Friday, June 1, 2012

Penang and onwards......

I’m writing this from a sofa in the corridor between the Art Gallery / Casino area, the Shooting Star Lounge and the Photographic area. The weather is not great – overcast with choppy rough seas – not ‘lying in the sun by the pool’ weather sadly - so all the passengers are reading / writing / playing cards etc in these public areas or at the various organized activities.

Note, for those of you that haven’t tried it, take an elevator in a cruise ship in heavy seas, it’s a good reminder you are in a tin box at the end of a pendulum string!! You can go sideways!

The rough seas are those of the Bay of Bengal – we left Penang then sailed West (parallel to the Malaysia : Thai border) between Sumatra and the Nicobar and Andaman Island chains on our way to our next stop; Mumbai.

Penang is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. So we were looking forward to spending the day there. The name (penang) refers to the betel nut that people in this part of the world chew because it is an island with that shape. Penang as a region includes the island with the city of Georgetown and Butterworth, a town and Airforce Base across the water. The population here is largely of Chinese and Indian origin with an ethnic Malay minority – somewhat different than elsewhere in Malaysia.

Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company made a deal with the local ruler to lease the island for its position in the Straits of Malacca and potential as a trade and commercial center. He was actually highly regarded and respected here having fluency in local languages and an even-handed policy.

Under his leadership a fort was built – rather wimpy as forts go – Fort Cornwallis. Cornwallis was the Viceroy of India at the time – could he have been the one involved in the Revolutionary War? Maybe there were hordes of little Cornwallises all over the world waving the British Flag?

He also built a Free School – which provided education to all with English as a first language. Close at hand St Xaviers School was established as the first to teach primarily in the local language – hearts and minds!!! Both buildings are still there with the museum located in the surviving (post WW2 bombing) Free School structure.

We docked at the cruise terminal which is close to downtown Penang. Sadly it offered no facilities (always important are a store – especially one that sells wine and Wi Fi – that has enough bandwith to download our photos free or not). So, no additions to the modest collection of ‘plonk’ and no blog posting.

Our Tour was basically a drive and wander around of old Penang. We started off at the old ‘wet market’ early in the morning so there were a modest number of vendors preparing and selling seafood – fish of various shapes and sizes and prawns. This seemed to involve lots of chopping and dissection with sharp instruments.

Also cuts of meat that were largely unrecognizable (likely goat) but bigger than companion (not arf arf ).

Also varieties of veggies and spices which likely constitute a substantial basis for local diet. Given the climate here it looks like everything yummy can grow here – saw litchi trees, mango trees, Papaya and coconut  palms willi nilli.
Chestnuts roasted on an open fire.

Stinky (but apparently tasty) durians.

From the wet market we went to a ‘flea market’ on the outskirts of Georgetown. This was a colorful location in the tradition of all flea markets where any amount of ‘junk’ (my unsolicited personal view) is under offer in very unhygienic conditions.

A good place to buy replacement teeth

Or companion animals………..

I was actually quite disturbed by the condition of the water at our anchorage and then in all the streams that drain into the harbor.

Here is a photo of carefully bagged garbage floating down the waterway towards the sea – someone in Penang got at least part of the memo correct.

Then on the bus again to Little India. This was an area in central old Georgetown and was much more picturesque than our prior stops.

Walked the streets fascinated by the old – Hindu Temples and shophouses (store below; living quarters upstairs just like in Observatory, Cape Town J);

the young – Jewelry, saris, Bollywood and knock-off western movies and music

and the decrepit.

This would be where we should have spent all our time in Penang

Finally to the museum of Penang with artifacts of the Malay, Indian, Chinese, British and Japanese cultures. 

Crafts and hobbies were important for recreation – beading for the ladies – very genteel

Opium for others, beautifully constructed bed for getting highhhhh and appropriate paraphernalia.

As always I’m big on cars – liked the ways you could end your days here – Chinese funeral car (look carefully and you can see a picture of the deceased)

Governors Rolls Royce in which he received his last rites!!! Cut down by assasins during the Malaysian Communist Uprising (of which there is no mention in the museum or from the guides)

It was school Holidays until mid-June and there were a number of groups visiting the museum – this was a diverse group of young ladies from St Georges School for Girls – the British tradition is alive and well.

Finally, from Terry our dinner tablemate, - he was stationed as part of the Australian Army Guard Detail for the Butterworth Royal Malaysian Air Force Base for six months. His view; Penang was great duty and a lovely place to spend time. For any future visit / visitors – explore the near downtown, take your time and enjoy!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. ok... back to being vegetarian. Oh, and time to schedule a dentist appt. ew.