More sightseeing and then onto Georgetown (42/6980 ks)

(written by Dave)

Some days we don’t have much to write about other than eating, riding and hotel room conditions. Today was not one of those days, in large part to our wonderful Warmshowers host David. To be fair, this post needs to start with last night. We thought we were done for the day when about 9PM David knocked on our and said that at 9:30 we’d walk down the street to a Hindu temple as there was a small festival going on. Wow, this was some festival. There were all sorts of performers who put on quite a show (actually, not a show, it was a proper ceremony, not a tourist show). After an hour or so everyone moved from ceremony onto eating. David insisted that we queue up but there was so much food, we split a plate – eaten with our hands like everyone else. It was tasty and we felt quite honoured that we were able to attend. Many people came up to us and asked where we were from, some even brave enough to ask for a photo. We made it to bed just before midnight, full and tired.

This morning we were up early and had a roti canai at the hawker stall where David eats every morning. From here we were off to the other end of town for another festival at a different temple. This one was about milk being blessed and then offered up to the gods (I think). Here again everyone was dressed up and there was some more performances – mostly music. Everyone with blessed milk walked in a large group to temple at the other end of town. We were able to freely move around, take pictures and talk with folks. It was a religious ceremony but everyone was very welcoming.

After the ceremony, David took us to a pottery factory. This was traditional pottery with wheels and manual labour creating bowls and cups one by one. All the finished products are used in Hindu festivals throughout the year. All the workers and the owner are Indian. The owner is 5th generation Malay now and the workers all brought from India on work visas.

Next up was a fish farm and fishing village. Mostly Chinese owners have figured out a way to get “big head” fish to grow in ponds – up to 1kg in 6 months. The fish are “big head carp” but to me they looked a bit like an Aussie barramundi. The had large packs of dogs roaming the properties – to keep thieves and river otters from steeling the prized fish.

All this running around and we were getting hungry so we next went to a small fishing village to check out the operations and get some lunch. We got to wander around the dock were all the boats dock on returning from the sea. The fish come off the boats and go straight to a reverse auction. It was not super busy but we got to see a couple loads of fish get sold. Most buyers were restaurants but there were some individuals as well. David knew what he was doing and picked us out a nice big fish for lunch. Next he took us to his usual restaurant where they steamed the fish on the spot. The restaurant doesn’t normally do this service but for David and the people he hosts they go the extra mile. Yes, it was delicious – how could it not be, so fresh.

We still had to ride our bike today as we needed to make Georgetown some 40k up the road, so after lunch we headed back to David’s and packed up our bikes. We weren’t done touring however as on the way out of town, David led us to a dragon fruit farm. Here we got to sample fresh dragon fruit right off the tree and of course we were sent away with a few samples. David wanted to ride his bike out to the farm but could not as tonight he had another guest showing up. Yes, that’s right, after all he did for us, he’s doing it over again for another person tomorrow. It was quite extraordinary to meet such a wonderful host and get to see so much of the un-tourist Malaysia. Thanks David – when we stop touring, you are most welcome where ever we live.

Oh yeah, we’re on a bike trip as well. The 40k to Butterworth and the Penang ferry was pretty straight forward. Traffic was heavy and it was quite hot. We never ride this time of day but it was worth it to have all the fun with David. We arrived at the ferry terminal and found a massive queue, for cars, none for bikes – score. We went straight to the front and hoped on the next ferry. It is a short ferry ride to the island and in no time we were in the middle of Georgetown. We had a bit of wondering finding the hotel but eventually made it to the Chulia Heritage Hotel – it’s a nice hotel and they had our reservation without issue – that was a relief.

The hotel is right in the middle old-town. There are lots of old shop fronts and buildings. And we are not too far from Little India so we hit a highly recommended restaurant. It was very tasty but we ate too much.

We are at this hotel for four nights until Nancy’s sister arrives and we move across town. We’ll post more on Georgetown’s sights and history in the coming days.

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9 thoughts on “More sightseeing and then onto Georgetown (42/6980 ks)

    • David should be the local tourist bureau – in fact, we just read a Lonely Planet review of the state of Pinang (where both the island of Penang and David’s towns reside). The review stated that there was no reason to go to the mainland unless you needed to catch an interstate bus. Well, the good folks at LP have cleary not met David. He would run circles round any number of tours that I’ve seen in my travels.

  1. This is my favorite of all your posts so far. Great photos and what a treat to be included in the festivals and to experience real Malaysia. I am so excited to get there, although we won’t get quite the same opportunity. David is obviously very proud of his country as he should be and I find it amazing how nice and helpful the Malay people have been to you.

    Don’t do too much yet in Georgetown wait for us!!!
    See you really soon,

  2. We met David’s nephew on the ferry to Georgetown. We had emailed David but we never hooked up. Too bad. He sounds like a wonderful fellow. We also recently read a book by Mark Beaumont, who set the round the world recon on bike in 2008. Mark mentions meeting and staying with David as well.

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