17 Feb - 20 Feb 2013 Georgetown

Southeast Asia
Flawed-Democratic Federation of Malaysia
Straits of Malacca
Penang Island aka Betelnut Island
Burmah Road 100
Small but perfectly adequate and clean standard double room (no. 528) with private bathroom for MYR 65.- or US$ 21.20 per night.
Free wifi from Starbucks next door. Indifferent hotel staff.
Beer: Non-halal 330-ml cans of cold and genuine Thai Chang Classic (c. 6.4 % alc./vol.) and Thai Skol (5.0 % alc./vol.) for a fair MYR 4.00 or US$ 1.30 per can from the well-connected perniagaan Teng Bee, the cheapest grocery store on Lebuh Chuliah (Georgetown’s humble answer to Bangkok’s Khao San Road).

Click below for an interactive road map of the Tune Hotel in Georgetown, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Exploring fascinating Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and “…a real Chinatown, with more traditional Chinese flavour than Singapore or Hong Kong…” (at least according to the Lonely Planet), wandering around its winding streets and old temples and spending hour after hour in (i) secretive clan houses (our favourite: the 1906 CE Khoo Kongsi with its colourful mix of dragons, lamps and carvings), (ii) smoke-filled temples (our favourite: the 1728 CE Goddess of Mercy Temple aka Kuan Yin Teng with its resident beggars, healers and fortune tellers) and (iii) old shop houses (our favourites: the many Chinese pharmacies packed to the brim, stacked high in jars and bags, with interesting essentials of traditional Chinese medicine such as dried herbs, dried animal substances and dried human body parts).

Discovering Ernest Zacharevic’s amazing street art in Georgetown, his beautiful and evocative hand-painted murals mimicking life in the city.

Spying into the secrets of Chinese (albeit perfectly vegan) mock meat, made from soy-bean curd or wheat gluten, and testing this delicious junk food at three different Penangite vegetarian restaurants (Bahasa Melayu: restoran sayur-sayuran): (i) Ee Beng +6042629161, the people’s canteen, a huge self-service buffet with at least 30 vegan options, (ii) Luk Yea Yan +6042294766, rather up-market, its special dishes include vegetarian bah kut teh, tom yam laksa and nasi lemak, and (iii)  Tien Zin +6048263544 a hole-in-the-wall with a diversity of Chinese and Malay noodles, e.g. Hokkien Mee, Curry Mee, Loh Mee, Java Mee, Penang Assam Laksa minus the fish-based broth, always served with the chef’s own mock-meat creations, for the steal of MYR 3.50 or c. US$ 1.10 per bowl.

Walking the back lanes of Georgetown and discovering numerous quaint old workshops and ateliers such as (i) a joss-stick maker, (ii) a flower-garland maker, (iii) a signboard engraver, (iv) a beaded shoe maker and (v) a songkok maker, and, afterwards, listening to the peculiar sound of a taishogoto aka Nagoya harp (the name derives from the Taisho period, 1912 - 1926 CE, when the instrument first appeared) which consists of a long, hollow box with strings running its lengths and numbered typewriter-like keys which when depressed fret or shorten the strings to raise their pitch.

Taking Penang Rapid bus 401 (MYR 2.70 or US$ 0.90 per person), avoiding pickpockets and tendering the exact fare, from the Bus Terminal Komtar to Penang’s modern Bayan Lepas International Airport, flying hereafter uneventfully with Firefly (“Your Community Airline”) +60378454543 in an ATR 72-500 from Penang to Kuala Lumpur’s convenient and recently upgraded city airport at Subang aka Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, for MYR 55.- or US$ 17.70 per person, all inclusive, catching a Rapid KL bus U81 (MYR 2.50 per person, no change) to Pasar Seni, thereafter a Rapid KL shuttlebus (MYR 2.00 per person, no change) from the Puduraya Bus Terminal to the state-of-the-art “TBS” (South Integrated Terminal aka Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) and, eventually, the arctic a/c (forewarned is forearmed) Transnasional express coach from Kuala Lumpur over a vast sea of oil-palm plantations, which stretches on to the horizon, to Mersing on West Malaysia's east coast (350 km, 6 hours, MYR 22.40 or US$ 7.20 per senior citizen), the departure point for ferries travelling between the mainland and Pulau Tioman.

Click below for more blog posts about Penang Island

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Recommended books – click below for your Amazon order from the United Kingdom:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to buy new;
It’s good to swop pre-loved.
Keep your bearings!