Monday, August 25th, 2014
We’re now back in Malaysia, first stop was the island of Penang. We stayed for 2 nights in Georgetown and then moved to the beach.
Georgetown is a really interesting mix of lots of different cultures, with Indian, Chinese and British influences. Our hotel was Yeng Keng, an old private residence built in the mid 1800s and situated right in the heart of the UNESCO designated old town.
We arrived in time for dinner and found a nice place with a good mixed menu, and paper tablecloths with crayons to keep us occupied while we waited for our dinner!
The next day we set off exploring the old town by foot. We passed through the old colonial area, with the city hall, China town and little India. We saw mosques across the road from Chinese shops, temples and a fire station housed in one of the historic buildings. Generally the old town seemed quite run down but it did seem that gradually some of these old buildings are being restored.
In many of the streets in Georgetown, there is some street art to be seen, including murals such as ‘Little children on a bicycle’ by Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic and a number of iron structures commissioned by Penang tourist board as part of the Marking George Town project.
Having spent the day exploring, we started our evening in the cocktail bar at the Easter & Oriental hotel, a large colonial hotel on the waterfront. We had high hopes that this would be a nice place to sit and have a drink but like so many bars and restaurants in Asia, it had TVs screening live sports which just didn’t seem to fit with the atmosphere of the bar. We left and found a restaurant / bar on the main bar street which was serving North Indian and European cuisine – perfect for us as Dean had been fancying a curry after our walk through little India while I could pick a safe nut free dish of grilled fish.
From George Town we moved onto the beach resort of Batu Ferrenghi where we were booked to stay in a completely different style of place – The Hard Rock hotel. It was a pretty family oriented place, with lots going on, definitely not somewhere to go if you’re looking for peace and quiet!
Just a few kms down the road from Batu Ferrenghi is Penang National Park. This is Malaysia’s newest and smallest national park and has some routes you can walk through the jungle to get to the coast. We decided to walk the 3.3km route to ‘Turtle Beach’ so called because green turtles come onto the beach to lay their eggs. Walking through the Jungle in mega heat and humidity was definitely a good workout, especially as the first half is up a pretty steep hill. On the walk we saw lizards and monkeys.
Just before the beach, one of the important sights is a meromiktik lake, one of only 19 in the world. This type of lake forms when freshwater and seawater meet and the lake has two distinct layers due to the different densities of the water. August was clearly not the time to witness this though as the lake was empty!
We finally made it to the beach which was pretty quiet aside from a large rowdy English family!
Turtles come onto the beach to lay their eggs. They leave them in a hole in the sand before heading back to the sea. The babies then hatch, dig their way out the sand and are on their own from that point on. The statistic for baby turtles aren’t good – only 1 from every 1000-5000 will survive till maturity and so a turtle sanctuary has been set up on the beach to protect the eggs that have been laid and where the babies are kept in a nursery until they are a bit bigger and have a better chance of survival.
There was not too much nightlife in Batu Ferrenghi other than a night market which we did pop down to for a quick look, but didn’t buy anything. We did however have lots of free films on the in-room entertainment so we finally watched Despicable Me – 1&2. Can’t believe I haven’t seen them before!
Penang was a nice mix of city and nature. The beach wasn’t suitable for swimming due to jellyfish but the next stop is the Perhentian Islands which are all about the beach time!