6 December 2011

Chaos of Cultures [Penang, Malaysia]

The first thing we did after arriving in Penang was try to find information about the ferry across to Indonesia; times, prices etc. But the first guy we asked said that the ferry was no longer running. A quick check on the internet confirmed. The reason? Cheap flights had eaten up all their business. The closest port that had services to Indonesia was south of Kuala Lumpur! Not ideal.

So the options were to either get a bus down to Port Klang, then a ferry which would be expensive and very time consuming, or fly. Flying was relatively cheap and took only an hour. But this would be the first flight I had taken on this whole trip. Nine months and 43,000+ kms overland, I really did not want to fly if it was at all possible. But realistically, it wasn't; Julia and I wanted to visit places in the north of Indonesia, so to go overland (or water) would take days and cost a LOT. Plus I have already booked a flight from Bali to New Zealand just before Christmas, so I fail the overland goal anyway. I may as well fail it a couple of weeks early.

Once we had our onward transport sorted we could relax a little. We spent a huge day wandering around George Town - the capital of Penang. It is a really interesting place, with a chaos of cultures and religions all in one small place. We visited temples, mosques and churches all within a few hundred meters of each other.

My favorite was Kong Hock Keong Temple. An old, run down building that looks like it belongs in some small remote village rather than the center of George Town. The interior was almost as bad as the exterior, but it was filled with bright red lanterns hanging from the roof and locals lighting incense. The sunlight was streaming in and it seemed a little eerie, even in the middle of the day.

While I heard some of the beaches in Penang are quite nice, we were too lazy to get out of George Town. But we did decide to walk along to shore and maybe go for a swim. I will say two things about the beaches in George Town. One: they suck! Most of the shore is rocks, and when you do find some sand it is covered in rubbish. It was actually pretty disgusting. Two: there are awesome lizards! HUGE ones that come out on the rocks to soak up the sun. We saw two of them while just wandering around.

That's about all I got for Penang. Oh, except we did see one really cool old abandoned school building that was totally overgrown with tress. Today we catch our flight to the north of Indonesia - Medan. We plan to get out of the city, check out some volcanoes and maybe some wildlife. It should be good.

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