Sun 2nd – Mon 3rd Dec
Im up and ready to leave. Today I’m getting the speedboat to Penang. The food capital of Malaysia! On getting in I’m not happy with where I’ve booked to stay so promptly move. My new digs, although basic, the guys here are friendly and super helpful. Soon I have a map telling me where all the best food places are. The only problem being, it will be impossible to try all these in the time I have. The receptionist also gives me loads of information on what there is to see and do, including a map with an art trail. Whilst I’m doing my laundry (emphasis on I….the first time I’ve had to do it since Ive been away)…no sign of a sexy topless Levi guy thou sadly, I do plan what I’m going to do over the next few days. Lunch is some street noodles and dinner is at Red Dragon which is a complex of street food vendors all under one roof. Prices a bit pricier than the street hawkers thou.
So Monday I’m up bright and early to start my day. After 4 weeks at the beach, I’m ready to do some sightseeing and soak up some culture. After a local breakfast of nasi lemak…not a dish I hugely wanted to try but it’s a must in these parts as it’s supposedly the national dish. so I give a whirl. Nasi lemak is essentially coconut milk infused rice served with sambal and fried anchovies.
The locals are lapping it up and whilst it’s a nice tasty dish (I pick out the anchovies) it is for me a weird thing to be eating on a morning and in this heat. The sambal is also bloody hot. However, it is a hearty breakfast and cost a mere 18p!!!
Fueled up, I have decided to start with the art trails in the city.
In an initiative to physically brand George Town a UNESCO World Heritage, the Penang Government opened an international pitch for “marking” the town in 2009. The winning idea was Sculpture at Work, which won the commission under the creative direction of local artist Tang Mu Kian. It features a collection of caricatures placed on historic streets of George Town. The concept is related to the history and characteristics of selected streets and areas in the town. These have made the history of George Town much more interesting and fun for both residents and tourists alike.
The map the hostel gave me is great and after breakfast I set off early to go in search of them. It’s great fun and a great way to see the city. They’re actually quite easy to find. It reminds me of doing the Gromit trail in Bristol.
There are 52 in total and once I get on a roll, ticking them all off – I kinda just end up doing all of them!
Some are quite famous like the Cheating Husband one which depicts a man hanging from the window of his mistresses horse. This is on Love Lane which is rumoured to be where the rich kept their mistresses!
Another famous one is near the Hong Kong Shoe Shop where Jimmy Choo first trained before going onto London’s Cordwainers College.
High Counter is on the street where all the porn shops are and the counter is specifically higher for security reasons.
Here’s a few more too…
This project led to something bigger on the art scene in Penang and up popped a series of wall murals by London trained Lithuanian artist – Ernest Zacharevic and other foreign artists. These are also pinned on the map although the most famous ones can be found around Armenian Street.
They incorporate props and paintings and can easily be found by groups of people waiting to have their photo done with them.
The art movement has done a lot more for Penang than just boost its status as a World Heritage Site. People who once visited for the awesome food and history now come for this amazing art scene also.
In between this, I stop at China House – one of the most well known cafes in Penang. It is one of the longest cafes at over 400 feet and acts as a ‘lane’ of restaurants and cafes between Victoria St and Beach St. Beach St Bakery is where it’s at thou…selling over 50 different cakes and tarts.
After all this walking, it wd be rude not to sample one. A delicious salted caramel cheesecake but I don’t half feel sick after all that sugar. Was quite a wedge!
I get chatting to waiter who tells me that just down from here at #127, there is an art house. This is open to anyone who wants to go in and paint, sculpt or whatever. There are some great pieces in here too and it’s free.
After a full on day of 22696 steps I get an early dinner at the Chulia St night market. There isn’t much here – unlike the one in Langkawi, maybe because it’s early…but they do have some delicious satay skewers that range between 22-50p. Can’t argue with that hey!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed today and so glad my toe has healed to enable me to explore more before this all comes to an end.