A Spontaneous Tour
Trip Start Nov 20, 2013
170Trip End Ongoing
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As we left the mansion, we were heading back to the hostel so I could change out of flip flops and into shoes since we were planning on walking a lot today. However, when we were outside the mansion, we began speaking with Gary, a local tour guide. After speaking with him for about 10 minutes, we ended up agreeing on a price and itinerary and suddenly we had spontaneously booked a private tour
Our first stop on this spontaneous tour was Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddha temple in Southeast Asia. We first saw the incredibly large statue of the Goddess of Mercy and took some pictures. We learned that on Chinese New Year, the area around this statue is accessible for 15 days and many people come to drop coins in the bowls placed at the base of the statue. They always bring 111 coins and drop one into each of the bowls and are always left with 2 coins for themselves as the Chinese believe it is good to have leftover money for the next year
We left the temple and headed to Penang Hill where we took a train up the steep slope of the hill. In the past, it took about half an hour to reach the top of the hill by the train. Today, with the help of the Swiss, the train takes only 5 minutes to bring passengers to the top. This hill was used by the British during the colonial era as a place to cool off as well as a lookout spot over the Melaka Strait. Up at the highest point of Penang Hill, is David Brown's restaurant and venue space. David Brown was a prominent influence in Penang during the British colonial period. His beautiful house (now an event venue) is right at the top of the hill and a little below it, there is a restaurant named for him serving "western food". While living in Penang, David Brown fell ill with a skin disease and after trying many ways to cure it and failing, he agreed to try something untraditional. He headed to the southern part of the state to a small shrine and prayed. It worked! He was so grateful for his recovery that when asked by loyal visitors of the shrine if he could help them build a temple there, he agreed. Brown was a wealthy man who owned a lot of land so he gave permission to cut down the trees in the forest around the shrine to build a temple. This displaced the snakes from the forest and every night they would find their way into the temple. This apparently still happens at nighttime today, hence, the temple is called Snake Temple!
After Penang Hill, we headed to the botanic gardens. There are about 2000 monkeys in these gardens comprised of two species of monkeys: Marquette, which are the cheeky ones looking for food, and Dusky, which are vegetarians and don't bother humans
The next stop on our tour took us to a batik workshop. We were given a tour and explanation with visuals of how batik painting works from the beginning of the process to the finished product. The process can be done by hand or with simple pattern machines and can take a few weeks depending on how quickly everything dries. A wax is placed in a pattern on the fabric to be removed at the very end of the process, revealing the pattern in either white or various colours depending on if the background is painted first or not. We we able to see someone hand painting a large tablecloth with precision and ease. Of course our tour ended in their shop where the products were beautiful, but the prices were more than we were willing to spend.
Before dropping us off at a beach bar to watch the sunset at Batu Ferringhi Beach, Gary had more foods for us to try. First up, we had a soya bean curd dessert, similar to the one we had in Singapore. It's natural soya bean curd with liquid brown sugar on top, which was really nice, as was the soya drink we tried. As we were eating and drinking this, Gary ran to another cart and bought more food for us to try. Jason wouldn't try the pork sandwich, but I really liked it. The last foods Gary insisted on us eating were fried bananas and sweet potatoes and these were some of the best pisang goreng we've had yet!
Bora Bora is a fun bar with tables set up right on the beach. We relaxed on the beach while sipping a beer and watching the sun set above people parasailing, jet skiing, and horseback riding. It was a really great spot to relax for a little while. Our last stop today was the Batu Ferringhi night market, which spans over a couple kilometres. We bought some more DVDs and had dinner in a food court. This market is mostly clothing, gadgets, and art, so we didn't buy too much at all, but we did try a crispy pancake with a filling of nuts and sweet corn, which was okay. We caught the local bus and took it back to Georgetown, ready for sleep after a fun, spontaneous day!