Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.
A slightly uncomfortable train journey to Butterworth, followed by a 20p ferry crossing to Georgetown, saw us arrive at our accommodation for the last leg of this trip. A rather splendid converted Chinese merchants house where for the first few days we hardly moved.
In hindsight, climbing the million steps to a Buddhist monastery, sat on top of a mountain in Ipoh, in 42 degree heat and 80% humidity the day before traveling was not a good idea. If I had experienced some sort of enlightenment up there in the clouds, then the heat exhaustion, dehydration and haemorrhoids with double Ibruprofen until the knees go down might have been worth it. I suggest purists would argue that I had experienced the ‘Noble Truth of Dukkha, that ‘life is painful and causes suffering’.
It seems little or no attention was paid to my good deeds aplenty during the last few months. From volunteering at a dog sanctuary to giving homeless people spare Ringgits, together with my overall selflessness, I believed there was enough Karma in the bank to cruise a Harley through the Keys. I am totally at a loss as to how activating my haemorrhoids has helped in any way to balance my Dosha. Buddhism “My Arse”.
Anyways, onwards with a now shortened version of what we had planned starting with a brief history of Penang. First mentioned in the chronicles of Admiral Zheng, a Chinese eunuch who swung by in the 15th century, then another century later by the early French, Portuguese and English navigators/traders. It was deemed of no interest, just an unimportant island where fishermen and pirates stopped over. The modern history of Penang starts in 1796 with the world’s biggest drug dealers, yes them again. The (not very) Honourable East India company, the usual dastardly dealings, this time hoodwinking a gullible Sultan to ceed them the island in return for military protection, which of course they later reneged on. With only a few minor squabbles throughout the years, Penang remained under us Brits, becoming a big centre for tea, spices and the cloth trade until 1957 and Malaysian independence.
Today as we see it the buildings are Britain at its Colonial best and still being a working port is a hive of activity. Think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as you walk through the old arcades in Chinatown. Wizened old Chinese traders, shoe repairs, mechanics and crude engineering workshops where they fix, make or build all things.
The main market we walk through to breakfast is a heaving mass of frenetic lunacy where every single living creature is on the menu. Keep walking, the smell of spices and huge clay pots tell you that you are in Little India with the best ever tandoori chicken. Then suddenly a Mosque belts out Call to Prayer next to Fort Cornwallis, add in some 3D art, topped off with sampling the absolutely delicious street or hawker food. This mad cultural mix of everything that is Penang has rightly been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Despite the slow start due to my mild stupidity we have really enjoyed our stay.
Sadly the East Asia pin is just about to be pulled. We end this adventure with a final expedient to sack off the planned 20 hours bounce on a metre gauge train back to Bangkok in favour of the brilliant Air Asia. A special mention to the wife, who has once again has been woman mountain as a travel partner, dealing with everything from Giardiasis to my little idiosyncrasy’s to the oppressive Malaysian heat and anything else thrown at her (almost) always with a smile on her face. Thank you for following our trip, encouragement, comments, banter and otherwise. We will pick it up again very soon with some epic plans for the rest of 2018 but first home for one of my mums Sunday roasts.
Under Armour Ua Tech vest https://amzn.to/2KZMw6o top for Colin has been a wise choice whilst travelling in the heat and humidity. Its looks good and wicks away sweat very effectively. Great for exercising in also.