Penang is an island just off the west coast of Malaysia. We stayed in the Chinatown area in Georgetown in a hotel called Hong Ping.
We didn't get such an overall good feeling about Penang. That's not because it was bad in any way, but maybe because we'd been spoilt with the energy of Kuala Lumpur and the wonderful experience of the Sukasuka homestay. In true Asian style, it was a busy and bustling place with lots of cars and bikes. There seemed to be a lack of pavements and we quite often found ourselves strolling along the road watching our backs for car door mirrors and mopeds. We also had to watch out for the many cavernous holes and gulleys along the roads, there to collect rainwater after downpours.
On our first day there (sat), we had a quick wander around and then joined the group for a meal at an Indian restaurant. The food was served on large rectangular banana leaves for plates and was presented beautifully, but there wasn't much of it. Maybe I should start ordering double from now on. This was a bit of a tourist area and after the meal we headed down the road a bit to a street with several bars and lots of outside seating. It was all quite trendy, with big open bars, music and neon signs and felt as if we could have been sat in Costa anywhere! A little bit too touristy but I must admit it was nice to chill, have a few Chiang beers and chat with the group. Ooh forgot to mention, at lunch we had banana pancakes. I mention this because we've had them a few times now in different places so far on the trip and have always tasted fab! If you're in Asia, look out for them.
After breakfast on the Sunday we started the day with a wander down to the shopping mall. Whilst looking for camera memory cards to satisfy our trigger happy addiction to the photo button, we were told that a 1 gigabyte memory card would cost69 Ringgits ( app ?11), Not a particularly great price for here but the price tag actually showed more than double at 179 Ringgits. Turns out this is the price for people brought to the shop by the taxi drivers, who can gain a higher profit for taking people there than the shop keepers make for selling them. We didn't buy one, at either of the prices.
Later that day we stopped off at a chocolate shop. Beautiful chocolate made with real fruit juices and flavours (as we found out with a personal tour of the shop and scoffing loads of free choc) including pineapple, strawberry, watermelon, chilli and coffee to name just a few. Not a great place for choc though as it's so hot there they melt as soon as you leave the shop and the delicate selection of fine chocolates becomes a mixed sludgy choc paste. From the choc shop we headed to the Choeng Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as the blue house). Choeng was a very successful man in many businesses & a master of Feng Shui. The house had decayed to ruins but had been restored to its full glory, winning a UNESCO Conservation award in 2000. It was a fascinating tour, learning about the man, his life & legend and to see the house. It had gothic windows, Chinese 'cut & paste' porcelain, floor tiles from Staffordshire UK, cast iron pillars from Glasgow and Art Nouveau stained glass. As you walk into the main lobby, you step down 2 steps. This makes you look down and inevitably bow your head to the host. (The same effect as steeping over the sacred step in temples) The other side of the house was higher (said to built on the back of a dragon) for good Feng Shui.
Heading back to the hotel we stopped for reflexology. Massaged in turn (Rachel first) by a small rounded del-boy type Malaysian guy, we were subjected to some quite intense pain. He'd been practicing the art for 11 years and really seemed to know his stuff. He guided us through in his very broken English of pressure points and subsequent linked areas of the body and possible ailments. If he found a point that hurt he would press harder and then it would really hurt. He said if it hurts then this is where a problem was so by massaging it harder, it would help cure the problem. After much more pain, supposedly cured thirst & loosened shoulders (all through the feet), our feet felt very relaxed and refreshed ready for the next part of our trip.