Last few days in Malaysia
Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
113Trip End Feb 26, 2010
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Where I stayed
75 Travellers Lodge
Having successfully navigated our way around Chinatown (the largest and best preserved Chinatown we've seen anywhere on our trip), we ate some very nice western food in the Western & Oriental cafe (next to our guesthouse) and went for a few drinks in the 'Banana Cafe'.
The next day we set out early to do a bit of sightseeing. First stop was the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion which belonged to one of China's last mandarins and first and most successful capitalists. It has been carefully restored to it's original state and won the UNESCO award for best restoration in 2001 - it's a really interesting looking building, painted indigo and combining a mixture of styles (Floor tiles from Staffordshire, wrought iron from Scotland, Chinese Feng Shui and art deco stained glass windows. We had a fantastic guide called Phuong showing us around.
After this, we went to the Penang Museum and learnt all about the 3 different cultures that make up Penang (Malay, Indian & Chinese). We then walked to the Prangin Mall to look around the shops and amazingly, after a lot of getting lost, we found a shop selling Crocs (the stupidly expensive flip flops Rachel keeps buying and losing but can't do without!). he bought her 3rd pair of the trip and Stuart made the mistake of trying them on, realised how amazingly comfortable they are and bought some too! On our way back, stomachs grumbling, we stumbled across a Piza Hut and were very excited so we went in and ordered a large stuffed crust margherita - yum! This was clearly a strange choice in Malaysia, as all the staff kept coming over to look at the pizza then tell their friends "Only cheese!"
We spent the evening in the Banana Cafe again, chatting to a guy from London, Matt who had been travelling on his own for 7 months so was desperate for some company!
Day 2 - more sightseeing
We then walked for what seemed like miles to find the Penang Hill Railway station to get up to the top of the hill. Unfortunately, we found that only the bottom half was open so we were only able to get to the middle station. The views were still great though and it meant we had a valid excuse not to trek down to the Botanic Gardens, which we had originally intended on doing ("what a shame!" said Rachel)
Our final day was a bit of a disappointment really. First we walked to the port to get ferry tickets to Medan and found that it is very expensive. Then the bank wouldn't change outr traveller's cheques or give us US dollars or Indonesian Rupiah so we had to rethink how to get money for Indonesia and ended up losing lots of money by using the atm then going to a money changer. The highlight of the day was probably looking around Fort Cornwallis, which was built by Francis Light of the British East India Company when he claimed Penang in the late 18th century
The afternoon was spent trying to get to the Botanic Gardens. We were told by several sources, get the 102 bus from the bus station so we walked there and were hustled onto a random bus and were told it went to the Botanical gardens. We waited a while thn set off. The bus driver shouted at us to get off and vaguely waved his hand around to give us directions. We followed these, and we found the gardens but it was an hour's walk in the rain and we were fed up and tired when we finally got there. Even the monkeys failed to interest us and after a few minutes we left and got a taxi home (R refused to walk back again!) Stuart came up with a cunning plan to cheer Rachel up and we walked to the Chocolate Boutique on the corner of our road where ladies surrounded us forcing us to try every kind of chocolate they made (including some dubious looking Durian chocolate). We bought some coconut chocolates which we ate in our room while recovering from the walking. That evening, we found a stall selling Mexican food and, once again, food cheered us up!
Overall, we liked Penang, although we didn't get to the beaches because of the terrible weather. The Lonely Planet describes Georgetown as having 'sagging colonial grandeur' and that is exactly what we found - if someone just gave it a lick of paint, it would be transformed! It's one of the most diverse places we've been with all the different cultures and religions working well together instead of separately.
So we're off to Sumatra tomorrow, sad to leave Malaysia which we've really enjoyed. It's a great mixture of cities and natural beauty.