Georgetown, Day 2: Of heritage trails and no-show rides!

Georgetown Travel Blog

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Hainan Temple

I set the alarm to go off at 9am, but I was up at 740am, freezing from the air-conditioning. We planned on going on one of the Heritage Trail walks after breakfast, which would lead to other interesting discoveries, as I'd discovered.

We had breakfast at the hotel's Sky Garden, which opens out onto the rooftop. The same Sky Garden is converted into the Beer Garden, where guests can enjoy beers under the cool night sky, or play a game of pool.

After our breakfast of a bowl of muesli and two slices of toast with butter and jam, plus the obligatory 3 cups of coffee (what was I thinking??), Kim and I headed out on our little adventure of discovering Georgetown's history via the Heritage Trail, but not before getting our bearings right by asking Desmond at the front desk on where and how we should begin.

We apparently found out that although there is a structured way to go on this walk in order to discover all the landmark and locations mapped out on trail, we could start halfway through, on Lebuh Muntri, or Muntri Street, where a bunch of the temples and important guilds were located, to least cover half of what we wanted to see. This was good news to me, as I was having trouble walking after twisting my knee a few days prior to this trip. So I thought I'd just take it slow and easy while we made our way out since I felt better.

We decided to take Hutton Lane, left from the junction of Argyll Road, where the hotel is located, and make our way to Penang Road, where we'd get across and walk the length of Muntri Street.

A pre-war shophouse on Muntri St that looks as good as it did centuries ago.
We not only passed a row of old shopbuildings, but were also pleasantly surprised to see a row of old colonial houses on opposite sides of Hutton Lane. While some looked the worse for wear, most were well preserved and taken care of by the present owners. These are the very houses I've seen in some old English movies, that were based in England, of course.

We finally reached the junction of Hutton Lane onto Penang Road, and checked our Trail map to decide which way we'd head to first. It seemed like Muntri St was just across the street, so we started our little "adventure" looking for the first landmark - the Hainan Temple. On our way there, of course, we stopped and gawked and awed at some of the old shophouses, whose owners had painstakingly restored to their former glory.

Goddess of Mercy Temple
The shophouses were inspired by the colonial English and Chinese who had business and trade affairs in Penang as early as the 18th century.

Then we found the Hainan Temple, also known as the Temple of the Heavenly Queen, which was founded in 1866. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Mar Chor, the patron saint of seafarers. After a quick snapshot, we continued on and passed the Hainanese Mariners' Lodge, which used to welcome the mariners from South China and their families on a stopover in Penang in the 19th century. The house was put up for rent by the last remaining sailors and the Penang Heritage Trust then took a lease on the building and had it improved on to use as its office premise.

Onward, we crossed Love Lane and walked all the way until we reached the other end of Muntri St where the Goddess of Mercy temple is located, which is not part of the heritage trail but is a significant landmark.

St George's Church

We next had to decide if we'd walk on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling to check out the Mahamariamman Hindu Temple and Little India, which would have taken us further away from the rest of the trail, or cut our losses and walk back to our hotel via Fahquar Street as we encountered St George's Church first. Known as the oldest Anglican church in Malaysia, it was modelled after a church in Madras, India and was built in 1818. A memorial for Penang's founder, Sir Francis Light, stands in the garden in front of the main church building. As you can see from the pic, the church truly looks immaculate even though it is almost 200 years old!

By this time, I was already feeling the pull in my knee with the increasing pain.

Cathedral of the Assumption
Thankfully, there was a bus stop in front of the church where Kim and I were able to rest for a bit before continuing on. I don't even know what I was thinking, wearing flip flops, which really didn't do much as far as comfort was concerned! After what seemed like only ten short minutes, Kim was ready to move on and so we walked up next, to the Penang Museum and Art Gallery, situated just next to St George's Church. Sadly, it was a Friday when the museum is closed, so we had no chance of learning more about Penang's colorful history. We then passed the Cathedral of the Assumption, built in 1861 where it was moved from its original location on Church Street and was then the Church of the Assumption, founded by Fr Garnault in 1786, for the European Catholic community who were brought over by ship from Kuala Kedah.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

I was beginning to sweat from the struggle of having to walk with a battered knee and just wanted to hail a trishaw to get us back to the hotel, but then I thought, better to get this walk over and done with. Next to the cathedral was the St Xavier's Institution, a Catholic boys school, founded by the La Sallean brothers in the 1850s. The building had been used by the Japanese navy during World War II until it was bombed by the British and a new one built in its place in 1954.

I was glad that we were almost done with our little tour as we approached the turnoff to Lebuh Leiht where just across the street was the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. The "Rockefeller of China", as the late Cheong Fatt Tze was dubbed in the New York Times in the early 20th century, was a poor Hakka from China who immigrated to Java, Indonesia.

A Ramadan bazaar of colorful traditional baju kurung, baju kebaya, baju melayu, headscarfs as well curtains and covers.
He started off running steamships between Medan in Sumatra and Penang, on contract with the Dutch. In the late 19th century, he moved his base to Penang and was elected VIce Consul where he represented the Malaya Chinese and as well as the Dutch Indies. He was then promoted to COnsul General of Singapore. He then built his family mansion in Penang and made generous contributions to a Chinese school and a temple here. Apart from shipping, Cheong Fatt Tze also expanded his trade into opium, agriculture and mining in SouthEast Asia. He died in 1916. THe Cheong Fatt Tze mansion houses important pieces of history, including grand and expensive furniture and china made during that time. Unfortunately, visits into the mansion can only be made with the help of a guide. So make sure that you get there at 11am or 3pm for a guided tour into the mansion.
One of the two most popular cendol stalls in Georgetown. The Penang Road Cendol stall has been in business for over 3 decades.
We, unfortunately, were an hour too late for the first tour of the day, and decided against returning in the afternoon as I felt like my legs were about to give way under me. So we walked up the road to look for a diner or cafe for a nice cool drink after that hot and humid walk and found a kopitiam, or old style Chinese diner where we  ordered a lime and sour plum drink. Yummy!

Half an hour later, a little rested, we headed back to Penang Street to get our second helping of cendol at the famous cendol stall and decided to have lunch there too. We ordered Assam Laksa - a spicy, sour fish soup bowl of white rice noodles that has a similar texture to Thailand's Tom Yam Goong, but were worlds apart in terms of taste and flavor. The Assam Laksa is served with sliced chillies, cucumbers and pineapples and topped with mint leaves, which really bring out the taste of the laksa.

View from the Penang Road cendol stall.
It's truly heaven! If you like Tom Yam Goong, then you'll love Assam Laksa!

Well, it take long for me to realise that sweet, sour, spicy and creamy were going to make life a little more interesting when digested, as my stomach begun feeling a little too uncomfortable and it was obviously time to head back to the hotel for a siesta. The discomfort from lunch and elevated pain in my knee was enough for me to just want to crawl in a ball and sleep it off.

Three hours later, Kim and I were up and were trying to figure out what to do for dinner. After getting ready, we went down to the lobby to get some information on the nightlife in Georgetown when we came across this article in the lifestyle section of the day's newspaper about a little known cafe called Church Street Cafe, located on Church St, no less! The article featured the cafe's specialty - beer that is almost frozen poured into a freezer chilled beer glass.

Assam Laksa - Heaven in a bowl!!
The foam left at the top when beer is poured actually looked like snow instead of regular foam. Cool! But I just wanted to have some regular baked Chicken Cordon Bleu and a half pint of Guinness.

So we got a cab that the hotel's front desk staff called for us and paid MYR10. Upon reaching the cafe, we told the driver to pick us up an hour later, to which we agreed. Well, when we were gone at 10pm, we went out to wait for our cab, who, it turned out, either had better things to do or was asleep on his bed, as he had stood us up. We grew increasingly nervous, as we weren't familiar with the public transportation in a new town, and after waiting almost 30 mins, walked out to the busier end of Church St and tried to hail a cab as we walked closer to where there were more people on the streets. We stopped a cabbie who apologised but he was oncall. However, he assured us that if we walked two blocks to the next traffic lights and turned left, we'd be able to hail a cab from there. So we walked, fast and alert, until we reached the junction with the traffic lights and turned right, and were pleased to see that stretch of road was bustling with people in nearby diners enjoying their supper.

After five minutes of waiting, boy were we glad to finally get a cab, where we headed back, the bitter taste in our mouths left behind by that cab driver who couldn't keep his promise!

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Hainan Temple
Hainan Temple
A pre-war shophouse on Muntri St t…
A pre-war shophouse on Muntri St …
Goddess of Mercy Temple
Goddess of Mercy Temple
St Georges Church
St George's Church
Cathedral of the Assumption
Cathedral of the Assumption
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
A Ramadan bazaar of colorful tradi…
A Ramadan bazaar of colorful trad…
One of the two most popular cendol…
One of the two most popular cendo…
View from the Penang Road cendol s…
View from the Penang Road cendol …
Assam Laksa - Heaven in a bowl!!
Assam Laksa - Heaven in a bowl!!
Georgetown
photo by: ice9van