Jelan Jelan in Penang

So off the quite fast train we stepped (142km/hr) onto the platform at Butterworth, luggage, luggage,luggage, walk, walk, walk, along the platform, up a lift, along another platform, down a lift, through a further platform, luggage, luggage, luggage, walk, walk, walk, Jalan, Jalan, Jalan, our arms slowly but surely lengthening. If this continues the Malays will simply throw a net over us and release us into the wild with the other orangutans.

Some naughty teksi man tried to fib that the ferry wasn’t working, but we barrelled him aside with our heavy suitcases (not really, we only swept passed him) and followed a kindly Chinese couple who looked like they knew where they were going.

The ferry across the strait costs us 40c each. The cab from the dock to the hotel 18 ringgit.

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We took a little while to take a shine to Penang because (despite our earlier firm decision not to) we were foolish enough to be out walking in the noonday heat and it did hammer us a bit. As the darling one so sagely observed ” you know it’s hot when your cheeks start sweating”. So we dabbed said cheeks and rested our dogs.

One of the most dramatic and wonderful changes I’ve noticed in the 30 years since I’ve been in Asia is how wide spread and well used air conditioning and refrigeration are now. What a relief ! As Kristen noticed, the ice ( which we are consuming in huge quantities in juices, teas, etc), comes in a packed plastic bag. 30 years ago, I recall, it came to the shops dragged across the streets on a bit of dirty hessian. Hooray for progress ! Rested and refreshed we took another look and liked what we saw. We find ice applied directly to overheated body parts close to bliss.

We saw Fort Cornwallis and there was our old friend The Voyager of the Seas –

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Whilst our cruise had been filled to the gills with whities (predominantly Aussies, New Zilanders and Poms) this cruise was filled with Indians & Chinese all in matching blue Voyager T-shirts.

The coffee and ice cream here are superb. We shared a jackfruit and coconut nitrogen ice cream and it were yummy. They have a lot of rather bizarre museums here, an upside down house, a ghost museum, a chocolate museum, a camera museum etc.  Lots of Clan and Tong houses and joss houses, Indian temples, miles of Kampungs. Sort of a giant version of Malacca with bits of KL thrown in. The traffic is probably quite gentle by Asian standards but here, as in KL, it all seems to flow along gently and amicably, each driver seems to have extraordinary 6th sense and the ability to glide and weave and swerve around pedestrians, bicycles etc.

Despite coming across this meat delivery in the street

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we ventured to an Indian restaurant in little India. Absolutely wonderful mutton and chicken curries, spicy cabbage, garlic nans and lime sodas, about $7 Aus.

 

It’s Election Day in Malaysia and we’ve been warned to be home by 10 pm when the result will be known.  It may be a celebration, or …

Evidently the parties here are made up of coalitions of smaller parties each representing a different racial group. Mahathir, (the “old man”) as one chap we spoke to today referred to him, is nearly 93 and has, so the conjecture goes, regretted locking up Anwar Ibrahim on trumped up buggery charges – change of hearts & of party and atoning for his sins before it’s too late. Anwar’s wife is featuring prominently and if they win then the word is that Anwar himself ( who still has some months of his sentence to serve) will step in and become PM. The current PM, another former protege of Mahathir, is evidently as corrupt as all get up and has a whacking great gerrymander in place. So, we’ll see.

We say vote for Piggsy or Monkey. Can’t be as bad as the incumbents or their cousins in Oz. Yes, we saw these famous fellow pilgrims, whose nature is irrepressible !

 

We wandered off at an angle today and went straight to the straits from our hotel, stopping on the way for the sort of breakfast that Christopher Robin would have enjoyed ( had he not been the troubled child we now realise he was). Little toast soldiers cut into threes and threes again with runny eggs and sweet tea at a row of Indian stalls on the side of the road. Yum.  Below is the more upmarket coffee shop across the street.

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So Jalan Jalan we went and stumbled across an extraordinary Protestant cemetery, filled strangely enough, with extraordinary Protestants. Sir Francis Light, founder of Georgetown and William’s dad is there along with a host of early Empire builders. The setting is beautiful, frangipanis and other flowering trees so very old and covered in ferns it was difficult to identify them, a carpet of lawn made up of a peculiar Asian long bladed grass, strewn with flowers and petals and amazing headstones and crypts.

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Around the corner we passed a bowling alley with a sign advertising vacancies for pin boys so if any of you are looking for a career change we can put in a good word for you. Just next to that is the E&O Hotel (Eastern & Oriental), evidently the grandest hotel east of Suez. All the gang had stayed there, Conrad, Chaplin, Welles, Coward, Maughan, Mary Pickford, William Holden and that always entertaining crowd favourite Sun Yat Sen.

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Around the back we found this little shrine that the native bearers must use.

 

 

The noon day sun was coming at us again so we staggered into “The Post Card Shop” on Chulia St near the docks. Wonderful ! Best coffee and lime sodas ever ! The limes in the lime sodas were sugar preserved with sour plums inside. They were sweet (but not too sweet), tart and delicious. They also have amazing 3-D postcards and a range of gorgeous stamps and ink pads.

we walked and we walked and we walked.  Here are some final snaps of two natives communicating through hand gestures and wild gesticulations.  Sadly, that lovely old building is now a Starbucks.

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