Friday, 7 November 2014

Here in Penang

A big highlight of Penang for us was the food but I’ve written about that here so I won’t repeat myself.

Our visit did not start very well. After a 12 hour trip which involved two mini-vans and a car (luxury!) we were dropped right in the heart of backpackers-ville on Penang.

In colonial times, Penang Island was an important outpost of the British Empire and the bustling city which sprung up has kept it's colonial name: Georgetown. These days Georgetown is a UNESCO heritage sight. However, none of this rich history commands that money exchanges must stay open beyond 9pm. So, we found ourselves in the middle of the hustle and bustle with no Ringit (Malaysian currency) and our preferred guest house full to the brim.

However, in the middle of Georgetown there is an abundance of cheap and cheerful places to crash. The very next place we tried had rooms free and were very understanding about our currency issues. They took some Thai Baht as a guarantee and we crashed onto our beds and fell asleep.

The next day we we spent our time just walking around the city, hiding from the searing sun when possible during the morning, and then sheltering from the afternoon rain in the "kaki lima" of the famous Penang shop houses.

This street art is dotted around Georgetown. Made of black metal each one tells an interesting fact about Penang.

Wondering the streets of Georgetown allows you to appreciate a rich array of smells, colours, cultures and religions. As well as the native Malay (who are primarily Muslim) there are also prominent Chinese, Hindu Indian and Muslim Indian communities.

Tired from the heat, the wet and the walking we sloped back to our guesthouse and re-charged before heading out for a delicious dinner. Again, see here for more details!

 The clan jetties are where generations of Chinese Malaysians have lived and worked and a fascinating to wander round.

On our second and final day on Penang we were up at the crack of dawn and on a bus to Penang Hill by 7am - we were on a mission to climb the peak by lunchtime! We kicked off our walk just before 8 and after 20 minutes of walking up steep steps we were rewarded by this view as we listened to the call to prayer sounding out over the city. It was a beautifully peaceful moment and made us so glad we had set our alarms that morning. 

Not long after that, we arrived at a small rest stop where most of the hikers on the trail have a rest and head back down the hill, happy with a good 30-40 minute work out. Here there was a nice chap doleing out free snacks to hikers. He was extremely generous and insisted we take loads of stuff with us on our way. We thanked him and after a short rest we surged on, intent on reaching the final goal.

An hour and a half later, we arrived, exhausted at the top of Penang Hill surrounded by fresh faced (sensible) tourists who had caught the train to the summit! And the wonderful view? Imagine a sheet of white paper, a completely blank completely white sheet of paper. Well that was pretty much our view! But it mattered not - we were the triumphant 'Kings' of Penang Hill nonetheless and (smugly satisfied with our achievement) we took a luxurious rest before enjoying a gentler stroll down the 5km road to the Botanical Gardens. We were on a bus back to Georgetown by midday! Mission Accomplished. 


Back at the hostel we de-muddied ourselves and then popped out to a stall we'd spotted the previous day. It can best be described as a "DeepFriedIndianStuff" outlet. We picked up an embarrassing amount of samosas, bhajis, fritters etc. for two people and walked to the nearby park at the Esplanade. Here we sat on the perfectly green grass and ate our way through the goodies before having a lazy hour or so lying in the shade and reading old editions of National Geographic proffered from the guesthouse (by invitation i might add!). 

That evening we filled up on even more of the good stuff and sorted ourselves for our journey to Kuala Lumpur the next day. 

We loved Penang - it's a perfect place to spend a couple of days walking, hiking and stuffing yourself with the amazing food on offer. 

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