Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Penang is a real mix of cultures and their religions.

During my stay in Georgetown, I overlapped the end of the Moslem observance of Ramadhan ( a month of daytime fasting) and the celebration of Hari Raya Puasa (a time of forgiveness and sharing). Everywhere there were Hari Raya Puasa banners and posters. Decorations stretched across some streets. Many Moslems return to their village and family so the festival stretches over a full week for many. It is party time, the feast to mark the end of fasting. Crowds turned up at the mosques, especially in the evening and especially at the mosque I saw most regularly -Kapitan Keling Mosque.

In fact Georgetown, like the rest of Malaysia is full of mosques of various sizes. Some I saw were very large, but there were smaller ones as well – these were often older than the obviously modern buildings.

But Islam was not the only religion. I also saw several Hindu temples in the city and they looked old enough to have been around for a long time. They had towers full of carvings of various Hindu dieties and were tremendously complicated in the mixing of the sculptures. Unfortunately the main ones which I would like to have visited were always locked each time I went past.

Georgetown has the highest density of population in Malaysia. It is presently something around 45% compared with 28% nationally. It has been much higher on Penang reaching around 70% in the past. So as would be expected, there are a large number of Chinese temples. There are 36 Clan temples as well as others. They almost seem to be in every street. Consequently, I visited several. Most are at least a century old and some look rather run down. But many, perhaps most, are well maintained and used.

One I visited a couple times was Teochew Temple on Chulia Street. The association was established by a small group of Teochew migrants in 1855 but the present temple was not completed until 1870. It underwent extensive restoration six years ago and so has a lovely fresh bright look. The paintwork is especially striking with the use of a lot of gold paint. I understand that the name was changed during the 20th century to Han Jiang Ancestral Temple.

On my second visit a large family group was involved in a ceremony of respect to their ancestors. This was followed by a meal or banquet. One of the family leaders who spoke excellent English explained the activity to me and warmly invited me to join in the lunch. In the end I felt rather shy and let the invitation pass by. A pity in a way as the invitation was genuine and it would have been a new experience fo me. But my confidence let me down on this occasion.

The Lum Yeong Tong Yap Kongsi clan has their temple Choo Chay Temple on the corner of Armenian Street and next to the clan house. It is only a block away from the large Kapitan Keling Mosque. Another is just at the end of the road. So I was interested in the overlapping sounds of the amplified Moslem call to prayer and the clashing cymbols of Chinese ceremonies.

My final evening in Penang coincided with the end of the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival. This is a time when ancestors are worshiped or more correctly honoured and respected by the present generations. They also try to respect lonely ancestoral spirits. I shall try to recall what I have been told.

Every Chinese family will have a small house shrine at which they may have ancestor photos but where they will leave small amounts of food offerings and burn incense. These ancestors are happy. However, some Chinese died but lack a family to continue to look after them. So they are hungry. In this festival therefore it is a time to respect these lonely ancestors or spirits.

At the Choo Chay Temple they had set up a large marque on the street and in it they had large paper effigies of either gods or ancestors. There were tables of food offerings and incense buring. At the other end of the block they had a stage and rows of seating. The two nights I went there there was a very active Chinese female performer doing her very best rock star effort. Regular costume changes as well. She seemed confident and talented. Of course no one seemed to see any problem with rock concert at one end and religious activity at the other. Sounds from both overlapping. Quite a cultural blending I thought.

On the final night I went back to watch again. This time they had taken over the crossroad beside the temple and were building up a rectangular wall of bick like bundles of paper money. False money of course as the spirits apparently don't know the difference. Then they laid great long strings of crackers around the 'wall; and along the road. Other strings were hung from lamp posts and poles. All the time cars and motor scotters were making their way past the construction.

Suddenly, in the marque a whole lot of crackers went off and the banging of cymbols began. Out came a parade of people holding the paper effigies high and others throwing fake money like confette at a wedding. There was lots of noise, shouts cymbols, drums as the parade went off round the block.

A few minutes later they came down the street towards the crossroads. Cars were trying to drive towards the parade but there was no room to pass so they pulled over as best they could. The paraded halted about 50 metres from the crossroads.Suddenly the strings of crackers started going off – some very close to the pulled over cars and their passengers. It was all very noisy. I was close enough to be pelted by pieces of cracker case and small stones thrown up from the road surface.

As the crackers stopped the fireworks began. A table set up by the paper money wall had numbers of display strength shooting and exploding balls. Very impressive and the cinders were dropping on me. You would never be this close back home. And the cars continued to drive right past – unbelieveable! But a fire brigade crew was on duty.

Once the fireworks were over, the parade advanced and the effigies where placed on the money pile.

Now great plastic bags of gold and red coloured paper, some rolled into cone shape, were piled up beneath the figures. Dozens of bag fulls were brought to the pile by excited participants.

Finally a circle of young people stood around the pile a flame was passed around and each lit a a tourch. Then in unison they all reached forward and lit the pile in front of them. In no time a great ring of flame appeared. As the crowds watched, the cars and scootters drove past and trhe rock concert continued, the pyre of paper qickly reduced to ashes.

The next morning as I walked to Komtar to catch my bus for Kuala Lumpur, I past ash pile after ash pile telling me that similar but smaller ceremonies had taken place. Most were just small household fires, indicating the range of scale for the ceremony.

The Hungry Ghosts had been made happy for another year.

A photo posting of the this even can be found several entries below.



In 1786, on the 16th of July, a British fleet arrived off shore and Captain (later Sir) Francis Light landed to plant the Union Jack. Of course he was not the first to come to Penang. Malaysians already lived there under the rule of a local sultan. It was a fairly swampy area then but in time became the base for Georgetown.

Captain Light immediately set about building a fort, out of bakau wood, the local palm. Obviously, while this may have looked good, the wooded walls would not have withstood many canon balls during an attack. So fairly quickly, in 1793 actually, the fort was upgraded with stone walls although Captain Light's original star shape was retained. From what I seem to know, a star shape was a fairly common design as the protruding star points enabled the defenders to be out beyond the main wall line and so able to fire at wanyone attempting to attack and scale the walls.

It was named after Charles Cornwallis the Governor General in Bengal and may have indicated his popularity or perhaps was a political move by the British East India Company to gain or retain favor.

So today we can see the oldest fort in Malaysia and get an idea of what it would have been like 300 years ago. But, today it does seem to be a bit run down.

The fort is next to the sea and today seperated from it by The Esplanade which is a popular area for locals to walk along and fish when the tide is in. Unfortunately the sea here proved to be too shallow to become a base for a British fleet and this alone casued a decline in the fort's importance.

My problem was finding a way in. I walked along Light Road, on the inland side of the fort but couldn't see an open way in. At the far end was a large notice with details of visiting and arrow pointing the way. So I headed off following the arrow. Along the next side I came to a rather imposing gate which seemed to be the way I should go in. But it was closed. Oh well, that's life. So I walked on following the walls around until I reached the final side – almost where I had started from. And here it was, and open door, with a list of admission fees.

As I had walked around the walls I was interested to see and photograph various canon pointing out to sea. There had been a moat (9m wide x 2m deep) in front of the walls but it had been filled in during a maleria outbreak in the 1920's. However, by the entry gate a remanent of the moat did remain and had water and a draw bridge to walk across. Adult entry fee was RM2 which is a little less than NZ$1 so visiting was not expensive.

Just inside the gate is a bronze statue of Captain, Sir Francis Light. However, as no likeness of him was preserved, of for that matter ever made, the statue is based upon the likeness of his son, Willaim Light.

There is an arena in the middle of the fort with a stage and seating. However, the main thing to do is walk around the top of the wide walls and look at the view and see even more canon. One cannon – perhaps the largest- is considered by some locals to have magical fertility powers. An interesting but unbeliveable thought I would think. What is true about the canon, known as Sri Ramba Cannon, is that it was found on the seabed in the Straits of Malacca in 1880 and brought to Fort Cornwallis. Infertile women placing floweres at the cannon and saying some prayers are supposed to have born children.

In one corner there is a small powder store which I was able to go into. It was constructed in 1814 – a time when England and France were at war. In fact the possability of a French attack was one of the rasons for building the fort.

Essentially the powder store is just a small room with very think walls in which the gunpowder for the canon was stored. Interestingly though is the fact that never in the Fort's history has it never been attacked or fired on. Consequently it has never had to fire canon in anger.

In a different corner is a small white church, once again with thick walls which would keep the interior cool. While there is nothing to see inside the empty building, I was interested at how low the door frame was. Perhaps this indicated that the Europeans of the 18th Century were all quite short. Or it could support another theory that it was never in fact a church or chapel but rather a munitions store. The idea behind this being that the East India Company for which Captain Light worked, was interested in making profit and not building churches.

A notice board stated that the first wedding to occur in the church in 1799, was the widow of Sir Francis Light, Martina Rozells, although this claim is disputed elsewhere. What I did find was that she was never actually married to Captain Light and they had several children. In his will Captain Light treated them as his wife and children and they inherited most of his savings and property. Actually, it seems tha Light himself was the result of a union between a village maid and a local married wealthy land owner. Interestingly this gentleman had treated Light as if he were his son with payment for education and an inheritance in his will.

The story of Captain Light and the fort is set out over a number of posters in rooms under the walls.

Also on the fort site is an old lighthouse – a metal framed tower.

While the fort may not be as grand and imposing as some in Europe, it is still a pleasant and relaxing attraction to visit in Georgetown. And there was a steady flow of visitors while I was there. Not in hundreds but in ones and twos and threes. You did not feel crowded or having to compete to see or read something.


The guide books all mention this temple and it seemed to be something
worth looking at. Unfortunately I did not quite grab the full size of
the complex and consequently did not give myself enoght time to fully
visit the temple. It is claimed to be the largest Buddhist complex in
S.E.Asia, although some references just say it is the largest in
Malaysia. Either way it is large.

The bus ride from the Komtar took about one hour. During this time we
travelled through mostly urban areas although there was quite a change
from the bussle of downtown Georgetown to the various rural centres we
travelled through. There were groups of local village communities
infront of me between more modern buildings. We passed some large
schools and a modern and large mosque. Of course there were other
mosques and various temples but this one was noticeable. In fact I was
so interested in looking at it that I didn't take a photograph.

The bus dropped me off in the little town of Air Item, beside the
market. In front of me but higher on the ciff top sat the largest temple
complex that I have ever seen. It looked like a set from a Hollywood
movie such as Lost Horizon. It brought to mind images of Tibet or remote
areas of China.

In fact the actual site was selected by the founder as it reminded him
of the landscape in his home area of China. Construction which began in
1890 took a full 40 years to complete but there have been additions made
since. For instance in 2002 a 30 metre bronze statue of Kuan Yin
(Goddess of Mercy), was completed.

But how to get up to it? No signs pointed the way although it was a
popular place for tourists and locals to visit. I did wonder if the the
narow tunnel or pasage through crowded stalls lead to it, but as it was
so unimposing I quickly rejected that as the way to go. Instead I headed
up the road which wound its way up the opposite side of the valley. I
assumed that there must be some way to get from the road to the temple.
It was a 20 minute climb during which I passed a smaller Buddhist temple
or centre and got views of the mountain stream cascading down in the
valley. I could see the road on the other side of the valley ahead of me
so I knew there was a point where I would cross the river and be just
below the temple.

And so it was that I eventually reached the temple car park. At the end
of my visit I mad some enquiries and found that yes, the narrow passage
between the trading stalls would have been the was the way I should have
come. Oh well, it had been a pleasant walk up the valley.

Well, the temple rally needs to be seen to be believed. In front of me
were wide stairs leading up to the first floor temple area. On the
ground floor were trading stalls of appropriate Buddhist items, a large
vegetarian resturant and a car park, plus the passageway leading down to
the town.

So ascending the stairs, I entred a large room perhaps the sive of of a
rugby field – remember that this is a big complex. There were rows of
seats set out which looked a bit like a church – except that they faced
several statues of Buddha and other identities. Dominant clolours were
gold red and black. Incense was burning at several locations. Each of
the chairs had a small shelf attached at the back upon which was placed
various books of Buddhist scriptures. A bit like pew Bibles and hymn
books in a church.

As I had noticed in other temples, individuals carried out their private
devotions while others walked around them and sometimes photographed
them. There were plenty of cameras out in action and it was interesting
to watch Asian camera enthusiasts taking pretty much the same sort of
photos as I was. I guess tourists react pretty much the same no matter
who they are.

But there was more to see. The next area was a Chinese garden courtyard
with fountains and various statures of Buddah. The largest was at one
end of the garden on a low mound with a pagoda style roof set over it.
All very peaceful. The pathway directed me along and through a door in a
wall. Now I had entred into another temple area. Along the wall, through
the circular gateway, were dozens of identical statues. They surrounded
a building in which the ground floor was a tourist suvineer shop and the
upper floor housed a number of statues, many of Buddha. This area
afforded some good views down into the town below.

The complex was full of a variety of Buddha statues as well as
Bodhisattvas and also numerous Chinese gods. Lanterns hung everywhere.

Time was running out, so I had to keep moving along. Next was a rather
dark temple area, again with statues in various places, each affording
an opportunity to worship and leave burning joss sticks.

Then the visitor flow went into a large souvineer shop where I was told
'All closed". I had been heading towards a elevator or esculator which
would take me up to higher levels of the complex. "Come back tomorrow"
the shop assistants told me, but while that would have been possible, I
had other things planned for that space in time.

A pity really, as I was heading to see Ban Po Thar or the Ten Thousand
Buddhas Pagoda. I had been able to see it in the distance and it did
look imposing. It is a seven story pagoda which combines elemnets of
Chinese, Thai and Burmese architecture. It is considered to be quite
unique and special.

Although I left before it was dark, I have since read that at night the
temple complex is brightly lit with neon lighting and spotlighting. This
apparently gives it a 'Las Vagas' appearance.

So I made my way back down the tunnel formed by the meeting rooflines of
the side by side stalls. There was a turtle pool along the way but that
was now closed although I could look through the grill and see the
turtles. Most of the stalls were closing, after all the flow of visitors
had largely finished. There was the usually merchandise; tee shirts and
tee shirts, temple souvineers and leatherwork. But mostly it was tee
shirts. All more or less the same, so I expect the price would have been
as well.

Back down to ground level it was the challenge to work out where to
catch the bus. I wandered around where I had been let off but there was
no obvious bus stop. In the distance, perhaps eoo metres away I could
see the town's main street and an occasional bus going along. OK, I
thought that it would be best to go down there.

Passing the market stalls selling fruit and vegetables, I noticed across
the road several young Europeans chatting to a stall holder. So I
wandered across to see if they knew where to catch the bus. They didn't,
but the stall holder was cutting up samples of local fruit and passing
it around the group. She had split open a Jack Fruit and invited me to
try it. So I scooped out a segmernt around a large black seed. It tasted
very sweet juicy and nice. We all were happy to have another segment.

On the main street I asked several people for the bus stop and got a
variety of suggestions but eventually I ended up back at a point I had
passed and on the opposite side of the road to wait. When the correct
bus did come along I was interested to find that it drove right past the
spot I had alighted earlier and where I had first started looking for a
bus stop to go home. In fact the bus followed along from Georgetown.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

PENANG #4 The 'Logos Hope' Visited

There were two ships tied up at the Georgetown wharves. One was a large cruiseliner which did not appear to move the whole time I was in town. The other was in town for all of my stay but had more activity around it.

This was 'Logos Hope' and it is run by Mercy Ships, a Christian Ministry. This is the third or fourth vessel the group has opperated and most have been old. One was able to claim to be the world's oldest working passenger liner. The current ship is an ex-Farroe Island ferry.

What the Mercy Ships do is bring a Book Fair to each port and invite locals to visit and hopefully make a purchase.

So, as the ship was moored close to the guest house I went along to see what it was all about.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of a crowd. Sure people were coming and going but only in ones and twos.

On board the welcome includes watching a short video on the history of the ships. Not very long and there was also a photographic wall display of the history as well.

Then there was the book fair. All you havre to imaging is going into a large well stocked book shop and not actually all that large. Just part of one deck. In fact I had expected more than this.

Almost every title I glanced at appeared to be from the USA. The only exception was a stand of books in what appeared to be Hindi. There were a few 'classics' a lot of 'relationship' titles including how to get along with your husband, wife, children, teenager, workmates and so on. I recognised several authors as being fairly conservative US Christians. Cooking books also seemed a bit out of place.

I did wonder how American teaching (and cooking) would fit into a different culture such as that of Penang? There would be economic differences as well. There was a poor collection of DVDs and plenty of CDs but I don't know much about the performers.

All stock was for sale and they had an interesting pricing system. Every book was given a unit price and that would be matched up with a local currency. I can not recall the exact ratio but suppost that 50 units would equal RM15. A simple system which saved each book having to be repriced in each country.

There were also grab bags of reduced price titles. Leaving the books took me into the cafe where I thought a cup of coffee would be welcome. No espresso but then this is an American ship who think drip or perculated coffee is the way God intended it to be. I guess that's an over generalisation.

What I do know is that at RM5 it was way higher than on shore prices. Same with the muffins. So I paid the inflated price to give the cafe staff something to do, sat down and waited. Now the Mercy Ships approach is to have staff engage cafe customers in conversation and perhaps evangelise.

Pretty soon a young Korean lad came over and I made it clear to him that I knew something about the ship its organisation and for that matter about Korea as well. He did mention a disappointment with the low numbers coming. They had just come from ports in India where they averaged 13,000 visitors a day with one day of over 16,000. He agreed that it was really impossible to move easily in the book area.

When it was time to leave and make other visits my Korean staff member escourted me to the gangplank and wished me well. And I do not think he said “Have a good day”. But then he wasn't an American.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Georgetown is on and the capital of the island of Penang. But it is only a short distance from the closest part of the mainland. It can be seen clearly across the strait -except when it rains, as it does.

The day I decided to cross by ferry boat, the weather was not that encouraging. Low clouds hung all around, but being ever hopeful I decided that if it did cear a bit, then I would get some great views of Georgetown from the sea.

The busy ferry terminal is generally known as the Jetty. Most buses route through its bus terminal at some stage and it is where the city's free shuttle service starts and also finishes.

The ferries themselves are some what 'historical' and as such are worth a ride on. The bottom deck is for vehicles and the top deck for walkon passengers. Rows of old seats are still functional.

The service runs like clockwork and as one ferry arrives the other departs. Across on the mainland the same routine is followed so that a 15 minute or so frequency is maintained. The trip itself only takes quarter of an hour. On the way there are good views of the mainland port and in the other direction – to the south- a view of the really impressive 8.5km bridge which provides a island to mainland road link.

The trip across is free although you have to pay to come back. I think the cost was MR 1.60 which makes it less than 80 cents NZ.

Ther mainland port is Butterworth of which the guide books usually say something like “pass though quickly”. It does have a wharfside bus terminal with many long distance buses competing for customers. The fares are pretty much standardise so they compete on appearance of the bus and most have hanging looped curtains complete with tassels.

As I left the shelter of the Butterworth ferry teminal, I was greeted by a deluge. The heavens openend and there was enough rain for Noah's Ark to have floated. In other words it was heavy serious rain.

I wandered past the parked coaches and the keen sales reps - “ bus to KL sir?” This despite the fact I had no bags.

Now in my morning confidence I had omitted to pack a rain coat – well actually I only have wo temergency plastic ponchos from the $2 shop. But even these were not included in my day pack this morning. The answer had to be an umbrella.

Walking quickly across the road attempting to avoid as many puddles as I could and not being completely successful – new ones seemed to form just as I put my foot down. I headed across to the large market building only to find that is was half empty and that it was a food market. OK I would try the little shops along the road. Crossing the next road I got even wetter and as I wandered along between the shops water running off their awnings all seemd to be draining down on the spaces I had to walk along. No shop sold umbrellas. What a lost opportunity I thought.

I went into a local coffee shop for a cup of hot or warm black coffee and it came complete with condensed milk. This coffee maker could not understand anyone not having milk in.their coffee. Being wet, soaked through actually, any cup of coffee was acceptable in the end. So I sat and watched the rain and I watched all the mostly empty long distance buses roll out for their 10:30am departure.

Finally the rain seemed to lesson and I quickly made my way back to the bus terminal. No one offered my a seat this time – I guess I looked to wet to be on their next bus. That suited me and actually in the end I decided the rain had not eased, I was just 'hoping'.

The result of the rain was tat the view of Georgetown was almost non existent thanks to the rain and low cloud or mist. Secondly all the seats near the open sides of the deck were wet and the passengers were all huddled in the drier central area.

As I past the toilet on the wharf I noted and attendant seated at the door. That would indicate payment required. Mostly this seems to be 30 seni. But I became aware of the women queing up at the free on board “Ladies' Loo” I decided that these women had made the trip often enough to learn the system.

In the light of my learning experience on this little outing I have to conclude that the guide books are right. Give it a miss. But then again I had an experience there that I will not easily forget and there was the condense milk as well. By the way the coffee cost MR1 whereas on the island without milk it is only 90 seni.

I also decided that catching a bus for KL in a few days I would do my best to catch one that did not require the the ferry trip to Butterworth

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Penang is the name of the island and the city I stayed at is Georgetown.

Leaving the Old Penang Guest House and turning left took me back into
the business of the commercial area. Here along Lebuh Chulia (Lebuh
means road), were a range of small business each in their own house shop
style of building. Few expanded into two spaces. There was a bread
bakery a 7-11, various hardware shops, guest houses (usually upstairs)
and cafes. By evening the side of the road was taken over by many food
stalls, often with tables and chairs set out. Others seemed to
specialise in the 'drive through' service. But here the car just stopped
and the traffic would pile up behind while the driver's order was served.

It is quite normal to walk along the road itself here and in many other
streets. The footpath often does not exist of carry on continously so to
avoid the large drain at the road edge it is easier to walk on the road
side of the parked cars. Incidently over my stay, I saw many traffic
wardens writing out tickets for parked cars, but it never seemed to
reduce the number of cars parked in that spot.

Generally during the day traffic moves at a slow pace along this road.
It was often bumper to bumper but no one seemed 'put out' by this state
of affairs. It was just normal. You could step out with some care of
course and cross the road bewteen cars, some would not only slow, but
stop to let you across. Of course there were some one way roads where a
couple of lanes of traffic would be moving more speedily and here
crossing needed to be more cautious or at light controlled corners.

During my stay here, I was contiously fascinated by the shops and
business I would pass. I did go down a fair number of busy and less
congested streets. Walking down Lebuh Campbell I was taken back come
across a security guard sitting on a chair at a shop front with a rapid
fire rifle of some impressive sort on his knees. Once I got over my
surprise I looked into the store and realised it was a gold merchant. I
came across perhaps another six such merchant stores with armed security
at the front. Some guards had the rifle behind their back but there was
no hiding the fact they were armed.

One afternoon I took a 50 minute bus ride to a national park. Much of
the ride was through urban areas along the coast north of Georgetown.
Much was along congested roads where the bus moved inch by inch. In time
we moved into modern suburbia with high rise apartments and flash hotels
which would fit into any tourist resort area. Then there would be a
local village before more resort areas. Finally the road left the
development behind and wove around a pretty coastal cliff area before
the road and bus rided ended in a small local village of Teluk Bahang.

This is descibed in the guide book as a sleepy little fishing village
and perhaps it is. I saw the small local fishing boats and long insecure
looking wharves which many were moored to. Out in the bay there appeared
to be a small floating settlement. There were groups of houses with
linking walkways between the groups.

Here to was the enterance to the natioanl park. It had an impossing
visitors centre which I had to sign in at and then a paved walkway lead
off along the coast and just above an attractive sandy beach. At stages
there were shaded picnic tables. I decided that walking in this park was
going to be great. However, having crossed a swing bridge and reached
the track junction, the paving stopped and the track suddenly took on
the meaning of 'track'. From then on it was a mixture of level gradient
with concrete and wooden steps up steep banks. In one place a rope was
provided to assist progress up or down a rock slope which was fairly steep.

Every now and again the route decended into a peaceful sandy bay – just
one of many opportunities for a pleasant picnic. Most of the track lead
through tropical vegetation. I don't think I would call it jungle
because most of the expected tall trees must have been removed for
milling. This was more an advanced second growth forest.

I was heading for Monkey Bay but either the map timing or my actual
progress where out of sync. I passed a group returning and they had not
reached the bay and suggested I was half way. At that stage my estimate
was that I had already been on the way for the time the map claimed it
would take to reach the bay. So after 75 minutes I decided it was time
to turn back. I had reached a large bay with a inviting sandy beach. It
had buildings and a long jetty belonging to the university and was a
research base.

Walking along the sand I was surprised and excited to find a large –
well about 1 metre long- lizzard hunting for food. We agreed not to
disturb each other and I took photos while it checked out tunnels and
holes in the sand. I sat down on a seat by the research centre and a
sound made me turn around to find a couple of adult monkeys sitting on
the high wall watching me. It was an interesting few moments before they
got bored and jumped off on the other side.

The walk back to the village was equally pleasant to coming. It even
seemed shorter. During the walk I often paused to be entertained by
groups of monkeys making their way along a couple of high wires. I
assumed that they were power lines but then again they may have been
installed just for the monkey use. Some times one monkey would decide to
stop and sit down on the upper wire blocking the way. So it was fun to
watch the following tribe swing down oneo the lower wire to get past.
All of this went on for quite a while and they sort of followed me as I
walked along. Finally they swung into some tall trees beside the track
and found their evening meal.

Back at the village I took the time to wander around a few side streets
and say hello or wave to the curious children crowding around the door
of their homes. Back at the bus stop and the rain began. A deluge.

No sign of the bus and it was getting dark, so I crossed the road to the
bar/cafe to discuss bus timetables. Well in time a bus did arrive and
the cafe manager flagged it down for me. At theat sage a further two
buses also arrived. I did not have to pay but along the road a kilometre
or so, I had to transfer to another bus and this time pay.

I was only going a few kilometres along the road to get off at a famous
night market, Which I did, except not only was it still raining but
there was a lake around the bus stop and I just had to alight into it
and get through the pond as quickly as I could.

Besides all of the usual stalls selling watched, clothing, electronics,
toys, cosmetics etc there was a very large food area. Around the edge
were various ethnic food stalls with a large area of tables and chairs
in the middle. It was busy despite the rain. Mostly local groups but
also a few tourists such as myself. My estimate is that the average meal
cost under $NZ5. I think my squid was around $NZ3.50

Well the rain didn't stop and I took my chance to jump on a bus and ride
back to Komtar, the central bus station and then walk from there to the
guest house. A very enjoyable adventure.



The Malaysiaair 737 touched down smoothly on the tarmac. I had arrived on the island of Penang, of the coast of North West Malaysia.

Over all it had been a good trip. Admittidly the departure from Auckland had been delayed 50 minutes so that the 0015 departure actually became 0110, while the departure from KL for Penang was also a little late leaving.

I found the flight from New Zealand to be comfortable no doubt a result of my weight loss but also to the extra space Malaysian Air has between their economy seats - 34 inches is an inch more than I have ever had on Air NZ economy. With a centre block of five seats the sides were only two seats per row. This was were I was seated with my asle seat and it was a pleasant trip. I was next to an young Thai woman heading home for a holiday. She is studying in Wellington.

I found that the in seat video screen was lacking in colour for movies athough I did manage to watch one from Sweden, one from Belguim and part of one from the UK. Meals were ok although the service lacked somewhat. Coffee was with the meal delivery and if you didn't know to ask then you missed out. As also was the wine. Choice of two – one white one red. No inflight attendants walking around offering water during the trip either. In fact they seemed a little understaffed.

So a high rating for seating space but an average for the rest. It will be interesting to compare the return flight later on.

At KL there was a sort airtrain ride between terminals which gave a quick link up between domestic and international. I went through a quick immigration check here and had no customs check when my bag came through at Penang – well only an incoming xray machine and that was it.

I spotted AirAsia and FireFlyz planes on thePenang tarmac.

I found the bus stop easily enough outside the terminal. However there was about a 30 minute wait for the bus but I was not alone. The bus trip was about 35 minutes into Georgetown and gave me a good look at the length of the island. Mostly or totally we traveled through urban areas and passed some very modern expensive looking appartment blocks and conduminiums. Also new high rise shopping malls. There were also some very high appartment blocks with a less expensive look.

I had to get off the bus at the Komtar, the central bus station as the bus was doing a different route to normal from then on. Actually I was on a 401E instead of just 401. But the driver pointed out the direction to go and said trun right up there and the next intersection turn left and you are in Carnarvon Street. I knew I had to wander along here to reach Love Lane where the guesthouse was located. It was all quite straight forward with the guesthouse being easy to find just a 100 or so mtres along the Lane.

Mind you walking along from the bus with a trolly bag was not difficult but the rough ground and constant going up and down from the high pavement to the road to pass obstructions and roadways did slow me down. One of the most common obstructions was motor scooters parked on the pedestrian way followed by tables and chairs and hawkers' food stalls. Welcome back to Asia.

The Old Penang Guesthouse is widely roccommended in the guidebooks and I can understand why.

It is in an old, historic in fact, pre-war building which has been restored to an atmospheric and pleasant experience. Another similar restoration is in the ajoining building. Entering the guesthouse and you are greeted by a reception desk and a long airy and cool foyer with high ceilings and fans rotating. The original mosaic tiles floor has been retained. There are cane chairs and tables spaced around and a small table with the breakfast requirements and coffee and tea pots. Above the dining area is a balcony with wooden shutters adding to the old cololonial abience.

Shoes are left at the foot of the old wodden stairway. My single room was an acceptable size with a comfortable bed and small bedside table and not much else. There was air conditioning but no window which I suspect is common with most of the rooms. The bathroom facilities for this floor were built out off the side of the building.

I noticed that the upstairs coridor floor boards where also the bownstairs ceiling. Through the tiny gaps between the boards you see down below. I guess this was part of the authenticity of the historic building.

From the upstairs the passage partly formed a balcony looking fown onto the dinning and lounge area. There were open wooden shutters along it but these were more for decoration I assumed than actually functional.

Everything seemed clean and tidy and there were always pleanty of staff around for the whole of my stay here. A note attached to the reception desk noted that the Guest House had been rated the second highest in Malaysia by Hostelworld for May 2011.

Time to go out and wander in the humid warmth. Quite managable I thought. I wandered along Love Lane and realised how many little guesthouses and backpacker hostels were in the street. Most were small shops converted with their lounge area being open right onto the street. Works fine in a tropical climate such as Penang's. I assumed that these had at some stage been the typical house shop, which is a feature of Penang

This is the old historic zone of the and consequently many of the buildings are showing the signs of age and decay. All very photogenic though. Oposite the Old Penang GH is a small school and a larger and noiser one is a bit further along the lane. I hope my students were never as noisy as the ones I hear each time I pass.

Turning right at the end of the Lane and I passed a Catholic Church and then the St George Anglican Church which is historic and recently restored.The restoration was completed esarly in 2011.

In front of the church is a columned rotundra with a domed roof which is the Co. Francis Light Memmorial – he was the key founding figure of Penang.In fact he planted the British flag and built the fort which still stands how be it reconstructed into a stronger more secure brick and stone structure. Light's original was mad out of local palm tree trunks.

This is an area of the old colonial admistration so many of the buildings are 19th century style and everything is painted a fresh white. Where the paint has been on for a while and weathered then it looks very drab but the key buildings were all perfectly white and cool looking.

So I continued just wandering around getting an idea of the area and getting my bearings.

It is all quite fascinating with every street filled with little businesses trading in every possible

product. Lots of small cafes and none looking like NZ standards but you soon become used to them and head in for a coffee. All coffee here seems to be pre sugared and I have to tell them no milk which if I forget, proves to be condensed milk and adds to the sweetness.

I later learnt tht Penang coffee is unique. The beans are fried in butter and sugar rather than roasted which is what we normally expect. I did find an Italian espresso cafe with good tradional espresso but I found the bill included a 10% service charge plus a government tax. The end result though was only what I would pay for espresso in New Zealand.

My first impressions of Penang were totally positive. I knew I was going to enjoy my stay here.



My Melaka Angels who gave up their time to show me the way from a distant bus stop through a large shopping mall car parks etc to the Town Square where I wanted to be.