08.09.2013 - 12.09.2013 28 °C
We got a luxury coach from Cameron Highlands to Penang, also known as Georgetown. Penang is Just off the mainland linked by a 13.5 km three-lane, dual carriageway. Penang is often known as "The Pearl of the Orient" mainly so because of its mix of ethnicity and international businesses but we think Penang got this name due to it being the food capital of Malaysia. It is renowned for its great and varied food. (Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by Time magazine in 2004).
Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but also shows some influence of Thailand. Its especially famous "hawker food", many served al fresco, strongly features noodles, spices, and fresh seafood. Most streets in the old quarters of Georgetown (main city) have numerous street stalls and though their equipment is limited and archaic they produce the tastiest food you could imagine. Penang is also famed for its traditional biscuits such as the tau sar pneah (bean paste biscuit). Though its not really to our taste buds we didn't refuse any either. Nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap. We had lunch for two a few days for the pricely sum of 1 euro 30 cents. We usually splashed out at night time and tried a number of dishes and nearly broke ourselves to the tune of 8 euros. We even met an english man who has been travelling the world for the past 13 years and he has landed in Penang and states that he has been here for 2 years and entends to stay for another 2 and can live for the pricely sum of 3 euros for dood and 3 euros for accommodation per day.
We took to the streets to explore what Penang had to offer and such diversity was evident as we turned every corner. The influence of Chinese and Indian culture was definitely to the fore. The influence of the Chinese is everywhere, particularly in the architecture where you can see buildings well over 100 years old. Our hotel 'Kimberley House' on Kimberley St was a lovely oasis in the city. So clean and newly renovated. A good option on a tight budget.
The jettys by the waterfront are a collection of wooden houses built on stilts. This is where the Chinese clans set up when they arrived and each clan had its own jetty and does to this day. Their method of creating concrete stilts was a bit worrying, if not ingenious; filling plastic buckets with concrete and placing one on top of the other. Health and safety how are ya! Here we also saw what is probably the worlds smallest police station which was locked, but if you look closely at the photo you will see they left the key in the door. Very Irish!
The Indian culture is also very evident and little India is so colourful. The accents of the original cultures are still there even though people may be fifth generation Chinese or Indian.
On Armenian street we stopped into Armenian House coffee shop to avoid the torrential rain and to have a breakfast of penang eggs (very soft boiled eggs served mixed in a bowl with a drop of soya sauce), toast and tea. Here we met Chimino, the cousin of the owner. Chimino introduced himself and sat down with us and proceeded to give us generously of his time as he explained where to go and what to see in Penang. He was such a gentle young man and it was a pleasure for us to meet someone who loves his city so much that he wanted to go out of his way to share with us. Thank you Chimino.
The city is full of wall art, which has all be painted or erected in the last few years. You walk around a corner and there on the gable of a disused building you will see 2 kids riding a bike or a cat climbing the wall. The art is so attractive that people are thronging to see the various pieces and hawkers have set up alongside. It is such a simple idea and so effective. It has brought life back to once run down areas of the city. We loved it. Penang is a really funky city.