultan of Kudah (the province that encapsulated Penang) to fight against the Thai's who were looking to invade. As part of the deal Penang was given to the British and trading was later moved from the port of Melaka on the mainland to Georgetown.

Because the Chinese were trading constantly some would end up staying on the island and today at least 60% of the population are Chinese and the other 40% is made up of Indians and Malaysians. Making our way onwards to Fort Cornwalis, the strong hold for Francis Light's military presence on the island we passed the Catholic Church, the Town Hall and a government building. The Fort itself wasn't particularly interesting and we didn't stay very long as the heat was becoming unbearable. We did manage to grab some silly photos though. After leaving the Fort we decided we needed to find some aircon so with a little perseverance we made it to the local bus stop much has a hop on bus that goes around town for free and went to the last stop which was the Komtar shopping mall.


We passed this memorial clock tower in memory of Queen Victoria on route to the bus stop. It was a gift from a Chinese businessman and one of the attractions to see whilst on Georgetown.


After a bit of shopping and a chill out we made out way back to our digs and decided we should try out Little India in the evening for a curry. At night the Little India area comes alive with music blaring out of DVD shops. We found a busy place which served some decent South Indian curry and afterwards we strolled back to our place but noticed that things had quieten down. We were ready to head back to our place and decided that tomorrow we would venture out of town to Penang Hill to get an aerial view of the island and also get some rest bite from the heat.

The next morning we asked around a bit to find the right bus stop to get to Penang Hill. It was a little confusing because we were told by the 7/11 but in Malaysia, much like Thailand, there are more than one of them in close proximity. I ended up asking the local backpacker lodgings for directions and when we knew we were in the right place for the bus it was just a waiting game.

Sarah managed to get a photo of this rather overtly decorated trishaw which had cycled past us a few times looking for business.


The bus arrived soon enough and we were fortunate that all the buses have air-con! (I've said it a couple of times, but honestly it was incredibly hot).
Driving along we got to see more of the life outside of the centre and even passed a restaurant which was preparing dumplings which reminded us of our time in China and the fun we had making them in Beijing and Xi'an.


Before we reached Penang Hill we passed Kek Lok Si temple on the hillside which had a large buddha statue. It was tricky to photo it on the move so you can't quite grasp the size but it was massive!


The Penang Hill tram has an almost identical set up to the Hong Kong tram and as we waited we were able to see how steep we would need to go.
The journey up to the top offered some excellent views of the island and Georgetown and as we reached the top we were able to see that we were 712 metres above sea level. You could instantly feel the drop in temperature which was a welcomed bonus but the sun was still beaming which made the short walk around the hill station enjoyable. We walked past a restaurant which Sarah noticed was twinned with the Olde Smokehouse in the Cameron Highlands....the prospect of tea and scones was almost unbearable for Sarah to wait for!


We walked up to the central area and there was a bizarre stall which allowed you to hang a python over your neck should that be your cup of tea. There was an old tram cart to look at and an Owl Muesum which was decided wasn't worth going into. We did however take a short walk higher up to the Indian Temple, and also took upon ourselves to walk around the small road that continued around the hill to another look out post and we watched the eagles swoop of the landscape looking for prey. There was an option to go further and see some British tourist attractions much like the ones that we found at the Cameron Highlands but we decided that tea and scones was the better option.


It was a good decision. An afternoon spent taking in the views. We even managed to message my mum a happy bday!


Earlier in the day we had bought our ferry tickets to Langkawi thinking that we had seen enough of Georgetown and it would be good to get some more beach time. It definitely felt better shaping the days as they came rather than having to plan it all ahead like we did in Borneo but we still were searching for a little bit more!

Stay tuned for more tales.


Posted by doyledan 17:02 Archived in Malaysia

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