George Town, Malaysia
I woke up, packed my bags, checked out of the hotel, and walked to the nearby bus station. At 10:00, the bus departed; it made a stop at the Terminal Ekspress located in northwest Ipoh to pick up some more passengers before continuing on the journey northward. The ride took just under two and a half hours. We reached the bus station in Butterworth, I disembarked the bus, grabbed my bags, and walked to the ferry terminal (a short distance under covered passageways from the bus station). I paid the 1.20 ringgit fee and then waited for the ferry to dock; once all the eastbound passengers had exited the vessel, us westbound passengers entered on board. The ferry then departed the Malay mainland for Penang Island; it was a short twenty minute ride to the island with George Town as our final destination. The ferry then docked, I departed, and walked west to find the hostel I had booked with the day prior. I walked through a decent portion of the old town before finally finding it (there was a local motion picture being filmed nearby the hostel, so the side entrance street was blocked off). I then checked in, met the young Ukrainian woman who manages the place, was shown to my room, and then dropped my bags off. Shortly after entering the hostel, an afternoon shower passed through, so I waited until the air had dried up before exiting the hostel in search of a Malay meal for lunch.
The rain passed through quickly and it wasn’t long before I ventured out and found a nearby restaurant (actually part of another hostel) located in an old shop-house. I had fried chicken pieces with tomatoes, onions, and pineapple in a plum sauce. After finishing my meal, I walked west to look at the old historic buildings still standing today. I then came across a “Chocolate and Coffee Museum” and could not resist the temptation to enter (which was free!). The “museum” consists of one room with paintings on the walls depicting how coffee and chocolate are created, as well as some additional facts and figures, list of benefits from consuming either, and a television showcasing the production process as well. Next there are five adjoined rooms with many shelves loaded with chocolate and coffee goods to purchase – the real reason for the “museum”; although this gift shop does have free tastings of most of their products, making a trip to this establishment completely worthwhile and highly recommended. I had durian chocolate, banana chocolate, mango chocolate, tiramisu chocolate, sesame cream covered chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate covered coffee, white coffee, hazelnut coffee, caramel coffee, durian coffee, and honey tea. It was an excellent and refreshing stop. Inside the shop, I met an American traveler (who has been traveling for 14 months) and a German traveler (8 months for him). We started talking around the free coffee samples and then left together to head to the nearby Cheong Fatt Tze mansion; unfortunately the mansion was closed, so we then walked to their hostel for them to rest (they had a late, but interesting night that left them tired), but agreed to meet up at the Red Garden for dinner (a “food paradise” with many stalls selling local and international cuisines – decently priced too).
I then walked north to see the following historic structures: the High Court Building, St. George’s church, the Logan Memorial, and Fort Cornwallis – a star-shaped fort located next to the esplande and the waterfront. The fort is also located at the landing site where Sir Francis Light (the founder of the British colony of Penang and its capital George Town) and his crew came ashore in 1786 to “take possession” of Penang Island. I walked around the inside of the fort and along its walls and battlements. There were a number of displays detailing the history of the fort, from its founding, through both World Wars, and up to today. There were also many canons on display along the fort’s northern wall, including the Sri Rambai Canon – a canon made around 1613 by the Dutch East India Company and (according to local folklore) can help infertile women conceive if they place flowers in the canon’s shaft and pray. Next to the fort was a clock tower monument erected in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. From there I walked through a number of other streets, looking at all the old buildings; many were colonial- and Chinese-styled buildings; also, there were many temples, as well as Chinese clan association houses. I then walked by the Pinang Peranakan mansion, which was the former office-cum-residence of the Hai San triad leader, Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee; it was a very lovely pastel green building constructed in the late 19th-century. I then walked south passing by Little India before coming to the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the oldest mosque in George Town.
At this point, the sun had bet me in to submission and it had gotten late, so I walked back to the hostel to relax and cool off for a while. Then, at 19:55, I made my way to the Red Garden to meet up with the American and German for dinner. I ended up having a Filipino dish of garlic lamb, garlic rice, and a very delicious soup with garlic bread. After dinner we walked back to their hostel and hung around outside near a number of food stands along the street. The American was texting a Dutch girl he had met earlier and – after hanging out for over two hours – we then got up and joined the Dutch girl, some other Dutch women, an American girl, a German girl, an English girl, and a Welsh man at a nearby pub with blaring loud music, both outside and in. From what little I could hear, I gathered that the group of girls and the Welsh man were working with the Malay people on a project designed to curb the rise of HIV . . . I think. We ended up sitting around until the early hours of early morning before some other really intoxicated Germans joined us; the most inebriated of them all complained to me about his girl problems; then the American girl took out an ancient Polaroid Camera and took a group photo of all of us; then at about 02:30, I called it quits, said my goodbyes, and walked back to my hostel. At this time, filming of the local Malay movie had moved up to the main street the hostel is located on and I watched an actor stumble out of a door and collapse on the porch (evidently a death scene) before walking back to the hostel in between takes. Shortly after entering my bed I had been overcome by slumber.