Early to Penang

Georgetown Travel Blog

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I left the hotel pretty early and got to Lumut for the early afternoon.  After some lunch I went in search of a bus to Taiping only to find there was only the one every day at 9:20am.  I had long since missed it and so had a dilemma.  I could either stay in Lumut, which was just a big city without much for the backpacker to see or do; or go on to Penang and arrive a little bit earlier than expected.  I thought Penang would be the sensible option as there were beached there, travellers there, and I would get to see Kinki again.  I caught the next bus to Butterworth and a ferry to Penang (Georgetown) arriving about 6pm.



It turned out to be a really good decision to go to Penang as it was a Saturday night and the first anniversary of Georgetown being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City.  This meant a lot was going on in the streets, mainly outside of the temples.  Stages had been erected and Chinese, Malay, and Indian people were doing all kinds of cultural performances with their traditional sons, dancing, and music.  The streets were pretty lively and I was happy to get stuck into the social atmosphere.




I wanted to really see Penang, and so after some breakfast, I created my own walking tour, starting at the Colonial District, into Chinatown, and ending in Little India.

  My first stop was at Fort Cornwallis, but being a Sunday it was closed.  Not to be to downbeat, I continued to the Victoria Memorial Clock Tower (which is 60ft tall, one foot for each year of her reign), and then the very English-looking Town and City Halls.  I found the Penang Gallery was closed, so I went to see the, again English-looking, State Assembly Building and the Supreme Court.  Just behind the court is St George’s Church (the oldest Anglican Church in SE Asia) with its elegant little pavilion and memorial plaque to captain Francis Light (the founder of Penang). 


I went to the Penang Museum to escape the heat for a while.  This place was worth a look at as it houses the traditional Nyonya clothes and other artefacts (Nyonya people are the first generation ethnic grouping from Chinese immigrants marrying Malaysian people) such as opium pipes and beds.  The upstairs is dedicated to the colonial history of Penang, and I found out that the island was totally unpopulated until Light established the first settlements back in 1876.


The Cathedral of Assumption was next, and following that, I went into China town and Little India.  The places I saw, but not necessarily in that order were: Kuan Yin Teng, a temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy; Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, the house owned by the entrepreneur, and his rags to riches tale; Acheen Street Mosque; Penang Islamic Museum; Hainan Temple; Loo Pun Hong Temple; 100 Cintra Street, a Baba Nonya heritage museum; and Dr Sun Yat Sen’s Penang Base, where he organised the Penang Conference and plotted the Canton Uprising, establishing the Republic of China in 1911 (he is now known as the founder of modern China).  The revolutionary Party was called Tung Meng Hooi and here they founded the Kwong Woh Jit Poh (the country’s oldest newspaper).


I also saw the Sri Mariamman Temple; Penang Peranakan Mansion, a typically ornate home of a wealthy Baba Nonya family; Masjid Kapitam Keling Mosque; and the Alpha Ultra Gallery.

  Generally speaking, it was just a day wondering around reading a bit of literature here and there.


At this point I resembled a kiddie’s dot-to-dot puzzle with all the bits I had, and so I went in search of some antihistamines and to watch the Hungarian Grand Prix.  Kinki came over to the hostel and we left for quite a funky little bar just on the outskirts of town where we could catch up a bit. 




My first alcoholic drinks in ages gave me a brilliant night’s sleep, though I woke a bit dehydrated.  It was early when I got up and so I went to see the fort as it would now be open.



The fort was the first establishment on the island and was initially created for defence, but a shot has never actually been fired in aggression from there.  It is an impressively maintained star-shaped building and was used to assist the spice trade to the Western world. 


There is no actual remaining pictures or photos of Francis Light, and so the statue just inside the fort isn’t actually of Francis Light, but his eldest son, William. 


I had to take some shelter here as well as the rain lashed down, but with all the information to read through, the time past quickly enough.  Once it cleared I went to the Art museum to see the work from local artists, but it was more of a show-room as all the pictures are for sale, but there are the permanent collections as well, though during this visit, they were closed off for maintenance.


After so much cultural, I quite fancied being a bit more Westernised and found my way to the cinema to finally watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 

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photo by: ice9van