No longer the quaint China Town as it seemed when I visited 25 years ago, it is now home to most of the island’s one million strong population. Georgetown’s historic lanes and street life still makes it an
appealing place to explore. Our accomodation on Lebuh Chulia (named after the Tamil word for “merchant”) is central to almost everything of interest – shops, museums, temples, restaurants and
accommodation, while the rest of the island can be reached on buses. Chinatown, a maze of lanes liberally sprinkled with grand clan association halls and two-storey shophouses in various stages of decay and restoration, which itself encloses the smaller ethnic enclave of Little India and a Muslim quarter.
We have enojyed different ethnic foods for every meal. Penang is the food capital of Asia according to all the publicity. We have lapped up Nasi Kandar, laksa, roti canai, fried oyster, dim sim, tandori and still working on trying all the local food.
The spice farm was wonderful with our guide showing us many examples of everyday spices we use and the surprising origins. The garden has special plant collections such as spices and herbs, aquatic plants, bamboos, crotons, cycads, ferns, gingers, heliconias, jungle plants, orchids and rare palms.
Today we walked up to the top of Penang hill, starting at the Botanical Gardens, the
track involves 1.5 km of steep steps then another 3.5 km of sealed road. Tourists generally take the funicular railway to the top, but we needed the exercise after all the food. The top affords beautiful views of the island, particularly Georgetown. A crass tourist trap however a hotel and garden was great to survey all of Georgetown below in the cool air as a thunderstorm hit. The hitchhike down saw us chatting to the snake charmer who plies his trade with the tourists!