Monday, December 24, 2012

Malaysia - Penang & ALL the Street Food

Warner, my good friend from Stanford, and I made it safely to Penang. We had a wonderful 2.5 days exploring Georgetown, on the Northeast coast of the island, and the Penang National Forest just to the west. The weather was hot and humid (as always) and it sprinkled a few times, but we lucked out with gorgeous weather at the National Park and had a wonderful day at the beach. Warner has been living in Hong Kong for the last year but hadn't made it to Malaysia yet, so it was both of our first times in Malaysia.

Day 1: We saw tons of the UNESCO historical sites around Georgetown and enjoyed all the delicious street food. Penang is known as one of the best cities in Asia for hawker food, so we sampled samosas, soups, satay, and more! Delicious!

Penang is also known for its amazing diversity of cultures and religious groups, often with multiple houses of worship on the same street representing Asian and Western religions.  Everyone was so friendly and open to us walking through the sites, and I have to say that Penang is probably the friendliest city I've visited. Also, everyone speaks excellent English, which is a nice treat.

Warner at Khoo Kongsi Temple

TIGER yarrr
Many of the temples had amazing stone and porcelain engravings.
Ornate temple engravings
Fort Cornwallis, in Penang, was a very modest fort from the 1800s, when the East India Trading Company established itself in the area. It's quite small now and rather run down, but there were some big canons... so it was still fun.

Day 2: At the Penang National Park, we decided to visit Monkey Beach and walk to the lighthouse. The hike was total around 10+ km, so it ended up being a pretty decent trek in the humidity. Luckily there was a gorgeous beach and refreshing drinks when we got there!
Santa hats at the lighthouse :)

These monkeys were SO AGGRESSIVE. If you pull out a packet of snacks... it will try to bite off your arm in an effort to get the rest! 
After the National Park, we went to Gurney Park to get food from the multitude of amazing hawker stands. IT WAS AWESOME. I love food, and Warner loves food, and this is the perfect place to love food. Everything is fresh and flavorful! I haven't gotten (too) ill from anything yet - don't worry Mom, I'm staying healthy, but a bout or two of discomfort is inevitable in SE Asia - and the local food is an awesome blend of Indian, Chinese, Malay, Indonesia, and Thai. THE BEST FLAVORS EVER!

Found my Chinese chive dumplings! Om nom
Day 3: We walked around town, got some white coffee (a specialty in Penang) and more samosas, and saw the last few cultural sites we'd missed. Kapitan Kling Mosque had a strict dress code, so I wore a robe and head scarf to walk through the outer halls. One of the religious leaders guided us around and explained the basic beliefs in Islam, and I learned a LOT - he was incredibly friendly, open, and helpful. It was great!
Kapitan Kling Mosque
Now we're off to Kuala Lumpur for Christmas! Warner and I have friends who are in the area, so hopefully we'll meet up with them. We also want to see the caves just outside the city, and enjoy Christmas in a bit metropolitan with beautiful views, great food, and fun backpackers. Bye for now!

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