BootsnAll Travel Network

Jan 19-21 – Penang (Georgetown)

Back on Line again -Time to catch up 

Penang – Georgetown is an incredible city of history, architecture, religions – crowded, hot humid but that helps the mystique – as a break Natalie wanted to do an “Afternoon British Tea” @ high end hotel developed by two Armenian Brothers.  Same type of hotel you saw on Singapore pictures.  Natalie really wanted to do this white table cloth, sit down, British tea with sandwhiches, crumpets,and sweets.  Cost an arm and leg but gave us a break from sightseeing and the heat. –


Proper way of stirring – pinkie has to be up


The right way to drink tea


The wrong way of drinking and stirring  high tea


Penang Hill top – overlooking the island and city – you have to take this small gauge train, build in the early 1900’s, the cable pulls you up the mountain and lowers you – the grade is steeper than Gunburrel at Heavenly – it has to be timed right because downcoming train and upcoming train meet half way and cross – the car seats are situated at an angle in order for you to feel like you are level – at the top, nice and cool from the city – however, above the walkway are these spider webs and spiders – at least 3 inches across (thats just the body) – scary


At the hotel that afternoon I notice black smoke out our window and thought it was a fire – sure enough about to blocks down an Indian restaurant blew up – it was right across from where we were eating -walked down a small lane to see the comotion – firetrucks, people everywhere – interesting to see the difference between US firemen and their protocols and the Malaysians, very bad fire – fortunately most of these houses are made of brick and mortor – it did not spread which is lucky – due to all the shops, hotels, restaurants all connected together side by side – it did make us more conscious of escape routes in hotels we will be staying at.


Tim writing:  Traveling- so far it has been easy, convenient, on time, comfortable – until today.  I have  been wondering when it would feel more like the Asia I was familiar with some 20 years ago.  Today was the day – it was supposed to be a VIP bus – ha – it was an older bus that could barely make it up the slopes (down to 5 miles per hour), got off late (guy under the bus with wrench and other tools and driver hosing down the radiator) – does not instill a lot of confidence. He kept stopping to pick up people and was probably pocketing some additional  income – so much for VIP-“no stopping bus”.  Do to the winding road, we decided to sit in the very front so the kids would not get sick – ha – bad idea – you felt the turning a lot more than when in the middle! Plus,  since we were the biggest thing on the road, he would ride the bumper of the car in front, honking the horn to make them move over so he could pass. If they didn’t, he would just go into the oncoming lane and pass anyways – sometimes blindly – one time we had a minivan in our lane, our bus in the oncoming lane, and a oncoming car passing on the grass (3 wide on mountain road) – Just like “old times “! Since he was on his brakes a lot – the smell of brakes invaded the front of the bus.  Then a monsoon rain started – just pouring.   We passed two car accidents – one of them the minivan had totally flipped and was on its side, the other was two cars with smashed in the fronts – Exciting – actually more scary – after passing both those accidents, the driver became more cautious – thank goodness.  I chose not to try and sleep because if the driver had slammed on his brakes I would have been vaulted through the front window – so I just hung on to the side arms of the seat ready for anything. 

We arrived pretty late in Penang- Georgetown and had supper in good Asian style – 10:00pm- eating curry at a local Indian establishment. We tried something different – rather than backpacker style hostel, we had heard that sometimes the budget Chinese hotels are very good.  In Asia so far, the family room has been basically for 3 people – a double bed and single bed  (this is also the same I hear in Europe).  In the US – the family room is usually 2 double beds.  Because of this, we have not been able to be in one room and are spending more on housing because we have to get two  rooms – typical backpacker room is 10-15 dollars (cheap, yet in Ringet terms – local Malaysia currency, we are spending 60-100 RM per night – more than we want) .  Anyways, we found a very big, clean, 2 double beds, own bathroom, with AC and fan for basically only 7 more dollars.   We went for it and the kids are very happy – they also had a TV so saw cartoons in morning.

History of Penang (island) and Georgtown (its capital):  another established UNESCO Heritage sight like Singapore and Melaka – “the influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific muticultural heritage that is both tangible and untangible… towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South east Asia.  It was in the 1700’s, that the first British influence took over – when the British contracted with the Sultan to provide “security” for trade in and around the waters for land.  Sir Francis Light established the British settlement he called Georgetown – named after George III.  The fort he built was named Fort Cornwallis – named after “the” General Cornwallis that lost the Revolutionary war in the US.  Malaysia as a whole seems to be more accepting of different cultures and religions. It has been influenced by the Chinese, native Malays, Indian, British, and others.  Because of these different cultures converging, it has been influenced primarily by Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Anglicanism/Catholicism –sorry I put those two together.   Georgetown/Penang is the epitome of religious diversity.  In one kilometer stretch there are 10 major religious institutions represented: Catholic, Anglican, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Chinese fusion of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Toaism.   We did a walking tour of colonial  buildings, state buildings, museums (Josh’s favorite part of the tripJ), Fort Cornwallis – climbed up the lightower – in the US it would not get past the safety inspection.  It was very hot.  Tahoe Johnson kids do not do well in hot/humid.  The highlight for them was to get back to the hotel and “chill” – the highlight for Natalie  (and I think the kids got a kick out of it) was to partake in a proper British Afternoon Tea at the posh/upscale hotel (like the one in Singapore).  Yea, it cost a fortune – but the kids were treated with the waiter putting their cloth napkins on their laps for them and eating tiny sandwiches, which Tim and Josh could swallow whole!

Natalie and I would probably enjoys spending more time on Penang just because it was has such interesting, tiny streets full of Chinese shophouses, old architecture and temples. But with the intense heat and crowded streets, we left after a couple days for the Malaysian island of Langkawi.


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