We arrived on the island of Penang without incident. The bus ride from Cameron Highlands was uneventful after a wee bit of vomiting initially. Our hotel was a small, eight-room heritage inn located in Chinatown. Shoes had to be removed before entering. We had two rooms again – many times, it is far more cost effective to get two rooms than it is to find a room that will accommodate all of four of us comfortably. And the hotel, although small, was nice (that’s three in a row for Lisa’s bookings). We did a short walking tour of the area that included Chinatown, Little India, and a part of town with a ton of street art. We sampled some Indian candies and had dinner in a cafe on Love Lane to end the day.
September 22 – We took a funicular train to the top of Penang Hill (712 meters high). The haze from fires was not present here, but it was a bit cloudy and rainy, so we didn’t get a lot of pictures, but the views we did see were amazing. We walked 2 meters along a path, which most people were exploring via golf cart, and wound up at a place called Monkey Cup. Monkey Cup is the common name for Nepenthes, a tropical pitcher plant, of which the garden had many varieties. The garden was run by an energetic Asian woman who greeted us as if we were her favorite neighbor. She gave us a tour of the garden, took our picture, and served the best coffee I’ve had in Asia. Another guide at the garden entertained guests with his pet scorpion. Ray held the scorpion and Ty even put it on his head. Crazy!!
We followed up Penang Hill with a short bus ride and then a walk to Kek Lok Si Temple, which is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. There is also a 30.2 meter (99 ft) bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. She is housed under a pavilion, which itself is a structure that can be seen from many places around the island. Because the temple is on a hillside, there are a million stairs to get to the top, at least it seemed like it in the heat of the afternoon! The stairways were strewn with stalls selling everything touristy you can imagine – from t-shirts to Buddha ashtrays.
The way opened up to a turtle pond where hundreds of turtles swam in murky green water. We bought a bag of greens for 1 Ringgit (about $0.25) and the boys spent some time feeding them. There was an opportunity to buy a wishing ribbon and say a prayer at a temple about 3/4 of the way up, so we purchased a ribbon for Good Health for Danny (Ray’s co-worker’s son, who has been ill since the beginning of the year), said a prayer, and hung the ribbon at the top of the ribbon tree. Finally, there was another funicular train that took us the last bit up the hill to see the bronze statue and temple. Phew!
9/23 – Lightning started at 6:00 a.m. and the deluge arrived at 7:30 a.m., ruining our plans to lunch at monkey beach. Next best thing to do… laundry. Well, sort of. All we had to do was gather it and send it out to be done… a nice perk while travelling. On the plus side, RJ loved watching the buckets of rain coming down. After the rains calmed, we spent the afternoon walking round town and wound up at the Koo Kongsi clan house. The architecture, painting, and history is amazing. The genealogy alone spans over 1,000 years.
We ended our day and our time in Penang with a movie. If you know anything about the Dailey family, you know that we watch a lot of movies. Up to this point, we had not been to an actual movie theater since the night before we left Bellingham, so this was a nice change of pace. We saw Maze Runner 2. There was only caramel popcorn or fresh corn kernels, neither of which we tried since we had just eaten dinner. The best part was the price… only about $3 per person!
A few random observations from Malaysia:
- Consumerism is alive and well in Malaysia. It has been hard not to want to shop at all the markets and buy things at a fraction of the prices I’m used to.
- Many businesses are making an effort to be green, but vendors on the street will put your purchase in a plastic bag whether you want it or not.
- Singapore was a very clean city. The level of cleanliness declined as we moved north.
- Always carry your own tissue paper and build up leg muscles with squats before you travel.
- Make train and hotel reservations at least a day in advance. The force doesn’t always work out when travelling abroad.
- We feel like we sound distinctly American, but we’ve had guesses of being from Germany, Australia, Canada, and England so far.
- Taxi drivers know everyone.
- Lines on the road are really general suggestions. Speed limit signs are ignored.
- There are motorcycles everywhere – parents are mostly in helmets, but the children in front of the driver and between the parents are not.
- Every drink in Malaysia is sickly sweet. One taxi driver told us that Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in the world. It’s not hard to see why.
- The same taxi driver told us that he pulled his son into the taxi business so he could keep him out of trouble. The trouble he mentioned as growing in Malaysia was the drug trade and contract killing.
- Torrential rain drives bats inside, sometimes into hotel rooms.
- The digital device craze is not unique to America. I saw one man feeding his child in a restaurant while the child was playing on an iPad. The “child” was about 9 years old.
- There are cats everywhere. We didn’t see many dogs, especially at street markets. Oh, wait…
- The people in Malaysia were exceptionally kind and helpful.
The next day (my birthday) we were headed to Bangkok via overnight train!
Some of the street art we found…
RJ and Ty on our first night in Penang.
This picture is really for Priscilla, so she can she how the best coffee in SE Asia was brewed!
RJ in awe over the scorpion on the guide’s head.
A view from the top of Penang Hill.
Ray hanging a prayer/wishing ribbon on the ribbon tree for Danny.