Sunday, February 13, 2011


After spending three weeks at home and ten days in Hong Kong and Macau, I headed back "home" to Jakarta.  I arrived late Sunday night, worked Tuesday through Friday and at 03:00 on Saturday I was on my way to the airport again. By 07:00 I was heading toward Penang, Malaysia after a whopping hour of sleep.  I had planned a trip to Penang, through Krabi too Phiphi island and then out of Phuket but after the ramblings of the previous four weeks, I trimmed the trip and was happy for it.

I went to Penang after rave reviews from my friend Donna.  She's been there multiple times of the years and always enjoys it. It was nice and quiet in comparison to everywhere else I had been.  The weather was nice as it was cooler than Jakarta while not cold; it only rained twice - once for about five minutes and once for an hour.  There is a "downtown" central area called Georgetown and, like Macau, was built by and influenced by Europeans.  The buildings have been well maintained over the years and it makes for an aesthetically pleasing town.  I spent a lot of time walking around the Chinatown and Little India areas of Georgetown.  Roti Cani is always my favorite food in Malaysia.  It's an Indian flat bread (less bready that naan bread) served with curry sauce.  At between 0.80 and 1.00 MYR (Malaysian Riggits, running about three Ringgits to one USD), they make a fantastic and fantastically cheap snack.  I must have had close to a dozen.  By the end I was known at a little restaurant where I'd been several times.  Their tea tarik (or pulled tea, it's the color of red clay,  poured from arms length after adding condensed milk) was worth the trip too.
These were around town as explanations, put up when Georgetown because a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Penang, again like Macau, is a great example of a mixed society living harmoniously. Culturally and religiously, there are many factions on this small island.   I know it hasn't always been that way.  There was a monument to the war dead that included the Indo-Malay conflict. Now, the city's Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all co-exist in very close proximity.  I saw temples for all those religions plus Christian and Catholic churches.  All the building were beautiful and impressive and only blocks apart. If there is tension between the groups, I didn't feel or notice it while I was there traipsing amongst them.
I found yet another cemetery, this one truly looking like it was being reclaimed by the jungle.  A couple of building in the middle of street blocks were also heavily hung in vines and plants whose roots had begun to break them apart. It was probably the smallest of those I'd seen in Asia but interesting in its variety.
Near the end I was definitely getting templed out and I'm not anxious to run out and find any more any time soon.  Bar none, the temples/churches/clan houses were beautiful but started to all look the same, much as Churches in Italy did after days and days of looking at them.  There were two the last day, a Burmese Buddhist Temple and a Thai Buddhist temple that looked different.  It was a beautiful sunny day and after weeks of being surrounded by people and having a travel buddy, I was happy for the solitude. 
This is on the Burmese Temple grounds (I think).
I hope to head to Penang again.  Nice smooth sidewalks, a decided lack of crowds and comfortable weather all appeal to me.  Not to mention I got to the temples but not the national parks or botanical gardens. The people were friendly without being rude or overbearing. The food was excellent and cheap.  In my time there I moved at my own pace, to my own tune and enjoyed it immensely.

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