Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Penang, Malaysia

Jason and I like to set different paces when we’re on the road, be it a two hour drive somewhere or traveling in another country. It doesn’t matter. I’m always worried about wasting time, while Jason’s trying to stop and smell the roses. Not that I’m all get up and go…I spend hours upon hours sitting on my butt reading books. However on vacation, I tend to want to go out and see it all, which propels me along at a faster clip than Jason cares for.

In fact, I think he’s still mad at me for “making” him leave San Pedro on our Central American trip. In my defense, I thought we were going to be thrown into jail or have to pay thousands of dollars in fines if we didn’t get entry stamps on our passports. Jason, on the other hand, thought since we’d been in Guatemala for a week without any stamps, what were a few more days going to matter. In hindsight, he was probably right. We didn’t need to rush off to Guatemala City, but I’m glad we got things sorted out and didn’t have to check out the provisions inside a Central American prison.

Up till now on our SE Asia trip, we’d spent around 4 days in each place. This was the general plan until we hit the beaches in Thailand - where we planned to adopt a snail’s pace. Unfortunately…or fortunately, we ended up staying in Penang for a whole week.

With so much time on our hands, we were able to fully explore the little island. We toured the major sites, walked around the residential areas, ate many different meals in a variety of restaurants, learned the bus routes, and saw the old, new, and clashing areas of the island. It turned out to be a good thing that we were waylaid for a few extra days.

The reason for the abrupt change of plans was not so good. I know certain rules about traveling in foreign countries…especially when it comes to hygiene and food safety. But that doesn’t mean I always follow those rules. And it was one of those that got me. Sauces…they’re deadly. Not the ones that come out of the kitchen piping hot; those are fine. I’m talking about the ones that sit in glass jars on café tables, ones that are sitting out in the heat of the day breeding unhealthy bacteria. Even as I was spooning the delicious garlic-ginger sauce onto my chicken and rice dish, I knew it was wrong.

I didn’t know how wrong until a day later as I struggled with a 101.9 degree fever, body aches, a headache, and many trips to the bathroom. Thankfully we didn’t make a hospital visit while in Penang. We held off on that fun time until a little further into our trip.

Penang was great though. I really enjoyed the city, the people, the food (with exceptions of course), the architecture…everything really. Plus, I got to see the biggest rats EVER!

From Tana Rata, we caught a direct bus to Butterworth. From there, we jumped on a ferry that cut travel time to the island by an hour or more. We didn't travel on this bridge to the island, but we did on our way back to the mainland. The bridge is one of the longest in the world at 8 1/2 miles long.

The ferry took us to Georgetown, the capital city of Penang.

Picture of a ferry pulling into the harbor.

Our lovely hotel.

As with most places on our trip, we stayed in Chinatown. It tends to have more affordable hotels and lots of interesting sights to see.

Evil food.

I'm not sure why they need a 24 hour funeral service here...and I'm glad the food poisoning wasn't terrible enough for me to find out.

The area we stayed in is a UNESCO heritage site. The two-story buildings dominate the area, some in better shape than others.

Klasik Rut Bir...yummy in any language.

It was hard to tell which buildings were vacant. A lot of places that looked decrepit had potted plants out front or laundry drying in the sun.

I think this is an awesome picture. Good job, babe!

If you look closely at this picture you can see the top of the gutters. They ran along the streets and were two to three feet deep. Singapore was similar in this regard. I think it might be due to heavy rains in the monsoon season - to avoid flooding streets. They also turn out to be great places for rats to hang out. I only saw a few, but they were memorable for sure.

Do you think they're hoping for a good samaritan to stop and fix this on their way
to work one day???

Not too far from Chinatown, a different aspect of Georgetown is revealed.

The streets were clean, buildings well-kept, and the prices for food in restaurants skyrocketed.

Kek Lok Si Temple

The Malaysian signs that are printed in romanized letter are quite phonetic. I found this to be very helpful more than a time or two.

Kek Lok Si Temple is a Chinese Buddhist temple.

There was something funny going on in the pond at the temple. The fish swam in circular patterns.

Seven Story Pagoda

The temple was much more colorful and vibrant than a Korean temple...but it was a bit garish.

We get our couple pictures when we can.

There were also Christian churches in Penang that were quite beautiful.

This is some sort of government building...I think the governor may live here.

Here's my proof.

This is a tri-shaw. They tended to be operated by the oldest men in all of Penang.

While standing on a median trying to cross a road, we found ourselves in the middle of a motorcycle rally. The bikers all seemed pretty friendly as many of them waved to us as they rode past. I would estimate over a hundred bikers participated in...whatever is was.


We found a good coffee shop on one of our wanderings.

Another pretty church...

Chinese Buddhist Temple

I couldn't get over the size of the incense they burned in the courtyard.

Wild, eh?

This beautiful artwork is done with bits of glass and ceramic tile.

The artwork was set into the columns of a row of buildings that had had a full face lift. Workers were still putting on the finishing touches, but there were For Sale signs in the windows of the future shops.

Mosque near Armenian Street.

We came across a parade one evening. We'd gone a far distance from our hotel for dinner. On our way back, our taxi became stuck in the traffic that was being held up for the parade. We quickly jumped out of the cab so see what it was all about.

Groups of young men carried these 30-35 foot flags. One of the guys would try to balance the bamboo pole on his head and balance it as long as possible. This was a crowd favorite as everyone had to keep moving out of the way as the flags threatened to fall on the spectators watching. I didn't see any injuries though.

Along with the floats, there were Chinese dragons, a bands marching down the street.

On our last day there, we ventured to the northern part of the island to check out the beach area.

Fisherman using nets off the beach to catch fish.

While it was pretty, it's not somewhere I would swim. These waters are smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

We wandered around a Spice Garden for a few hours. Jason was enamored with the size of the house plants he ran across.

Jason does have a green thumb, but he's not this good.

This video shows us on a lovely swing. The ropes were 20 feet long and attached to a tree high up in the canopy, which made for a very smooth ride.

Inside the Spice Garden.

This little guy freaked me out something good. I'm still not quite sure what he is...I'm going to guess that he's a monitor lizard. Any objections?

1 comment:

karmaking said...

Couple of thoughts:

First, "Los gringos tiene nada!" It's just a good theme from the Central America trip.

Second, that creature is actually a more active sea cucumber species. Harmless to all.