Saturday, December 23, 2006

Georgetown or Pulau Penang

17th December - 20th December

Our first stop in Malaysia was the island of Penang
, which literally translates from Malay as "Betel Nut Island". Given to the British by Sultan Kedah in 1771 in a deal for protection from foreign invaders, Georgetown was founded by Sir Francis Light and became a thriving trade port for the East India Company. The Chinese and Indians came as merchants and labor workers and never left. Now the island's colonial days are over and the world praises it for it's ethnic and religious diversity and it's absolutely superb cuisine. Infact, it is quite common to run into a Hindu temple, a Chinese Temple, a Mosque and a Church on the same block. Similarly, the ethnic groups have also build gastronomical bridges with cuisines of South India, China, and Malay.

Here's Tom with a delicious mug of massala tea, enjoyed by everybody on the streets...

...while Zhenia digs into her vegetarian set consisting of popadom, roti canai, lentil dall, chutney, alou gobi (something similar anyway) and a big heap of rice - all for one US dollar.

A close up of ABC (Air Batu Campur), a Malay desert consisting of crushed ice flavoured with various syrups, sweet corn and red beans. Zhenia, of course, demolished this in no time and refused to let me publish the evidence.

At a fruit market Tom holds up a Jack fruit, which smells mildly better than its sewer-smelling cousin, the Durian fruit.

A view of our street in Chinatown. The streets are usually quiet and look lost or asleep in some old time.

Once an old colonial building this music shop in Little India counts Jesus and Ganesh as it's sponsors.

We spent the rainy days sitting on the porch of our guesthouse - here I am looking very pleased with my new shirt I found in a Thai thrift shop for pennies.

On one of the warmer days we decided to get out of the heat and spend the hottest part of the afternoon in the Indian cinema watching the latest Bollywood box office hit. No subtitles but who needed them? Lots of singing, dancing and the wafer thin melodramatic plot was easy enough to follow. A sensational riot of funabration.....ness...

Lastly, at Batu Ferrenghi, a beach coast on the island, we spotted two 4-ft Monitor lizards sunbathing on the rocks.

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