Wrapping up Penang
As the abundance of Penang related posts probably illustrates, I had a great time there. Though I don’t think all the pictures in this post deserve their own features, there are some ends to wrap up.
Sin Kok’s tour of Penang was comprehensive without loosing the touch of the personal. We started the day at the Chew Jetty, which is an old Chinese community that lives at the docks of Penang. Their whole neighborhood is built on stilts, out over the water, and is packed as tightly as possible so that alleys are the only means of exploring the place.
After our tour through the wooden maze at the Jetty, Sin Kok took me to the Peranakan Mansion. Usually I am not really into estate viewing, but this stop was completely worth it. The oppulant mansion was a perfect illustration of Penang as cultural eddy. English society, Chinese tradition, and Malaysian culture were all evident in the mansion and it’s decorations. The trip was particularly cool though, because we happened to stop by during the filming of a movie. So, while I was scoping out the mansion’s Taoist altar, I also got to watch as they filmed a period piece. In the scene we encountered, Chinese students were playing games during a break from study. I saw at least 4 takes and it didn’t look as if the director was happy when we shuffled out.
The tour became more personal as Sin Kok also introduced me to nearly every resident of the city. Penang is a pretty small ‘big city’ and Sin Kok is ridiculously friendly, so in a way it makes sense, but he knows everybody. Between sites we would stop in at the Lexus dealer for a drink and pampering while we talk to his friend. Or at lunch, we would say hi to some former co-workers before finding food of our own. At the Passion of Kerala, where we had the banana lead lunch, he threatened to introduce me to and take a picture of the mayor. I was barely able to convince him I smelled so bad and looked so travel-grimy that it didn’t need to happen.
Finally, after a day of Fort Cornwallis, Kapitan Keling Mosque, St. George’s Church, Kek Lok See Temple, The Jetty, a Clan house, a Taoist Temple, the Mansion, and city hall we were finally on the way to the botanical gardens. Sin Kok fed monkeys and I gazed out over the hill covered lawns, relaxing, as joggers strained to pass by. For a moment, one not had since the cemetery, there was calm. That is until it started pouring and we made a frantic dash back to teh car and eventually my then dripping, drying laundry.
Penang- what a great place. Dutch, English, Malay, Chinese, Thai all coming together. Brick streets and Carlsberg beside English forts and Museums. Chinese food and Indian food outnumbering the Malay places. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam all being happily worshipped together. Amsterdam, in South East Asia, under an Islamic government? A city-state-island with a National Park and the beautiful botanical gardens for urbanites? None of it seems to make sense, but it’s there.