Our brief stop in KL was just that, we chose to save the sights for when we return to see the city properly. We dropped the forlorn iPad in to the repair shop and spent the day as 'Mallrats' just bumming around the Mega-Mall.
The train left late at night and within 15 minutes everyone was tucked up, curtains drawn and in their bunk bed, a lucky few were already snoring. We arrived as sunrise was breaking over Butterworth, still bleary-eyed and needing some quality sleep. We had a short walk through a building site to the ferry port and within 20 minutes off getting off the train, we were standing at the shore of George Town, Penang. The wait at the bus terminal was a slight pain, but they offer a free bus service to the town centre and beggars can't be choosers.
Our hotel was in located in Chinatown, there were a couple of bun and dim sum shops open serving an early breakfast to a handful of hungry customers, but overall, it was surprisingly quiet. We dropped our bags, then we dropped ourselves on the bed and resurfaced mid afternoon. From our room, we could hear the good stalls being set up for the people coming home from work.
At night the metal on metal sound of the stall owners cooking in their woks filled the air, the roar from the burners underneath raged as they prepared dish after dish of Char Kway Teow, wide rice noodles stir fried over intense heat with meat, eggs and veggies.
The historic centre of George Town is fairly small, however it contains around 1700 historical buildings. It also has a wide collection of street art, some government approved, others not necessarily so. We chose to explore some of these further and incorporated an 'art walk' with a 'heritage walk' and found a really enjoyable balance of sights.
The mosques, clan temples and churches were built side by side, the communities are integrated and respectful, multi faith friendships are everywhere and this typifies our experience of Malaysia so far.
The artwork had a quirky realism, the artists had used a mixture of painting and objects to create beautiful and sometimes surreal artwork.
The town is a strange mixture of super-modern sky rises that house multi level shopping malls set in wide, clean streets that resemble a film set and rows of ramshackle 2 storey shop houses that are Chinese in style yet with their shutters and decaying balconettes look more than a little colonial. On these streets, the open sewers let their presence known and walking through certain patches must be done quickly if retching is to be avoided.
Regardless of where we are walking, the people are truly wonderful to interact with, open faces that smile quickly and cheerful in their demeanour. Many stop what they're doing to strike up a conversation with us, generally, just pleasantries, but nonetheless, it was time taken to make us feel welcome in their manor.
Penang hill sits around 8 kilometres outside George Town, it's peak sits a mere 800 odd metres above sea level and can be reached by a series of steep winding paths that lead you through the tropical landscape. Or you can do what we did and jump on the funicular railway and cruise up to the top in comfort. The views from the top were impressive, George Town was laid out in front of us and beyond was the industrial town of Butterworth.
The attractions up top were a little dreary and we felt that the small aviary and the owl museum could be missed.
The air up here was a few degrees cooler than in town and it was filled with birdsong and butterflies. It was a pleasure just sitting in the shade listening to the birds and taking in the scenery.
A couple of hours later we headed back down to the heat of the day, on the air conditioned bus, we got chatting with a group of Chinese tourists who wanted to see our photos of the view from the hill and they in return showed us their snaps from their day.
Our thoughts turned to Cameron highlands, the cooler air and the great food.