And we made it to Malaysia! Our current view is water and hills and our new love is Georgetown Penang. We are particularly fond of the inner city, which is designated as an UNESCO city. There, the streets are lined with worn British buildings from years gone by and their walls are dotted with art.
We set out Valentine’s Day to see the more historical parts, lured by a Chinese celebration that night. With help from one of the friendly bus drivers, we made it to Fort Cornwallis, which I’m sorry to say is nothing to write home about. A few signs, moldy walls, some cannons, too much afternoon heat and that’s about it. So with some ice cream we ventured out again in search of the Penang Street Art!
The city is decorated with steel rod cartoons paying homage to some of Penang’s history, as well as some lovely paintings. We set out with our map, finding a steel rod cartoon and a very smoky Chinese Temple. As it was the last day of Chinese New Year, the temple was filled with smoke from burning incense and joss sticks (if joss sticks are as thick as coconut trees and decorated). I hesitated to go in but James led the way and my eyes were filled with so many similar but different sights.
The most strange thing to me was keeping on my shoes to enter the temple, that is a definite no-no in Thailand! Visitors prayed to Chinese religious figures, lit candles, added oil to lanterns and of course, burned incense. With a quick partaking in ceremony, we left the smoke and heat to find more art.
The afternoon heat slowly cooled and the city continued to grow on me as more art appeared down interesting side streets. We followed our paper guide and found the very popular paintings by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. These beautiful paintings attract crowds and we would intersect with groups of people taking photos too. It felt like we were on an art tour with others…well until we diverged into an awesome restaurant called China House. An interesting doorway and sign about art called us in and it did not disappoint. The food was wonderful and the gallery upstairs hosted interesting local artists. (They also have an entire table covered in desserts we must learn about next time.)
Back on the street, we came across another Chinese temple. The man was about to close the door but allowed us to go in…and then the very loud banging began. A man hit a drum while another hit a cymbal and then a procession of people walked out of the temple. A woman, over the noise, said it was for prosperity and encouraged us to follow after it. I delayed, taking photos (fitting for me), and we hurried to see where the men had went. We found them on a float! We snapped a few but then watched as they headed off away from our destination, their small parade of two floats. Walking to Esplanade, we passed a very large Mosque and Hindu temple. There is a very neat blend of cultures in the city. Chinese, Indian and Muslims are very prominent in the community.
Passing more interesting buildings, we arrived at the Chinese celebration, for Chap Goh Meh. It is considered Chinese Valentine and associated with a tradition of women throwing mandarin oranges into the river with their name, hoping to find their soulmate. The festival had many food vendors and a stage that showcased local dances, performed by high school students.
With our day of walking though, we cut out before the fireworks, and then ironically had to walk back to where we are staying (over 2.5 miles away), our desired bus never appearing. The charm of the city had a hold of us though and we are continuing to enjoy learning more about it.
More pictures from our day –
And to answer why Malaysia?
A happy coincidence introduced us to a most wonderful woman who encouraged us to check out her home country. When we debated the city, she offered up her personal condo (at a super reasonable price) to stay in, which happens to have an amazing view. We don’t know much about the country or culture yet, besides a rumor that Malaysians are food enthusiasts. We can’t wait to try more and get enthused too!
Would you pass up this view?