Saturday 6 June 2015 – George Town, Penang

George Town, Penang
Minaret, George Town, Penang

As it happened, I was awake when the 5.30am call to prayer started next door, but if I had been asleep, it would not have woken me. The mosque (is a small mosque a mosquette?) conducted its business in a manner that was not disturbing to its neighbours, and that the hotel had been built with excellent acoustic insulation.

Awake properly at 8.30am. Breakfast (also included) was nothing special but good for the price. The only thing not available, oddly, was eggs.

I explored around the heritage centre, including the Fort, wharf area, Komtar tower and tried to work out where I had stayed last time I visited, in 2001. Possibly the Garden In on Lebuh Anson, but not sure. I couldn’t locate Monsoon, the outdoor Thai restaurant I’d frequented (even Google Maps showed no trace), so I suspect it’s long-gone.

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I revisited Khoo Khonsi, one of the major Chinese clan houses, no very much the museum experience with very good interpretive displays below the temple. Touristic but still an incredible spectacle.

George Town seems to be wearing its World Heritage status more confidently and assuredly than Malacca. While there is plenty of development, swish hotels, cafes, restaurants, bars and the other trappings of the tourist town, there still appears to be plenty of day-to-day life and business carrying on. No doubt it will change; there are fewer of the heroic bicycles, although still some, and the whole place has a more international, cosmopolitan feel than Malacca, which seems to have (as verified by Jason) mostly domestic tourists. There is certainly no shortage of places to have coffee, or drinks, or just about anything you want, as was always the case with a constant flow of tourists to and from Thailand and beyond.

Back to the hotel to freshen up – but not, as when in Singapore last week, for an extended rest – I must be getting fit? I skyped mum & dad to check in – all fine, then facetimed Chris – ditto. All at home are feeling the cold.

Tan clan jetty, George Town, Penang
Tan clan jetty, George Town, Penang

Back out I walked to the waterfront along Lebuh Chulia to see the UNESCO listed clan jetties. There are eight, but I found two; their entrances are hidden among the crush of restaurants and car repair places on the street. The first was very touristy, almost every dwelling along the pier had become a shop or restaurant of some sort. The second (the Tan clan jetty) was quite the opposite – almost no development and hardly any tourists. Harking back to local kampong life, but also the clans’ control of sea traffic along the straits, presumably.

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On my way back to the hotel I explored Armenian Street – lots of swish touristy shops among the tatt and cafes. Came across the Yap Temple (Khonsi Yap). The clan meeting hall was next door to the temple with some aunty and uncle Yaps sitting there passing the time.

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Back at the hotel for another drink at the rooftop bar (in fact two free drinks, so I felt honour-bound to buy a third), watching storm clouds gather. I downloaded photos, Instagrammed and Facebooked as the rain across the strait at Butterworth gradually spread.

It didn’t come to much so after quite a short break in the room a walk to find dinner brought me to Inch SE Asian Food and Bar in a backstreet for a very Thai dinner of crab moneybags (‘Crab Rangoon’), beef satay and somtam (I ordered pomelo salad, yum som, but apparently they’d ‘sold out’ – hard to fathom as I was the only guest at that point). Anyway, all quite tasty after the Malay and Singapore noodles of the past week.

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The colourful tiles of George Town

My previous visit to George Town

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