An Island Called P-E-N-A-N-G

JOURNEY TO THE WEST edition (7 of 10)
It was so difficult to find a host in Hat Yai and Songkhla. But thanks God, in Penang we had a nice host who spoke excellent English and perfect Chinese (this one wouldn't help though). His apartment was in Jalan Air Hitam. We just needed to take one bus from Georgetown and get down at Chong Ling High School. The apartment was such an efficiency. It holds so many people within few meters square only. In Jakarta, the local government is now building more of these. Hm..... hope Jakarta will be a better a place (for you and for me and the entire human race).
At Philip's Apartment
With Philip, our host
We knew that the famous Kek Lok Si Temple was also in Jalan Air Hitam so we decided to walk there. On the way, we saw a big Kuan Yin statue standing on a hill marking the temple location but it looked quite far. So we went to Bukit Bendera first where we found a funicular train station, about two kilometers from the apartment. It was RM 30 for return trip up and down, much more expensive than the RM 8 price for Malaysians. Here we could not pretend like in Istana Negara back then (read about it here) because every Malaysian is supposed to show their ID at the ticket counter to prove that they really are ones. The ticket did not say it's for single usage. I guess if at the night we had gone there again we did not need to buy ticket anymore.

The funicular railway had been completed in 1924 by the British colony. The old wooden train was exhibited uphill. Though it was very classic in shape but that was just amazing for that time. Well, on the hill top we could see the view of Penang island using a payable telescope or going around with a hill buggy ride RM 60 (45 min) RM 30 (25 min). There was also an owl museum. Many things can be done here to relax but I would not recommend this place for budget travelers as the funicular price is expensive. The place seems to be a tourist trap. Unless you are a Malaysian, it won't be too bad to miss this place.


The newest funicular train at Penang Hill
Inside the funicular train
A Walk at Penang Hill
This Swing is my favorite in Penang Hill. It is suitable for couples.
From Bukit Bendera, we took a Rapid Penang bus to Kek Lok Si Temple. From the bus drop point, we still had to walk and ascend a long stairway to the temple where there were many souvenir shops around. The temple is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. We had confirmed the claim. So, to explore the temple, one needs much energy. To avoid being exhausted, just walk slowly and enjoy the surroundings. Don't hesitate to make several stops coz there are so many good spots to capture here. This temple is very commercial indeed. Not only along the way but even inside the temple building we could find people selling things. Sometimes you would get good artistic souvenirs with reasonable price. Due to limited budget, we only bought a Chinese umbrella and hand fan. On the way return, most of the shops which were still closed when we came was now open. More interesting goods to see such as unique spoons, penis-shape and feces-shape handicrafts. We did not take the lift to the pagoda and huge Kuan Yin Statue because it was not free and we'd been very hungry already. But then we regretted it.

Kek Lok Si Temple
The awesomeness of the temple interior
The same things we always  found in Buddhist temples
There are shops inside the temple buildings
An old monk for sale.
Don't worry, this is just a artificial monk. But it looks real isn't it?
Kek Lok Si Temple seems to be so popular among local and foreign tourists

One of the plenty good spots to capture in the temple complex
The white pagoda that becomes an icon of Kek Lok Si Temple
After having lunch, we continued our journey by taking another bus to Georgetown, the capital city of Penang, which was stated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bus stopped at KOMTAR, the main bus terminal within Georgetown. While in the capital city, we did not spend a cent for transportation. There was a free bus named CAT (Central Area Transit) passing most places we wanted to visit. We hopped onto it to reach the Penang State Museum. It was only RM 1 to enter the museum where we could learn the culture and history of Penang. Even if you're not interested in history, going to museums is one trick to avoid hot sun outside when traveling. After getting cooled down enough in the museum, we then walked a little, taking the CAT bus again and got off near Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street) where we saw many unique wall paintings. We kept walking until we found Clan Jetties, a unique Chinese fisherman village that was already exist in 19th century. Many of the residents here were selling souvenirs, even there was one providing a homestay for tourists.
'Wau', a Malaysian kite, is one of the state museum's collections

A becak driver was giving a thumb up.
We could take a 'becak' to go around the old town.
Streets in Georgetown are very clean and good-looking.
But having so many cars on these narrow streets often creates a stressful traffic.
A very brilliant wall painting located on Lebuh Armenian
Typical Chinese Food in Penang
Jetty Lok-Lok, located just in front of the Clan Jetties, selling various satay in a very different way.
Every stick has colors like white, blue, red, green, yellow, and orange telling the price.

People built houses on the water at Clan Jetties

The main alley at Clan Jetties
Had been walking too much, we were running out of energy now. Many more parts of Georgetown we would love to explore, only if we had enough strength to do it. But we decided to retreat for now, saving the rest for tomorrow. So we went back to KOMTAR by the CAT bus again. Then from KOMTAR, we took Rapid Penang to Jalan Ayer Itam, where Philip's place was. After taking a shower and having a little rest, we had supper with him in an Indian restaurant nearby. Phillip was a very busy professional hair stylist yet he was still able to invite us to a supper. We tasted some different kinds of roti canai. And here we found our new favorite drink: teh tarik three layers (tea, milk, and honey). Yummy! Penang really deserves inscribed as a food paradise.
He's making a roti canai
(Left) Muslims do not eat pork, Hindus do not eat beef. But chicken is beyond any religious diet restrictions.
(Right) Teh Tarik Three Layers is our favorite drink started from that night.

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OUR TRIPS (Based on Places)