In April 2018 we met LCK at a friend’s dinner. We had an interesting conversation and a few days later he visited us in our condo in Damansara Perdana. He told about a few of his projects, a colonial hotel up Penang Hill and his private botanical garden Suriana. When we showed interest, he invited us to visit him in Penang, where he is living.
On our way to Penang, we stopped for lunch in Ipoh. Aric is an Assam Laksa lover and maintains a website: Assam Laksa List where he has collected many assam laksa shops. His verdict about Kee Poh: so so.
Around 3 pm we arrived in Penang, where we had booked a room in the YMCA, next door to where LCK is living
A clean hostel-like hotel.
After we met LCK, he took us up Penang Hill, to have dinner in “his” Bellevue Hotel
The next morning we drove around Penang. Another project of Aric is to take drone images and videos of fishing villages. This is Kuala Pulau Betong in the South-West corner of the island.
For lunch we went to another laksa stall, only known as Laksa Stall Under The Tree in the Sungei Ara region. Aric’s verdict: Very good.
After lunch we went to LCK’s house, where transport to Bellevue was waiting for us. The house is an impressive colonial style mansion.
LCK’s driver brought us to the Bellevue Hotel where we checked in. Spectacular location with impressive views of Georgetown and Butterworth. Notice the geodesic dome at the right, more about that later.
We had a very pleasant room. Colonial atmosphere. Writing this blog more than four year later, I am not sure about details, but I think we had no TV in the room. What a blessing.!
The garden is well kept.
We went for a walk. The hotel is surrounded by other heritage. Left the monumental entrance of the Bel Retiro bungalow, founded in 1789 and still exclusive government property. Right the Penang Hill Mosque, much more recent (1966)
Left the attractive police station (1929). Penang Hill has become a major tourist attraction, which is spoiling the character of the place. Transport is basically via the cable car, bringing up crowds of day-trippers. We walked around and had a snack before returning to Bellevue.
Even Bellevue must take care not to succumb to modern developments. Buggy tours, Segway rides? Why? Sedan chair trips would be more appropriate ;-). Just promote the Garden Terrace, the Panoramic View Restaurant and the Nostalgic Charm of the past.
A collection of prehistoric animals might be fun for kids, but also doesn’t fit in the colonial charm of the place.
And lots of charm Bellevue has. Waiting for our dinner, we enjoyed the views, changing all the time.
Dinner was steamboat, well prepared. A few more visitors were also having their dinner.
The next morning around 8 am. Georgetown is still covered with clouds. Pure magic.
Enjoying an (almost) English breakfast. (No bacon because halal)
And slowly Georgetown appears through the cloud cover
Aric did some droning. A staff member is interested and watching closely ;-). View of Bellevue in the right picture.
General view of the hill. Bellevue is bottom right.
Before leaving, we took more photos of the interior. It is clear that LCK is interested in art and music.
He is a friend and admirer of the American architect and philosopher Richard Buckminster Fuller. The garden of Bellevue has a geodesic dome, a structure popularised by Fuller.
Buckminster Fuller passed away in 1983 and a room in the hotel serves as a kind of memorial. If you are interested to know more about “Bucky” and his relation with the Bellevue Hotel , have a look at this website : Buckyworld Confluence @ Bellevue
At 10am LCK’s driver came to bring us back to Georgetown. It is a winding road, no public access.
Our next destination was the Suriana Botanical Garden. LCK is an architect (Komtar , Jurong Town Hall) but also a trained botanist who has collected in this private garden many rare pants. Waiting for him, we walked in the garden around his house and had a look at a new building, still under construction.
The garden is located between Balik Pulau and Air Hitam.
We had a drink and duriasn at a small house in the garden. Very peaceful surroundings.
Also here a geodesic dome. LCK is very knowledgeable about ginger and banana species.
We walked around with LCK as our guide.
Of course I took many picture Here is an Orgy of Red
And Shades of White
Black & White
After an interesting walk in the garden, we drove back home, with flowers and fruits produce of the Suriana garden. A very pleasant trip, thanks a lot to our host..
A scuba diving friend of Aric, Tony, has an apartment in Georgetown and invited us and a few friends for a food trip to Penang. He was also interested in Taiping, so it became a 4D3N tirp, two nights in Penang and one night in Taiping.
Tony lives in Kota Kemuning. After meeting him, we first had breakfast at Kheng Chew Kopitiam. From left to right Aric, John, Tony and Rodney. I had my favourite breakfast, half-boiled eggs and toast. with coffee.
With only an intermediate sanitary stop we drove straightaway to a small village, Bagan Samak, not far from Parit Buntar. Here is a Google map of the region, as you see it is a very small village. Surprisingly there are quite a few popular restaurants.
A friend of John had suggested the Sloam Mit Thai restaurant and that was a good choice. We had catfish, lala, prawn crackers, fried pork and paku (ferns)..A good start of our food trip 😉
We continued to Penang, where we decided to have a dessert in the Kek Seng coffee shop. Founded in 1906 the café is famous for its durian ice-cream and its ABC. Nice antique furniture
The coffee shop is not far from the Komtar tower. Left picture from the ground, the right one from Tony’s condo, where we arrived around 3 pm and had a well deserved rest.,
Tony’s apartment is spacious and has wonderful views
In preparation for our trip Aric had selected a few interesting food venues. One of them was the Peng Hwa Lok Lok in Pulau Tikus. Lok Lok is a kind of steamboat, where the food is skewered on sticks, which you dip in boiling water. Interesting at this stall is that the skewers are already present on the table and regularly refilled. You keep the sticks which at the end are counted to determine what you pay. The place is very popular, you share a table with others. A very interesting experience.
Back in the condo we enjoyed the night view and had a glass of wine
The next day we went again to the Pulau Tikus market, this time for Apom Manis at the coffees hop of Swee Keng. Another must-try on Aric’s list. You have to come early otherwise they are sold out.
After breakfast we split for a while. I visited a friend, LCK, who is living in a colonial mansion at Macalister Road. We had a nice chat with coffee, durians and interesting miniature bananas from his own garden in Balik Pulau.
The others visited the Penang Botanical Gardens.
When they came to fetch me, LCK invited them for more durians.
For lunch we went to the New World Park, where we only had some light food, because more food was waiting for us in Tony’s condo 😉
Through Facebook, Aric had discovered an Assam Laksa “shop” that did delivery service only and had good reviews. Here you see Tony and Aric preparing the laksa. Aric loves this kind of noodles and has a website, Assam Laska List in which he describes and assesses the various Assam Laksa shops. His verdict: eatable, but not that special
Afternoon view of Gunung Jerai, from the condo.
We had bought (expensive) tickets for the Komtar tower. More precisely for the Komtar Skywalk, added to the tower in 2016. These top floors offer spectacular views of Georgetown. In the left picture I have marked with a x the location of Tony’s condo.
But the views were not what we came for ;-). Both the 65th and 68th floor have glass walkways, where you can look to the ground below, 250 meter down. The walkway on the 65th floor is the most scary, because the glass is transparent and colorless. I have no fear of height, but, to be honest I had to force myself to stand on this glass. Here Aric is lying down.
Of course we took many pictures. Once you are on the glass, you feel safe, but the first step is really scary.
On the 68th floor a curved skywalk has been created. If you look carefully at the Komtar picture at the beginning of this blog, you can see the “horseshoe” sticking out. A limited number of people is allowed to enter at any time. Because the glass floor has a blueish color, it is less scary.
We wanted to see the sunset and Georgetown after dark, so we had to spend quite some time on the roof, taking more pictures 😉
The sunset was not special, but the view of Georgetown with the lights on, was worth the waiting
On our way down, we passed this giant durian. Rodney doesn’t like the King of Fruits 😉 The Komtar tower was nicely illuminated.
We walked a bit along the esplanade. I took a photo of the City Hall (1903), just to show that I was not only interested in food 😉
The next morning , before leaving for Taiping, we visited the scenic Hean Boo Thean temple, at the edge of the Yeoh jetty, dedicated to Guan Yin.
We lit candles. I wrote my Chinese nickname 😉
On our way to Taiping we stopped for lunch at the Law Cheang Kee restaurant in Nibong Tebal , another eatery on Aric’s list. Mud crab porridge is one of their specialities. The fresh stock of crab was just brought in when we arrived. We also had fried kembong , a kind of mackerel.
This was our table when we left.
We arrived in Taiping around 3pm and had cendol and pasembor at the Ansari Famous Cendol shop, before checking in at the Flemington Hotel. From the rooms and especially from the roof (with swimming pool) you have a beautiful view of the Lake Gardens
After a short rest we went out again, to visit Port Weld, now renamed Kuala Sepetang. On our way we had a look at one of the charcoal kilns. During my last visit, a few months ago, I was disappointed that it had become very touristy. But this time, almost 6 pm, it was deserted and very scenic.
One of the kilns was working. Controlling the temperature inside to transform the mangrove wood in charcoal, is a complicated process.
Another kiln was being filled with mangrove logs
We walked around in Port Weld and had a nice view from the bridge.
I had invited a few Taiping friends to join us for dinner in Teluk Kertang. There are several popular seafood restaurants in this village (where in 1879 Isabella BIrd landed, see my blog). We had booked at table in the Lemon Tree restaurant. It was a pleasant meeting with nice company and good food.
The next morning we walked in the Lake Gardens. Splendid weather.
Not even all Taipingites know that the Lake Gardens have a few Cannonball trees. After I “discovered” them, many years ago, I always have a look at these magnificent trees..
Here is another view of the gardens, with Maxwell Hill in the background.
After our walk we went back to Flemington to take a shower and check out. My friends were going back to KL, I was going to stay a bit longer. I dropped my luggage at my usual Furama hotel and then followed them to the old Railway station where we had another Assam Laksa.
It was a nice food trip. About my two extra days in Taiping I will write a separate blog.
Last year we came in contact, through WeChat, with Dong Dong, a Chinese from Guangzhou. This resulted in inviting him to visit us in Malaysia, from 8-14 January. How to communicate? For Aric of course no problem, either in Mandarin or in Teochew. I had to use Google Translate, because I don’t speak Chinese and Dong Dong only a little bit of English :-).
On 8 January afternoon we picked him up from the airport. Our plan was to show him, during his short stay, as many tourist attractions as possible. And also to introduce him to as many Malaysian food specialities as we could 🙂
We decided for Hokkien Mee, the first evening. There are two famous Hokkien Mee restaurants in Damansara Uptown, almost next to each other. Tiong was full, so we chose the other one.
We ordered four dishes, all very nice, huge serving of mee, we could not finish it 🙂 . A good introduction to Chinese Malaysian cuisine.
In our chats I had told Dong Dong that I often went to IKEA for my RM 1 breakfast and to meet friends. He was interested , so the next morning we first went to IKEA.
After our breakfast I showed him the Curve shopping center. As CNY was approaching, there was already a festive atmosphere.
I am still not very experienced with taking selfies, but I am making progress.
Back home we waited for Aric, who had been busy in his shop. We had asked Rodney, a UK friends, to join us for a visit to KL. First we had lunch in restaurant Kin Kin, supposedly serving the best Pan Mee in KL. Spicy!
After our lunch we walked in the colonial district of Kuala Lumpur. In my blog KL Heritage I have written extensively about the many gems of architecture that can be found here. During this short walk we only had a look at a few.
Contrasts: from left to right an Art Deco detail of the Central Market, the beautiful “Islamic” Dayabumi building, and the Merdeka 118 tower, the world 2nd largest building when completed.
We visited the Kuala Lumpur gallery and this time were disappointed. The light show at the scale model of Kuala Lumpur was quite boring.
Getting more and more touristic. But there is a nice cafe with delicious (and expensive) durian cream puffs. In the left picture you can see how the future Merdeka 118 building will dwarf the Petronas twin towers.
In the afternoon we went to Ampang and from there we took the road to Ulu Langat. This road crosses the hills and has a viewpoint from where you have a beautiful view of the KL skyline.
Heavy rain at the horizon, but we kept it dry.
A bit farther than this viewpoint a side road leads to the Veg Fish Farm Thai Restaurant, where we had our dinner. Aric and I have been to this romantic place several times, the food is always nice and fresh, the restaurant is surrounded by fishponds.
Here some of the dishes we ordered. Left Thai mango salad, tilapia and lamb. Right sotong (cuttlefish).
There was toddy, one of my favourite drinks. A rewarding end of a successful day!
The next day we left for Melaka, where we arrived around lunchtime. One of the food specialties of Melaka is Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls. The famous shop in the center of town was closed during our last visit, but Aric had found a hidden gem in the outskirts of Melaka, Huang Chang.
We had booked rooms in the Puri Hotel, a Peranakan house in Heeren Street. The interior looks like a museum.
The Puri Hotel has a beautiful facade, and opposite is the even more posh Chee Ancestral Mansion, unfortunately not open to the public.
After checking in, we walked around in the historical center of Melaka, now a Unesco World Heritage site. First we had Cendol at the popular Jonker 88 shop.
Here are two tombs, the left one of Hang Kasturi, the right one of Syamsuddin Al-Sumatrani. Even many locals will not know where this second tomb is located 🙂 .
This is the ruin of Saint Paul’s Church, originally built in 1521 by the Portuguese, the oldest church of Malaysia. Many tombstones, some of them dating back to the time that Melaka was a Dutch colony.
Christ Church and the Stadthuys are the center of the town. The gaudy trishaws are characteristic for Melaka. Always crowded with tourists.
Another food specialty of Melaka is the Satay Celup (Steamboat Satay) and the most famous restaurant for it is Capitol. Often we have been queueing here, waiting for a table. Therefore we decided to have an early dinner and that worked out well 🙂 . You select your sticks from a buffet and dip them in the boiling satay sauce. You pay for the number of sticks used.
After our dinner we walked along the Melaka River. In the past the river was quite dirty and unkept, now it has been cleaned, promenades have been created at both banks of the river. Beautiful led lighting in the evening.
It was Friday evening, the popular Jonker Walk night market was busy with tourist. And, sad to say, getting less interesting every time we visit it. Being a Unesco WHS has its disadvantages. Blacksmith street used to be a street full of old-fashioned workshops. Rent increased, they had to leave and instead came boutique hotels and nyonya restaurants. You can see this all over the town. Pity.
The next morning we enjoyed our buffet breakfast in Puri and checked out.
Before leaving Melaka we visited a number of places of worship. Buddhist temples, a Hindu shrine and a Mosque are all located near each other in what is sometimes called Harmony street (mistakenly suggesting that there are no conflicts between the various religions in Malaysia).
The Straits of Melaka mosque is located a bit outside the historical center, you have to go by car, but it is worth the effort. Another example of what is called a floating mosque. A modern building, the opening ceremony was in 2006.
Then it was time to go back to Kuala Lumpur. It was a very short visit, I have written several times about Melaka, here is an earlier report: Melaka Minitrip March 2013.
We arrived back in KL around 3 pm, Aric was busy that afternoon, he dropped us at the Kelana Jaya LRT station, from where we took a train to KLCC.
A visit to Malaysia is not complete without the Petronas Twin Towers 🙂 . I chose the most impressive approach, walking through the shopping center, taking the exit to the park and the lake, then asking Dong Dong to turn around and look up.
The towers are so high that from that location it is difficult to take good pictures. We walked around the lake to take better shots
We walked to the wading pool, only for children, but refreshing to watch.
Of course everything was already in Chinese New Year mood. In front of KLCC a Chinese pagoda was constructed with the signs of the Chinese zodiac. We are both Monkeys and asked a friendly gentleman to take our picture with our sign 🙂
Lots of decorations inside the shopping center, of course with images of the Rat (Mouse) everywhere, the sign of the coming New Year.
From the top floor you have a beautiful view of the park, the lake and the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.
We did not stay long, as we were both tired, and took public transport back, first the LRT, then the MRT and finally a feeder bus to our condo. Dong Dong was happy to experience the various forms of transport.
That evening we had Claypot Chicken Rice in a food court near our condo, and the next morning Roti Canai, both Malaysian specialties.
The next day, after our breakfast, we drove to Penang. With a short stop for a light lunch, we arrived at 2:30 pm at the Airbnb Aric had booked for two nights. And what an Airbnb it was! A complete house, two floors, on each floor a bedroom, lots of antique stuff. One of the best Airbnb’s we have ever stayed in.
After a small rest we went out for a first exploration. Same as in Melaka, the three major religions of Malaysia have their houses of worship in the same street, but the name of the street is here not Harmony Street, but Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, which may be more appropriate for the actual relation between the three religions 🙂 . By the way, Keling (Kling) is the old-fashioned name for an Indian Muslim and nowadays considered derogatory 🙂 .
One of the major tourist attractions in Penang are the murals created in 2012 by Zacharevic, see my report Penang Street Art. With our limited time we could only visit a few.
Before taking our dinner we visited the Tan Jetty, one of our favourites.
We had dinner in the Jetty Food Court, a popular place with a large variety of food.
We continued after our dinner and visited the modern Hean Boo Thean temple, another temple dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. If the access route to the temple was not so clearly signposted, it would have been difficult to find.
Views of the waterfront are spectacular and unobstructed. We stayed a considerable time, relaxing and enjoying the views
After sunset everything becomes even more scenic. It was the first time we visited this temple, it was opened only in 2012. We will promote it to our friends and guests.
Walking back to our Airbnb, we passed a few colonial buildings. For more info about Penang’s colonial heritage, see my report Penang Colonial Architecture.
The next day we had breakfast at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. I had Roti Goyang which translates as shaking toast (because of the half-boiled eggs on top of the toast)
The weather was perfect, we walked around a bit. The KOMTAR tower is still the highest skyscraper in Penang. The minaret of the Lebuh Aceh mosque looks even more beautiful with the surrounding Chinese New Year decorations.
We passed another Zacharevic mural and decided to visit the Khoo Kongsi, the most elaborate and grand Chinese clan house of Georgetown. I have been there many times, my last visit was in July 2019, here is a report.
For lunch we went to Hong Xiang, where we had Bak Kut Teh. Another famous Malaysian dish. Usually the different pork parts are put together in the herbal soup, but here your order the ingredients separately. Not a bad idea. We took pork ribs, pork soft bone, tofu, two kinds of mushrooms and veggie. All very tasty.
In the afternoon we drove around the island, stopping for a while at the beach near Batu Ferringhi.
We skipped some other locations we had in mind. Not enough time, winding roads, and we wanted to visit the Kek Lok Si temple before it closed at 5:30 pm. This main Guan Yin temple of Penang is a huge complex of halls, gardens, pagodas etc.
We walked up as high as we could.
A few more pictures.
We climbed the pagoda (right picture), I counted the steps, ~ 190 .
The next day we drove back. In the afternoon Dong Dong was flying back from KLIA, we didn’t want to take risks with traffic jams on the Penang bridges, so we woke up early and started before the rush hour.
Good plan, traffic was smooth. It gave us enough spare time to have breakfast in Taiping, my 2nd hometown :-). I showed Dong Dong the Lake Gardens and he liked the atmosphere very much.
We arrived at KLIA 2 in time, he checked in for his flight back to Guangzhou and we had a farewell lunch at Nando’s. More South African than Malaysian, but the alternative would have been McDonalds 🙂 .
A very successful visit, only too short. Hopefully we will meet again in the future, for example in Guangzhou!
We traveled by ETS train from KL Sentral to Butterworth, a very comfortable journey. From Butterworth we took the ferry to George Town. This way of reaching the island is more romantic, compared to the usual way (by car and bridge).
Our hotel was on walking distance from the jetty, but we were hungry and needed lunch first . We found a busy food court, where I had Penang Assam Laksa. The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is very well located in the heart of the historical town.
After some rest we went out to explore the town. We started with the Khoo Kongsi. More photos .
The weather was nice. We walked past many houses of worship, in the Guan Yin Temple a celebration was going on with a performance of Chinese opera.
George Town is a haven for foodies, in 2014 I wrote a blog about it, Penang Food. This time we were looking for halal food. We first walked to the Esplanade. because we remembered that there was a Malay food court there, but it was closed already. Beautiful views of the floodlit colonial buildings!
Walking back we ended up at the popular Kapitan restaurant, where we had an acceptable Tandoori Chicken.
The next morning we were in the mood for a dim sum breakfast, but of course most dim sum places are not halal. We were lucky to find a gem: Dim Sum Valet . Delicious dim sum, a very friendly Malay couple, they started the shop beginning of this year. Worth visiting!
We still had some space left for a dessert. Our friends Pat and Roger had visited George Town recently and were very enthusiastic about the durian ice cream of Kek Seng. They were right, it was delicious.
Our first target for the day was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. A wonderful museum, surprising that I had never heard about it earlier! More photos .
We spent considerable time in the museum, there was a lot to see. For lunch we went back to the food court at the Esplanade that was closed yesterday evening. Now it was open, we had the famous Mee Sotong of Hameed Pata . A long queue, but worth waiting for it
In the afternoon we explored the colonial architecture of Beach Street. One bank building after another prove that in those colonial times George Town was the financial center of Malaya. But not only banks, also emporiums, shops, opulent residences. More photos .
We visited a few more mural artworks, and we were not the only ones. Actually I am not happy about the mushrooming of mural art in Penang (and in the whole of Malaysia!). Not always is it high quality and the economical Law of Diminishing Returns is valid also here. More photos .
After a short rest in our hotel we went out for dinner to the New Lane Hawker Center. I had good memories about this place from earlier visits, but this time I was rather disappointed. Too many tourists, too expensive. We had popiah, oyster omelet , kerang and stingray.
Our last day in George Town already. We had breakfast with Roti Goyang at the Roti Bakar in Hutton Lane. The soft-boiled eggs were really shaking (goyang) surrounded by the pieces of toast. Very nice.
The Sun Yat Sen Penang Basee was the last museum on our list. Sun Yat Sen had his office here in 1912 when he was looking for support for the Chinese revolution. More photos .
A last round of more mural art. Some of them quite nice, in the humoristic Zacharevic style. More photos .
Before taking the ferry back to Butterworth, we had lunch near our hotel, in restaurant Jawi . Peranakan food, friendly service.
After lunch we took the ferry back to Butterworth. Paul and Fahmi went back to KL, I stayed in Taiping for couple of days more, see my report Taiping, July 2019 .
It was nice to visit George Town. But as a result of being a Unesco Heritage Site, it has become very touristic. Fancy museums, I may be old-fashioned, but for me it doesn’t add value.
During my recent trip to Penang, I visited three museums.
The first one was the Khoo Kongsi, a large Chinese clan house in George Town. I had visited this kongsi already several times during earlier visits, so only a few pictures here. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of George Town.
The present complex was rebuilt in 1906, after an earlier version was destroyed by lightning. Could it be that the gods were angry because it was too grand, resembling an imperial palace? So the present kongsi is more modest, although you would not say so, when you visit it 🙂 .
The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful stone reliefs and carvings.
The temple contains de ancestral tablets. There is also a gallery with portraits of the Khoo family.
The second museum we visited was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion . Last year I had visited the Peranakan Museum in Singapore, click here for a report. But to be honest, I was not aware that there existed a Peranakan Museum in Penang! And the museum opened its doors already in 2004!
Now that I have visited it, I agree that it is one of the top attractions of George Town, not to be missed by any visitor!
The building is old, it was built in the 1890s as residence of Chung Keng Quee, the leader of the Hai San secret society . Irony of fate: the site was formerly used by its rival Ghee Hin secret society. That alone made my visit worthwhile already, because as a virtual “Taiping Boy”, I have read a lot about the fighting between the Hai San and the Ghee Hin during the Larut Wars !
Entrance fee is RM 20, not cheap, but worth the money. You can visit the mansion on your own, there is a lot to see. Or you can join a free guided tour.
For those not familiar with Malaysian history, the Peranakan , also known as Baba-Nyonya or Straits Chinese, are descendants of Chinese settlers who arrived from Southern China in the 15th-17th century. Their rich culture contains Chinese, Malay and European elements.
Here is a collection of photos I took during my visit.
Chung Keng Quee even built his own private temple next to his mansion.
The last museum I visited was the Sun Yat-sen museum. Sun Yat-sen was the leader of China’s republican revolution, overthrowing the Qing dynasty and the first president of the Republic of China. To get support from the overseas Chinese, he moved with his family to Penang in 1910 and organised his activities from this house.
The house was constructed circa 1880 and is a beautiful example of a Peranakan merchant home.
I had only limited time to visit the museum, will spend more time there during my next visit, because Mr Alvin, who takes care of the museum, is a gifted storyteller.
Actually Sun Yat-sen has also a link with Taiping! He had a house there in what is now the Antong Coffee Mill. His concubine lived there for many years and he visited it occasionally. See my report (scroll down).
During my recent visit to Georgetown, I took some pictures of colonial architecture. There is a lot to see!
On our first evening we walked to the Esplanade. On our way we passed St George’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia, built in 1818.
The Esplanade is dominated by two magnificent buildings, the Town Hall and the City Hall. The City Hall, completed in 1880, is the oldest municipal building of George Town. It housed the Municipal Commission until 1903 when the Commission moved to a larger building next to it, the Municipal Offices. The Town Hall kept its function as meeting place for the European Elite. Nowadays it is used for public events, art exhibitions etc.
The Municipal Offices were one of the first buildings fitted with electrical lights! After Georgetown got city rights in 1957, the Municipal Offices were renamed to City Hall
The next day we explored Beach Street, where a concentration of impressive colonial architecture can be found. We started with the Jubilee Clock Tower, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee.
The next building, now housing the Penang Islamic Council, is all that remains of the Straits Settlement Government Buildings, destroyed by allied bombing in 1945 during the Japanese occupation.
Notice the eyesore next to the building. It is the Penang Malay Chamber of Commerce, I wonder who gave permission to build it.
The next building, now housing the Bank of China, is of special interest for a Dutchman, because it was built by the Nederlandse Handel-Maatchappij in 1905.
Next to it the Penang office of Tourism Malaysia. I was wondering if this was a colonial building or a modern one. Could not find much information until I stumbled on a blog George Town’s heritage bank buildings . Originally it was a Mercantile bank, later taken over by HSBC. Recently renovated. So it is an old building in a modern outfit.
The Saw Seng Kew building was originally known as the British India House. Built in the 1920, it has been used by many different companies. In 1965 Rubber Tycoon Saw Seng Kew started the Southern Banking Ltd in this building that now has been renamed after him.
At the right side of the above photo you can just see the corner of the India House. It was built in Art-Deco style, completed in 1941 and forms an striking contrast with the surrounding “older” architecture.
Next to the India House, this Philip Capital Building again dates back to the 1920s. I was wondering at first where the entrance of the parking was, until I noticed that the P is actually the logo of the company 🙂 .
The 1886 building is the oldest commercial building along Beach Street that has kept its original form. In the past it housed the Goon Yen emporium, nowadays it is part of the OCBC. A very attractive building.
Another gem, the Thio Thiaw Siat building. Named after a Chinese tycoon, who is better known under his Cantonese name Cheong Fatt Tze (who lived in the famous “Blue Mansion”). This building was built by his estate after he passed away in 1916.
The GeorgeTown Dispensary nextdoor, the main pharmacy of Penang in those days, wa originally located where now the TTS building is.
The Central Fire Station was built in 1908. Notice the mix of architectural styles, with a Classical facade and a Moghul-style tower 🙂
This building is not on Beach Street, but on Bishop Street. I could not find more information about this Cornfield building.
Finally a photo of the Penang Adventist Hospital (1924), nowadays a hotel, located on Muntri Street.
Five years ago, I visited Penang to have a look at the Mural Art, created by the Lithuanian artist Zacharevic in 2012. Here is my report: Penang Street Art. I like Zacharevic, his sense of humour, the way he is using existing objects for his creations. Even then there were already more artists active, some copying his style, sometimes good, more often mediocre.
I went back to Penang with my friends Paul and Fahmi, and to be honest, I was shocked by the proliferation that has taken place in these five years. There is hardly an empty wall anymore, mural art in almost every street. Really too much, IMHO. But I may be an exception in not appreciating this epidemic 🙂 . Here is a quote from Tripadvisor :
The highlight of Penang is literally the street arts. They are everywhere, every street, every corner. I have tons of photos of them. You don’t need a map but just don’t miss any street there. 🙂 .
Here are a few of Zacharevic’s creations. When you compare the pictures with those in my report, you will see that several of them have faded. Some even have been destroyed. Zacharevic has no problem with this, he is not making art for eternity. I like his attitude.
A few pictures of Mural Art in Zacharevic style, where you can interact with the artwork
Using existing elements.
Many more. Actually not bad, just that there are too many of them
Two artworks on the Chew Jetty. An original Zacharevic on this jetty has been destroyed.
There are many, many more, which often did not really appeal to me.
Last week we decided to make a trip up North, to celebrate Aric’s birthday. A 4D3N trip, staying overnight in Kuala Sepetang, Gunung Jerai and Georgetown.
Kuala Sepetang, or Port Weld as it was originally called, has recently become a popular tourist destination. We arrived at lunchtime on a Saturday and were amazed by the large number of tourist buses. There are now two “boutique” hotels and we had booked a room in the Happy 8 Retreat , located above a fish processing factory and a seafood restaurant.
The reviews for this hotel are rather mixed, the decoration of the rooms and the use of recycled materials is appreciated, but the walls between the rooms are paper thin and there are some complaints about the service. We were lucky, not many other guests, so we could sleep well. We had a room with a view of the river, you can spend hours there, watching the busy traffic.
Nicely decorated room
View from the balcony
Here is a video, taken from our balcony
We were just in time for the famous curry mee of Kuala Sepetang. After our siesta we walked in the village. The new bridge makes the other side easily accessible, fortunately not yet very developed.
The famous curry mee
View from the bridge
Across the river
For our dinner we went to the Tepi Sungai restaurant, also located above a fish processing factory. We had mantis prawns, lala shells, spikey snails, vegetable and tea for RM 61
Tepi Sungai restaurant
Our meal. RM 61
Not easy to eat
How to eat this?
The sunset view was priceless and free of charge…:-)
One reason to visit Kuala Sepetang was that I would like to have a look at Kuala Sangga, a small fishing village at the mouth of the Sepetang river. We saw many tourist boats coming in and out and expected that at least a few of them would go to this village. Mistake. Most tourists come for the fireflies and the eagle feeding, not many are interested in the (tiny) village.
After an interesting “fusion” breakfast we continued our trip to Gunung Jerai. As an alternative for Kuala Sangga, we decided to visit the Hindu temple complex of Bukit Batu Pahat, on the slopes of the mountain. But first of course lunch…:-)
I had read about these temples, but never visited them. The Bujang Valley where these temples are located is considered the richest archaeological area in Malaysia! But many Malaysians have never heard about it. Why? Could they be neglected because this part of Malaysian history predates Islam and the Malacca Sultanate?
Expecting the complex to be a bit rundown, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in mint condition. The museum with information about the excavations and some artefacts is interesting. The Bukit Batu Pahat temple is in situ, the others have been relocated. And there is even a small waterfall, more a cascade.
Only a few visitors, not surprising as the site is badly signposted. Merbok is the nearest larger village. The complex is really worth a visit. And free of charge!
Some of the artefacts
Signboard for the main temple
Candi Bukit Batu Pahat
There are more temples
And even a small waterfall
We had booked accommodation in the Regency Jerai Hill Resort, near the top of the mountain. A winding road leads you to the resort at an altitude of almost 1000 m above sea level. From the resort and from our balcony we had a fascinating view of the rice fields and the coastline of Kedah.
Winding way up Gunung Jerai
View from the resort
The next morning
Room with a view
Rain far away
Here is a video, taken at the resort. We are just below the clouds
We had booked a puasa promotion, RM 230 for the room including 2x dinner and breakfast. During puasa (Ramadan) Muslims will eat only after sunset, and we thought it would be polite to follow that rule. Muslims will also not eat after sunrise, but for our breakfast we did not follow the rule…:-) English breakfast!
Also here we had something on our program. There are quite a few waterfalls on the slopes of Gunung Jerai and one of them is located not far below the resort. Just before entering the resort, you will see a path with cemented steps going down. In about half an hour you reach the Alur Naga fall. A vertical fall in a romantic surrounding. On the way back I noticed a swarm of bees/wasps, my enemies. I managed to pass without disturbing them. There were also leeches, I don’t mind to give them a free lunch..:-)
In the clouds
The trail head
Down, down, down
The Alur Naga fall
Nice vertical fall
Up, up, up
A fat leech
Here is a video of the fall
Our last destination was Georgetown. My friend Joe Yap had suggested a heritage hotel in Armenian street, Straights Heritage. They have only two “suites” and we had booked the Phoenix suite, on the second floor. It was like a dream, the most beautiful place where I have ever stayed.
Warm welcome by the housekeeper
Almost like a museum
Still in working condition
It would have been nice to stay in our “mansion” the rest of the day and relax, but we also wanted to taste Penang durians! We met one of Aric’s friends and went to a stall in Bayan Lepas, where we tasted a Red Prawn durian. Yummy. After dinner in the New Lane hawker center, we went back to our suite and enjoyed the luxury.
Bayan Lepas durian stall
Red Prawn durian
My own fruit stall 🙂
New Lane Hawker center
Back to our mansion
The next morning
Our program for the last day consisted of two parts. Joe had told us about a Christian cemetery where one of the graves had a sculpture of a dog, resting on the tombstone.The Western Road Cemetery was easy to find, but it was much bigger than I expected. Fortunately the caretaker could point out the grave to us. Legend has it that the dog visited the grave of is master after the latter had passed on, and continued to stay at the grave.
Nearby the cemetery is one of our favourite Laksa restaurants, the Taman Emas Coffee shop, where we had an early lunch. Last stop was at the Penang War museum, another suggestion of Joe. It is located at Bukit Batu Maung, where in the 1930’s the British built a fortress to protect the island against the Japanese army. It was a huge complex with cannon firing bays, barracks, tunnels etc. Manned by British, Malay and Sikh soldiers, each group in their own barrack, with their own cook etc, of course…:-) The fortress fell because the Japanese attacked from the land side and not from the seaside…. Like not much later Singapore.
After the Japanese had taken over, it became their army base. And after years of neglect it is now a museum. Steep entrance fee, RM 20 for locals, RM 35 for foreigners. Overpriced. You can also play war games (paintball) or follow ghost tours…:-(. Nevertheless still interesting, you can crawl through tunnels, climb escape ladders etc.
Taman Mas Assam Laksa
Entrance of the War Museum
Replica of a cannon
You need to crawl and climb ladders
Foundation for a cannon
One of the barracks
Inside a barrack
Not far from Batu Maung you can enter the second Penang bridge back to the mainland. The bridge is 24 km long with many curves. Interesting
When you are not interested in food, you can skip this post..:-)
Penang is a paradise for foodies. Do a Google search for “Penang food paradise” and you will get many pages with hits. Our last trip to Penang had the Murals as destination and the Thaipusam festival, but of course also FOOD! Here is part of what we had during our stay. Makan Non Stop..:-) For my non-Malaysian followers: Makan = Eating in Bahasa. The traditional welcome greeting when you arrive at a friend’s or family house is: Sudah makan? Have you eaten already?
On our way to Penang, we had dinner in Nibong Tebal at the Law Chang Kee restaurant. Famous for its Crab Porridge and its Boiled Baby Octopus. Don’t say aargh, the octopus was delicious. We paid RM 38 for our meal for two..:-) That is about 8-9 Euro.
Eating a baby octopus
The cook in his kitchen
We arrived in our hotel quite late, but after a shower we decided to have an evening walk. Visiting some of the murals, and ending at the China House, really a surprise for me. Beautifully renovated old houses with a marvelous selection of coffee and cakes! Really worth a visit…:-)
The China house
Large choice of delicacies
The next morning we had breakfast in a mamak stall near to our hotel. A friend of us, living in Penang, had suggested it to us as possibly the best Roti Chanai in town at Transfer Road.It was crowded and basic but very VOF (Value for Money)
The Roti Chanai at Jln Travers
Enjoying our breakfast
For our lunch we had planned to go to Balik Pulau for the Assam Laksa, But it was not our lucky day, the Chuan Hong stall, Aric’s favourite, was closed. So instead we had to go for Mee Rebus, in a nearby stall, also not bad.
I will not mention all the other places we visited during our trip, only the last one. It is the HUG restaurant in Jalan Hutton, also quite near to our hotel Mingood. Basically I am a hawker food lover, no fancy restaurants. So when a friend suggested the House of Udang Galah , my first impression was: too posh for me. But looking at the menu, the reasonable prices and the positive review of my friend, we decided to give it a try.
What an enjoyable evening we had! Excellent service, and good food. Only problem was that we ordered to0 many dishes, you should go there with a bigger group!
Here a few more pictures. We had Scallops as a starter, Seafood soup, then Peking Duck (first the skin, then the meat), the Udang Galah, and a combination of four vegetables. Finally we could not resist the temptation of the Baked Red Wine Syrup Apple as a dessert.
Our main course 🙂
Peking Duck skin
The way to eat it
Udang gala, veggie and duck
After this delicious (but also expensive!) dinner, we decided to skip the next day’s lunch at Pulau Aman. We will keep that for a next visit. First have to loose some calories…:-)
Since 2012 there is one more reason to visit Penang, besides the food and the cultural heritage. During the Georgetown Festival 2012, the young Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic has painted a number of murals, which have become one of the major tourist attractions. Here are two very popular ones, a combination of a painting and an existing object. These two are floodlit during the night, which adds to the atmosphere.
The next morning we visited the rest. This one is called Wushu Girl and can be found at Muntri Street. Tourist arrive with taxis or on rental bikes to take pictures.
And this is The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler (Penang Street)
Here are two more. But only the left one, called Reaching Up is by Zacharevic! In quite a few places you will find now similar murals by others, a clear proof how successful the concept has been.
The artist is becoming popular all over the world. In Malaysia he also created works in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. And of course the (in)famous one in Johor Baru, depicting a lady and a robber, both in Lego style. JB has Legoland and reputedly a high crime rate.
The JB town council was not amused and had it removed within a few days. Ridiculed of course by many, amongst them the Penang council. Art should be respected and free! But when Zacharevic decorated a pothole (which had been there for many years), framing it as a painting, the council acted quickly, and filled the pothole…:-)
During our visit of Penang an exhibition was opened of (new) works by Zacharevic. We were eager to visit this exhibition but found the door closed..:-( We could only peek through the fence. The exhibition opens from noon to 8pm daily until Feb 14. Free access. Maybe we should go back to Penang soon.
To find the locations of the Zacharevic murals, you can now install an App on your smartphone! For the other murals you must just walk around Georgetown which is a pleasure in itself. Here is a collection of pictures. The town council has placed a large number of decorative metal wire signboards in the historical center. And a bit outside the center you can find the famous UBAH bird. UBAH means change in Malay, Penang is governed by the opposition, so this bird is both art and a political statement.
The Old Man, when it was fresh
What remains now, faded
Not done by Zacharevic
Attracted by the lady
Another unknown artist
A nice sculpture near the bicycle mural
Official street decorations
Here the artist is me..:-)
Political art. The Ubah bird
A smartphone app gives the locations
Two more reports will follow, one about Penang and its food, the other one about Thaipusam,