Turtle Soup and Temples
Georgetown Travel Blog› entry 4 of 16 › view all entries
We arrived in Georgetown in the very early morning after the second consecutive night on a sleeper train. We pulled into Butterworth, mainland port for Penang, at 5.30am - or at least the front half of the train did, whilst we were stuck about 4 carriages away from the platform with a bunch of muppets in front of us who wouldn't move forward! They eventually moved when it was announced the train would be leaving the station, and we walked towards our first attempted scam of the day... a taxi driver who tried to simultaneously tell us (a) that there were no empty hotel rooms in the whole of Penang - apart from, miraculously, in a hotel he could take us to - and (b) that we needed to take a taxi with him to the port - foiled somewhat by the fact he was standing in front of a sign pointing the way to walk to the port, which took a whole 3 mins.
On the way to the hotel, Katharine learnt why you should never take antimalarials on an empty stomach.... one roadside chunder later, we arrived at the hotel and crashed out.
Georgetown took a while to grow on us. Capital of Penang, the only state to have a Chinese majority, at first glance the whole city was a decaying Chinatown. Most of the old British colonial buildings are in terrible condition considering they're not really that old - we visited Fort Cornwallis, which had been "restored" - by putting a concrete auditorium/travel agency/filthy toilet slap bang in the middle. In restoring, they did an archaeological dig and found a number of timeless artifacts now on display in the museum... these include a bike chain and a jar of Brylcreem... hmmm.
Food in Penang was excellent - great variety of Indian/Chinese/Malay due to the melting pot of Asian cultures that have settled there.
On day 2 we got a bus out to [ ], the "Temple of 10,000 Buddhas" which was spectacular if overly geared up to tourists. You ascend the hill through a narrow covered passageway lined with tat stalls on both sides, and about half way up come across what I can only describe as the Pond of 10,000 Tortoises - like a minging Turtle Soup (see pics). The temple and pagoda itself sprawls across the hilltop like a brightly-coloured Chinese dragon. As we went through, it became clear that this is a tourist attraction as much as a place of worship, and ever expanding - we were charged to go up to the statue at the very top, which is still under construction.
A quick spot of negotiating on a T-shirt on the way back... amazing how quickly the price dropped when I started walking away!!! About 50p a pace I think!