Penang is an island of Malaysia and still has a lot of British influence in its capital, Georgetown. The city itself was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
David was our guide for our full day excursion here. He had a delightful sense of humor and was very informative.
He first told us of the way Penang is ruled – by a king, who serves for 5 years. This title is rotated among the 9 ruling brothers. Talk about keeping it all in the family!
Georgetown has a combination of beautiful high condos (the ones on the lower levels sell for about 300,000 USD and the price goes up as you get higher in the building) and colonial and Chinese buildings. It is clean and modern for the most part. Foreigners are allowed to purchase property here and many do, for the investment or to live here part time or full time. 1 million of the 30 million people in Malaysia live here.
Our first stop was the Kek Lok Si Temple. This is the largest temple in Southeast Asia and is magestically situated on a hilly slope that has amazing views of Georgetown. It is built in tiers (many steps to climb!) The seven story Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas has the influence of three areas that embrace Buddhism – Thailand, Myanmar and China. There are lovely gardens and a turtle pond with over 400 turtles in it. Turtles are a symbol of bringing food to the poor, and there was a man selling plants to feed the turtles – for $1, w hich is donated to the temple. People without a place to stay can come to the temple and they will always find food and a place to sleep. The temple is still unfinished and many statues are lining the parking lot waiting to be placed.
Our next stop was the Pinang Peranskan Mansion also known as the Chung Keng Kwee Mansion since it was originally the home of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. This ornate home is representative of the opulent lifestyle of the late 19th century. Apparently the owner was quite notorious as our guide called it the “mafia house”. There is a large Chinese courtyard, Scottish ironworks, English floor tiles and Chinese carved wooden panels. Inside is the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum with over 1000 antiques and collectibles on display. I was really impressed with the pottery and the extensive display of beaded shoes.
We had lunch at the Golden Sands hotel, and it was a nice buffet of both Asian and some American dishes (pasta, which we skipped!). The grounds on the ocean were just beautiful and relaxing.
We traveled the winding mountain roads (wouldn’t want to be the bus driver here…) and went to a batik factory where I was the model for the scarves and the sarong! Lovely work. Wish I could have bought the custom made tablecloths they were making for a client. It takes 3 weeks for the process of batik to be complete. And if the pattern is only on one side, it is screenprinted, not real batik. The artists are really wonderful to watch. Some of the designs are done freehand, and no two pieces will be exactly alike.
We also visited a spice market, most known for nutmeg. We got to sample nutmeg candy and try the nutmeg oil on any aching muscles. Very interesting!
Two photo stops to see the landscape (David says we have no need to go to Hawaii, this view looks just like it!) But of course, he has never been there!
So we have 3 sea days now and will be entering another pirate zone so will have the drill again and be required to keep the balconies dark and curtains closed at night, and deck 5 will be off limits.
The Maldives is supposed to be our next port of call on November 9 but there is political unrest there and they have declared a 30 day state of emergency, so we are fully expecting that we won’t be able to dock there. No official announcement yet, but plenty of speculation. Some rumors are that we will return to Sri Lanka instead. So stay tuned!!