Penang Walking Tour & Street Art

Monday, December 12, 2016
Penang, Penang, Malaysia

This morning you’ll take a half day sightseeing walking tour around
Penang and Georgetown, soaking up the relaxed pace of life and the mix
of cultures on show in this heritage area . See the original 19th century
shophouses, the street markets, and the strong cultural and religious
identity still on display in each neighbourhood – Little India,
Chinatown or the Muslim Quarter. Check out the street art that adorns
the walls and stop by a clan jetty. Clans were formed by 19th century
immigrants, banding together based on the area of China that they came
from, and they built rival waterfront societies on wooden jetties.
You’ll also pay a visit to Thai and Burmese temples, and see Kek Lok Si
Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia. You’ll have this
afternoon free and, aside from sauntering along the interesting streets
(or hopping in a trishaw for a ride that will take you back in time),
you might visit Fort Cornwallis, built to defend the city from invasion,
or see the clan house of Khoo Kongsi. Check out the ornate carvings on
the walls, roof and pillars, and maybe see more Chinese architecture in
the memorably blue Courtyard House of Cheong Fatt Tze, a fabulously
wealthy merchant . Don’t forget to feast on the island’s culinary
delights tonight.

Included Activities

  • Penang - Half Day Sightseeing

Optional Activities

  • Penang - Khoo Kongsi - MYR10
  • Penang - Funicular Railway - MYR55
  • Penang - Trishaw Ride - MYR50
  • Penang - Chong Fat Tze Museum - MYR12

I woke up for the half-day tour - went for breakfast and had noodles. Met at 8:30 am for tour with our local guide Steven. He guided and drove. We went first to an old Chinese temple where he told us about mediums and amulets and grinding the paper from the fortune-telling sticks and drinking it in water to solve whatever problem you are having, like being invaded by evil spirits. Then we visited the Chew Jetty. It started to rain as we started back from the end of the pier. Steven said that the Chinese clans built their homes on the east and they were not affected by the tsunamis. They also were considered illegals but were given legality when the government changed - at independence, I wonder?

We then went to another temple (Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple) where we walked around the reclining Buddha and saw the shiny mirrored nagas and the various signs of the zodiac . Both Alex and I are roosters. Within this area there seemed to be at least one other temple: Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple. The temple housed hundreds, if not thousands, of Buddha statues. Large ones were donated by other Buddhist countries and each Buddha had a distinctive garment peculiar to that country. It was here that Frank showed me the photo of the 13 -yr-old boy who died and his wife bought the monument for him.

Finally we went to Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest temple in Southeast Asia. This temple complex was on the top of a hill and the parking was quite difficult. I loved all the red Chinese lanterns hanging above our heads as we walked to the temple. On the way here we stopped briefly to look at the Fort Corrwallis walls, Dutch cannons and lighthouse. As he drove, our guide Steven kept up a running commentary on the street names, different important buildings in the Georgetown area of Penang, the low-income housing, the cost of the mansions, which buildings were built during colonial times, etc . He said that Penang is mostly known for trading and its biggest money-makers are palm oil, rubber and latex, and tourism. People come for the temples and the "nature" of Penang. Penang is named after the betel nut palm.

By the time we finished with Kek Lok Si Temple - around 1:30 pm, we were a bit hungry so we stopped at a a Chinese restaurant and I had a nasi noodle dish that was good. Poor Alex waited a long time for her chicken and rice with a cheese sauce. After lunch, Steven gave us annotated maps so we could walk around the area with street art. He said most was done by a Lithuanian boy and a girl named Julie who was also a foreigner. We did try to find all the street artworks. It was hard to take photographs of them because people were always posing on or by the photos. Shane was very thoughtful and stood in line for a turn to guard the drawing and keep it free from people for us to get at least one unobstructed photo before someone else jumped in for a selfie . I took quite a few pics with people to get some of the local tourists in them. After catching the street art, it was already late, so I gave up being anxious about getting back to change my flight and had coffee with the group at the coffee shop that sold civet processed (i.e., pooped) coffee. I don't think mine was from the civet cat but it could have been. Simon decided to have iced coffee and I thought that sounded good so I ordered the same. The staff there were very sweet. Then, since Alex was keen on a little walk in Little India, I joined her and so did Shane and Simon. Margaret and Frank went on back to the hotel by taxi or rickshaw.

We wandered around a few more streets. I took more photos of the area. Oh, I forgot to mention that there were a number of street performers in the neighborhood. Some were quite good and everyone was having a fine time. It was a bank holiday so the streets were jammed with pedestrians and bicycles and rickshaws and cars and motorbikes and all sorts of variations. Oh, Steven told us there were two kinds of cars produced in Malaysia - Protons and something else. After consulting the map (Alex) and the compass (mine), we set off in a NW direction toward the hotel. There was a large building that Steven said to use as a guide and this turned out to be the one with the revolving restaurant that we had tried to go to the night before.

Once we got back, I started immediately to try to change my US-boundc flight from San Francisco to Sacramento . First I had problems with Skype - I put on more money. Then I tried to reactivate my old balance. Then I tried to find somewhere to enter the United phone number. The last turned out to be the most difficult. I moaned and groaned and went through all sorts of machinations before I finally was able to ring them. I got a person fairly quickly but it took 45 minutes before I was re-booked through Sacramento. Part of the time, the agent didn't think I could change once my trip had started. Then apparently the rules had changed so that created a blockage of some sort, but the agent consulted her superior and she managed to figure out the problem I guess since they told me I could do it but it would cost 45,000 more airmiles. Plus an extra $100. That is OK because I did screw up by not asking Carolyn where I should go. I am a bit more upset by the airmiles but I figure I need to use them before they are worth even less than they are now.

So I struggled through all that and wasn't sure if I would make dinner with Tai and the group. But I made it. I got downstairs where Tai and Alex were chatting. We were joined by Simon and then Margaret and Frank. When Tai took us to a table on the side of the market, Frank and Margaret decided to go off on their own. Alex and I walked in front of the food carts and tried to decide what to get. I was very uncertain but then decided on dumplings in a soup. They were very good . On my way back to the table to await delivery of the soup, I was drawn to the satay cart and stood in line. Then I saw Simon in front of me. Tai came by to ask whether I got my soup....somehow it was delivered to our table before I got back with my satay. It was all excellent but I bought too much and couldn't finish all of the dumplings.
We walked back to the hotel stopping at the 7-11 for snacks for the bus ride tomorrow but I couldn't find anything appealing. Then Tai stopped at a fruit stall and I bought some little bananas. Once back at the hotel, I tried the internet to send my newly changed transfer info to Intrepid and to Carolyn but the internet wasn't working well so I gave up. I am almost done with today's blog but need to put in highlights for yesterday so that I won't forget.

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