Penang, Malaysia - August 2006
We left Bangkok via train and headed down the Malaysian penninsula. After a 20 hour ride we reached the city of Butterworth. Across the street from the train station is the ferry to Georgetown on the island of Penang, about 5 miles offshore.
Penang is the only province in Malaysia where Malays are not the majority race. The population is about evenly divided between Islamic Malays, Fukienese speaking Chinese, and Indians, who are maily Tamil.
The architecture of Georgetown is a testament to the islands cultural diversity, as well as its British Colonial History.
The Kapitan Keling Mosque in town was built in the early 1800s and is primarily used by the Indian Muslim community.
This is either a Chinese cultural center or temple. It takes a zoom lens to appreciate the fine detail.
"Little India" is the place to go for bargains, especially if you are looking for fabrics for your next sari.
Our hotel was also a Penang landmark - the "Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion" is a UNESCO award winning restoration. It was originally the home of one of the wealthiest traders in South East Asia. Cheong Fatt Tze had also been dubbed "The Rockafeller of the East". The mansion is painted blue, from a natural dye made by blue flowers.
The central courtyard was used as a location for the movie "Indochine" with Catherine Deneuve.
Where ever you go, the food options are excellent. Here is Hendry, purchase a Chinese Crepe from a street hawker. We found that the best things are all priced no higher than 3 Ringgit (about 80 cents). Anything more expensive is not only overpriced, but also not as tasty.
Penang is hot and humid, especially in August, so no meal is complete without a serving of Chendol, a cold ice-cream like desert made from coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandan, a jelly like substance, cut into the shape of tiny worms. There delicious items added to this desert, which may include soursop, durian, or red beans. Yum!
Just west of Georgetown lies Wat Chayamangkalaram, which has the third largest reclining Buddha in the world.
To visit the Buddha, you must first pass these fearsome creatures.
Across the street is another temple with a most impressive standing Buddha in Golden Splendor. He stands about 40 feet high. Behind him is a collection of other Buddhas, each one from a different Buddhist nation.
The Spice Garden is a lush jungle preserve about half an hour west of Georgetown. It is just across the street from the ocean, and the tsumani of December 26, 2004 managed to do some damage to the enterance area. Most of the coastal buildings in Penang lie high enough sea level, however, there were a few shacks built near the ocean, and there were several deaths from the Tsunami. Fortunately, there is a lot of wealth on the island, and new (and better) homes were quickly built for the people who lost their first home.