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Doomsday in George Town, Penang

sunny 31 °C
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As today was supposed to be the end of the world we decided to see all the main sights and temples of Georgetown in one day by going on a self navigated heritge walk.

We woke late as our room has no windows so is pitch black giving you no idea to the time or whether it is the middle of the night or indeed the morning. Apart from that we had the best night sleep we have had in a while. We made the most of the breakfast provided my the guesthouse, we ate our own body weight in toast and porridge to keep us going until we went out for dinner in the evening.

First port of call was Penang Heritage Trust, who provide maps for walks around the city to see the main attractions. Unfortunately when we arrived they had sold out of maps, so we had to make do with a photocopy that they fished out of the backroom with no key on it. Out of the three walks on the map we decided on the one that took us to all the major temples through Georgetown.

Just walking the streets here is exciting. The shops and houses are old and small but the town is really busy with people, cars and motorbikes. There are signs everwhere and stalls set up selling quick meals, snacks, desserts and drinks. Also every so often whilst walking you come accross some street art, it is dotted all over the town. There are all kinds. There are metalwork sculpures set against the wall that look like pen drawings from afar and beautiful lifelike paintings of everyday people that often fill a whole wall. There are also ones that use a mixture of sculture and painting, there was one where real bike was set into a wall with two children painted on the wall as if they were riding it. We love them and its really exciting when you come accross one.

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The culture walk however did not start very well, the first stop was Penang State Musuem, which upon arrival we found out is closed on Fridays. Next was St George Church, the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia. It was an impressive building from the outside, solid white in grass grounds, and it is a good job because it was closed until 2pm. Next on the 'tour' was the 'Goddess of Mercy' Buuddist temple and in keeping with the first two sights was currently under major renovation and covered in scaffolding, apart from a make-shift room that people still used for worship.

As things couldn't get any worse we carried on to our next temple, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu Temple in Georgetown. We have seen more lavish Hindu temples before but at least it was open and not covered in scaffolding. From there we made our way to another Buddist Temple, Teochew Temple which was very ornate, decorated with dragons, Chinese text, lanterns and Chinese Art. In the rear hall was a huge room used for 'ancestral worship', where the worshipers have hundreds of tablets decroted with the names of their ancestors. It has gone through major renovation work and has being fully restored and throughout the temple they have before and after pictures, and explain the different parts of the temple, on wall plaques which is very interesting as we often don't understand the Chineese temples and what each room and shrine is for.

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The next few temples included Kapitan Keling Mosque, the largest Mosque in Georgetown and two more Buddist Temples. By this point we were all templed out and the heat was becoming unbearable. After a drink stop at a cafe we walked through the streets on a different walk on the map that took us through an old part of town where all the fronts of the houses had been restored. The old house fronts are beautiful, pastel coloured with shutter doors on the windows. Lots of the buildings have been made into galleries and nice shops in this area and we called into a couple. They had lovely paintings, prints and photographs of the streets and sigts of Penang and we browsed the shops for a while. We then visited the Chew Clan Jetty. The clan jetties are family communites built on stilts over the sea, each jetty is inhabited by one particular family and all the houses and shops are joined by wooden walkways that lead out to sea. Boats are moored up to the walkways and people have set up little stalls outside there houses for tourists to but souveneers.

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Once we couldnt stand the heat anymore we came back to the guesthouse to cool down before going back out again to go shopping as we have decided to by each other a small Christmas gift with a budget of RM5 each (£1). It took a while but we both found something and have secretly hidden them until Christmas day.

By this time we had to go collect our Thai Visa that we had applied for yesterday, thankfully there were no problems and in less than 2 minutes we were on our way back to the guesthouse with our Visa to get ready to go out for dinner. Tonight we tried Char Kway Teow, a spicy fried noodle dish with prawns and cockles that is one of many of the must-try foods of Penang, we can both see why, it was delicous. We had it with a coffee but the coffee tasted like stale fags so we ate our noodles and left the coffees as we weren't sure if the drinks man had burnt it or dropped his tab end in the pot and we didnt want to risk finding it in the bttom of one of our cups. We then went for a walk but had to turn around after 15 minutes as Chelsea had left her umbrella at the restuarant. We marched back at super speed and the nice drinks man had saved it us (maybe he felt bad for the cigarette flavoured coffee). By the time we had walked back to collect the brolly we were both done in, and decided to call it a day and go back to the guesthouse for a drink.

Posted by Chelsandliam 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Tagged town malaysia penang george Comments (2)

Flashpacking in Penang.

sunny 32 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Believe it or not today is the first time in the two and half weeks since leaving the UK that we have seen the sea. We plan to see alot more of it during our time on Penang.

We got up early (7am) and frantically packed our bags as we were too lazy to do it last night then went for breakfast before our bus arrived at 9am to take us to Georgetown, Penang. We swiftly ordered from the first stall we saw, two plates of Nasi Lemak and two coffees and ate them in record time. The bus was a nice air conditioned one and wasn't that busy apart from the seats behind us that we're taken by a crying child and his mum. About an hour into the journey we realised why he was so upset as he vomited everywhere and the crazy, bossy German mum then demanded tissues and a plastic bag from us and clicked her fingers at an elderly couple at the front and instructed them to swap seats so she could be at the front. The dad just stayed in his seat listening to his iPod. I did feel a bad for the child as the bus journey took five hours.

One we arrived in Penang we found our guest house, we booked it in advance as we assumed the Christmas period would be busy. It is the most expensive and nicest guest house we have stayed in (£8 each a night). It is in an old colonial shop that has been refurbished. The rooms are lovely and downstairs is quiet and relaxed with a fish pond, pool table and a bar. Breakfast and Wifi are included and the owner is a really nice man who sat us down with a coffee when we arrived and showed us all the sights on a map, telling us how and where to get the bus. Nothing is too much trouble for him.

After settling in our new home for the next seven days we then set off in search of buying a two month Thai visa as it is our last opportunity and as it is the Christmas period we though we would try and get it done today. We walked down a main road with lots of tour operators and guest houses. We know you can get one from the Thai embassy but didn't fancy queuing up and then waiting for it and we weren't sure of opening days/times over Xmas so we got one from a guest house and paid a bit extra. We went into banana guest house and spoke to a lady who was quite upset she had to stop browsing the internet and serve us. She just needed our passports, two photos, a copy of our passports, the money and a form signing. We pick them up tomorrow at 15.45 so fingers crossed it goes ok.

From there we took a walk around the area we are based, the streets are similar to Melaka in some ways, there are the old fashioned fronted houses with lanterns and multi-coloured shutters along with the odd colonial building scattered about. There is much more of a 'backpacker' seen here, more or less a whole street dedicated to it, but our first impressions are very good. We walked through Chinatown and Little India first as these have been our favorite areas of the other cities we have stayed. We then made our way to the nearest coast and spent some time looking out over the sea before making our way back to get washed and go out for some tea.

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We had another stroll to find some good cheap food and stumbled across a small foodcourt where we had Wanton Noodles with shredded pork. It was very nice and cost less than £2 pound for the both of us. From there we walked around again trying to find somehwere to have a drink and settled on a Reggae bar that had a happy hour (more like happy eight hours) where we sat and had a cheap beer each. We walked through Little India in the dark and were mesmerised by the vibrancy of it. The streets are filled wih lights and people sell Indian food and iced drinks from their carts. The shops blare out Indian music and the streets are perfumed with dried flowers and insense. There were lots of people walking the streets, buying food and sat lingering over coffees. It is one on the best Little India's we have seen and we can't wait to expore it more. We then came back to our guesthouse to make most of the free coffee that is included in the bill and Chelsea somehow beat Liam at pool (although she swears she has never played before.....)

We have several plans for our time on Penang, we want to see as much of the Island as possible, there is a relaxing beach day scheduled in, but tomrrow we are going to spend wandering aroung the sights of Georgetown before going to collect our Thai Visa.

Posted by Chelsandliam 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Tagged town malaysia penang george Comments (5)

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