penang - wow, just wow

Penang Travel Blog

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i've just returned from a discovery stroll through georgetown at night. and i must say i am impressed, more than impressed even.

it's like walking through the memories of my last 3 months in asia, rediscovering different cultures, people, languages, tastes, smells, music while bumping in a lot less tourists than in thailand.

walking out of my guesthouse i found myself at eastern end of chinatown, seeing chinese signs everywhere... i walked towards the ferry along food stall after food stall with small penang malay/chinese specialties... 5 minutes later the prayer call from the mosque let my mind drift off into the arabic world only to be thrown back to reality by bollywood music from rivaling bollywood dvd shops and the smell of indian food from the small restaurants.

i looped back into chinatown to encounter the small market stalls and felt like in kaifeng again, being reminded of the feeling of walking around china, lost but enjoying the exotic culture. kaifeng is still the food stall / night market king in this world but penang has a similar vibe.

i decided to have dinner in a superbusy original dodgy chinese restaurant... (as chinese restaurants go: dodgy & empty - bad, dodgy & busy - good!) drinking my pot of green tea, ordering a hong kong special veggie dish (which was actually only  morning glory with a non-tasting sauce...) and if it wasn't for the english menu and english speaking staff, i felt like 3 months ago in china

which made me recognize that now, from the distance, i kind of miss and value the china experience a lot - but still, i was happy to be in penang and not in back country china again where no one can or wants to help a lost traveller :)

what can i say, i'm excited to explore penang the next 2 days, the vibe, the culture-mix, the people are absolutely amazing and i can only recommend going to penang after some travelling in asia, it's brilliant way to let you relive your travel memories :)

i also just finished the fantastic book 'the glass palace' which portraits a family over several generations from 19th century burma until now which for some parts takes place in penang and renders experiencing this place even more magical.

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getting up for a 6am train is no fun but i got rewarded by another great, comfortable train journey. as much as i loathe the sleeper trip in thailand before, this trip was super comfy! had a whole compartment for me to chill on the sofa like seats / benches and stretched my legs

border crossing was easy & quick and as always, customs dudes only ask me what is in my bag instead of taking a look...

 'what is in there?', pointing at my huge bag in the black raincover, 'ehhh... clothes and one charger', 'ok, have a good trip!'

i should get into the smuggling business, i wonder what i have to do to ever have my bags checked... except having bad luck at lima airport with the red / green chance system maybe :)

already in the train, more and more girls wore veils, very nice & colorful ones, foreshadowing the muslim population in malaysia. southern thailand is a bit 'unstable' but there were no problems whatsoever and no extra presence of guards or police

in malaysia, the landscape changed into beautiful green scenery with red, yellow and blue colors blending in from time to time. it's absolutely gorgeous! so much vegetation... the roads & houses make a better impressions than their counterparts in thailand.

the train arrived with 30 minutes delay in butterworth and it was only a quick walk to the ferry terminal where i quickly changed some baht and hopped on the ferry which was already a first sample of the mixed population of penang.

after recognizing that my bargaining skills with malay taxi drivers are not yet up to speed i took the public transit link bus which had wonderful helpful staff, drove along the street with all the guesthouses and stopped on request when i found the banana guesthouse where i planned to stay! brilliant... who needs taxis anyway?

banana guesthouse is a great find, recommended in the thorntree forum, it is not yet in lonely planet but good value for money and free wifi on top of it.
photo by: Aurora78