Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ghosts of a Glorious Past in Georgetown Penang

Georgetown, Penang - Walking along the cobblestoned streets of colonial Georgetown warps you back to the British era where every architectural structure is a dramatic display of bygone times. Mix it up with 18th century Chinese, Thai, Burmese Hindu and Buddhist Temples and add a dash of mosques (the spectacular Kapitan Keling Mosque is not to be missed) - you have a delectably charming city of contrasts! This laidback heritage city full of backpackers is a hub of holiday merrymakers minus the seediness of its Thai equivalents. I arrived in Georgetown by sailing across the ocean - a remarkable 15-minute ferry ride from Butterworth Ferry that's greeted by rain. It's sad how dry and parched Manila and the rest of Luzon were when I left, while KL and Penang are bathed with glorious showers that is well-scheduled and hardly puts a dent on the itineraries of its wandering visitors - thousands of them!
My favorites: walks along the seaside promenade with the relaxing locals; watching a photo shoot of a soon-to-be married Malaysian couple in front of the magnificent Town Hall; getting approached and asked about an address by a European guy who can speak legible english (and knowing where it is - the street: Lebuh Chuliah, at the heart of backpacker land); tasting Penang Food, particularly Garlic Chicken with rice at just 8.90 ringgit; getting around the heritage trail on a free shuttle bus which they call "CAT"; finding a closed anglican church (St. George's Church); walking around the city mapless and then finding my way back without getting lost!
Georgetown is Penang Island's city, located 210 kilometers northwest from KL. It was under the rule - leased from its Sultan for several years - by Sir Francis Light whose name is synonymous with and ubiquitous here in Penang! Today, Penang has been classified amidst jubilant locals (majority of who I saw are of Chinese ancestry, plus a smaller number are Indians, then the Malayan race) as a UNESCO World Heritage City. Is it worth the title? Much like Laos' Luang Prabang, Penang rightfully deserves it!
Simple pleasures of solo travel. Tomorrow will be interesting!
This is the Eye in the Sky!

Penang Hill's Funicular Train. This photo only from wikitravel's liftarn.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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