Penang (George Town) [2018]

Last Visted in Jan 2018

The cruise ships dock at Georgetown - the historical section of Penang. While the cruise ship offered a number of tours of Penang and the surrounding area, we decided to explore Georgetown on our own.

Sunrise at Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal

Sunrise Port Sweettenham
Sunrise Port Sweettenham

I got up early, well early for me, to get some pictures of us docking at the Sweettenham Cruise Terminal. I hadn’t count on the effect of taking my camera from the air conditioned ship’s interior to the outside deck. As fast as I could clean the lens it would fog up again leading to a rather interesting shot.

Eventually, the camera warmed up and I was able to get some amazing shots of the harbour and surrounding area.

Cruise Port Pier

Entrance to Port Sweettenham
Entrance to Port Sweettenham

A cover walkway leads from the ship to the main building and customs area. As we had seen in other south east Asian ports, there were greeters in traditional costumes.

A flight of stair takes you to the customs area. After passing through the customs control there is tourist information and some shops. You can buy a ticket to the Hop-on-Hop-off bus there. The Hop-on-Hop-off bus stop is about 150m to the south west on the opposite side of Pengkalan Weld.

On leaving the ship we had to run the gauntlet of taxi and trishaw drivers all offering the take on tours of the town. (Many of the taxi drivers were offering a day tour for as little as $20.00US - these are probably scams.) Tri shaw rates are negotiable and vary between 40 to 100 Malaysian Ringgit per hour.

The Seascanner, from the German cruise line Mien Schiff, was in port — so I said “Sprichst Sie Deutsch” — no one did.

Seascanner a Mein Schiff cruise ship
Mein Schiff cruise ship

Exploring George Town pt1

I had very mixed feelings about hiring a tri shaw. I realized, for many of the operators, taking tourists from the cruise ships around the town was their main source of income. Most of the operators were quite old. Having an elderly gentleman  peddle me around the town went against my middle class Canadian values.

Corner of Lebuh Light and Lebuh King

Corner of Lebuh Light and Lebuh King
Corner of Lebuh Light and Lebuh King

We had been warned about the traffic in Penang. Two four lane roads separate the port building from the rest of Georgetown. Running north-south is Pengkalan Weld. A roundabout connects it to Lebuh Light which runs east-west. Pengkalan Weld has a grass divide, but we decided to walk along Lebuh Light to a traffic light at a pedestrian crossing in front of the AffinBank.

A waste of time - the traffic light didn’t work.

Fortunately, there were enough breaks in the traffic that we were able to get across the street with only a little trepidation.

Lebuh King in the Morning

Lebuh King in the Morning
Lebuh King in the Morning

It was about 9:30 when we started up Lebuh King. We had expected the street to be busy, but, as we had seen in Singapore, many businesses don’t open until 10:00am.

The sidewalks, where the existed at all, were in various states of disrepair. Like the few other people we saw, we took to walking down the middle of the street. It was still relatively cool — but we could feel the temperature steadily rising.

Penang City Hall
Penang City Hall

Completed in 1903, the two-storey building combines Edwardian Baroque and Palladian architectural styles. It has been listed as a national monument since 1982 under the Antiquities Act 1976. (Wikipedia)

The building was originally the Municipal Hall, it was renamed to City Hall in 1957 when George Town was given ‘city’ status. The smaller Town Hall, to the left in the picture, was the administrative centre until 1957, is now a museum and art gallery.

Canons at Fort Cornwallis

Canons at Fort Conrwallis
Canons at Fort Conrwallis

As you exit the port, there is a roundabout with the ‘Queen Victoria Memorial Clock’ in the centre is on your right. The exit to ‘Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah’ leads to the area in front of Fort Cornwallis.

The first fort on the site was built by the British East India Company in the lat 1700’s. That version was a wooden stockade and was designed to protect against pirates. The present structure was built during the Napoleonic Wars. In additions to the stone walls a 9m wide moat was added. (The moat was filled in 600 to help prevent malaria.)

The for is named after the then Governor-General of Bengal, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, and the nephew of Edward Cornwallis the founder of Halifax. While vegetation has obscured some design features, the fort is a ‘star’ design. Designed so the guns along one side ‘cover’ the area in front of the adjacent walls — so there are no ‘blind spots’.

The 21 meter tall, Fort Cornwallis Lighthouse is at the south east corner of the fort. The steel structure was build in 1882. A flagpole, resembling a ships mast was added. The flagpole was used to announce the arrival of the mail ship or visiting dignitaries.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

Kapitan Keling Mosque
Kapitan Keling Mosque

Completed in the early 1900s the name is from Malay — “Kapitan”, the Indian community, and “Keling”, people. This group of Indian Tamils are also known as “Penangite Indians” and “Chulias”, people from the Coromandel Coast of India. While most are descendants of Tamils who came to Penang during British colonization, there is evidence that Tamil traders from the Chola dynasty visitied the area as far back as the 3rd century BCE.

Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and China Lebuh

The area from Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling  along China Lebuh to Beach St. and up to Chuilia St. is generally referred to as Little India. 

The area contains an amazing array of small shops, services, food stalls and temples. You can get everything from house hold items to the latest in fashion. The array of foods on offer was overwhelming.

You might pass right by the Han Jiang Ancestral historical temple, but don't it is amazing. A decorative street entrance leads to a rather nondescript courtyard. It is only when you go through to the inner temple you see the real beauty of the temple.

 
The Teochew Kongsi temple
The Teochew Kongsi temple
Originally called the Teochew Kongsi, the temple was built by the  Penang Teochew Association in 1870. The name was changed to the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple in 1935. Over the years the temple fell into disrepair. However, an extensive restoration was completed in 2005. Access to the temple is free, although a donation would be appreciated.

The Teochew People are from the historical  Chaozhou prefecture of China. The name Teochew is the romanized variation of Tiê-Chiu or Chaozhou in Mandarin. The temple is dedicated to Taoist God of the North.

Lacquer Paintings Guard the Exit
Lacquer Paintings Guard the Exit
 

Ali Nasi Lemak Daun Pisang

Ali Nasi Lemak food stall
Ali Nasi Lemak food stall

On our trip we had many fine meals, some in five star hotels, others in resorts — this street stall is the place we talk about the most!

I am a great believer in serendipity. 

We first passed the Ali Nasi Lemak food stall early in the morning. It was one of the few places that were open at that time. However, we weren’t hungry — but decided we would try and find it again at lunch time.

Penang is know as the food capital of Malaysia. We passed many great restaurant as we made our way back to the Ali Nasi Lemak food stall for lunch. I was determined have a meal at a street food stall. (My wife wasn’t exactly enamoured with the idea — but soldiered on anyway.)

That is where serendipity kicked in.

We didn’t know it at the time, when you Google “best places for nasi lemak penang” the Ali Nasi Lemak food stall will be at the top of the list. It was EXCELLENT!

Nasi Lemak is a Nyona recipe. Nyona cooking blend of Chinese and Malay cooking styles with its own blend on spices and techniques. Nasi Lemak  is coconut milk rice with with sambal chili sauce and various fillings. It is served wrapped in a banana leaf.

I had the cuttlefish filling — it was delicious. And, at about 2.00RM ($0.65Cdn) per serving, you can’t beat the price.   

Mens Kitchen

Asia Camera Museum
Asia Camera Museum

It was almost noon and the temperature was near 30oC. We were on our way to the Asian Camera Museum when we spotted Men’s Kitchen — a restaurant specializing in items made with Durian. (The Asian Camera Museum is on the floor above Men’s Kitchen)

Durian was one of the many food items I was looking forward to trying on our trip. We had seen Durian on sale in Singapore — but, except for Durian ice cream, which didn’t interest me, I hadn’t found it on any menu. 

The air conditioning in the restaurant was a welcome relief from the heat. They still preparing for lunch, and there weren’t a lot of items to choose from. However, a tray of fresh Durian Portuguese Tarts caught our eye. The flaky tarts with a Durian flavour custard filling together with a refreshing glass of Pandan Tea had us ready to face the heat once more.

Lim Jettie

Lim Clan Jetty
Lim Clan Jetty

It was late afternoon by the time we got to the Lim Clan Jetty.

Depending on the source, there are seven or eight Clan jetties along the George Town waterfront. The jetties are home to a number of Chinese family groups. Built on pilings over the water they look like they have been there forever. While the first jetties date to the 19th century, they were heavily damaged during WWII. The area was rebuilt after the war.

While the Chew Clan Jetty is the most well known and the one setup for tourism, the Lim Clan Jetty was on our route back to the ship at the end of Gat Lebuh Chulia. Since I am not all that comfortable peering into people’s houses, we just had a quick ‘look around’ and head back to the ship.

Exploring George Town pt2

After a shower and a change of clothes we were ready to face the afternoon heat for a final look around. We wanted to take in an early dinner of traditional Malay cooking.

Yap Temple (Choo Chay Keong)

Yap Temple (Choo Chay Keong)
Yap Temple (Choo Chay Keong)

At the corner of Lebuh Armenian and Lebuh Cannon the Choo Chay Keong Temple or Yap Temple. The temple was built in 1924 by members of the Yap clan.

Yap is the romanized  form of the Ye surname in the Hakka and Minnan dialect.

The Yap clan can trace its history back to 478BC at the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty.

 In 506BC the Sate of Wu defeat the Chu army led by Shen Yin Shu at the Battle of Boju. Shen Yin Shu was wounded during the battle, and rather than be capture, he ordered he should be killed and his head returned home.

King Zhao, with the help of the State of Qin, regained control of Chu. He gave Shen Yin Shu's son Shen Zhuliang the city of Ye in appreciation of his father’s services.

The custom of the time was to have two surnames. Eventually, the Shen surname was dropped in favour of Ye.

Little India

Entrance to Little India
Entrance to Little India

This is the heart of Little India.

The area is vibrant and full of energy. While there is room for cars on the main street, many of the side streets are so full of people that cars have a hard time getting through.

Qe II Restaurant

Church Street Pier
Church Street Pier

There are two highly recommended restaurants on the Church Street Pier — Qe II Restaurant and Chin’s Stylish Chinese Cuisine. We would stop there on our way back to the ship to relax and enjoy some Malaysian cooking.

They were both closed — they are only open for dinner at 6:00pm.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley.”
‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns