I hopped on the minibus to Penang, and it was only me for the 3 hour journey to the coast. Lucky gal. Easy ride, despite the hairpin turns and focused driver attention. He even brought along on a few personal errands and 'let' me use the toilets at his sister's house, where he had to stop to drop off some strawberries... not your typical minibus ride that's for sure! (or is it?) We arrived after dark but the city was bustling. Georgetown was much bigger than I had imagined, and I had the driver drop me on Love Lane. After about 20 minutes of touring around checking out my options, I settled on a single room at Guest Inn Muntri, right off of Love Lane. Clean, cheap, quiet, and close to the main drag. I had dinner with new traveler friend from Italy – we shared two of the mystery street dishes from the nearby night market.
I was up early for breakfast and hit the street art tour around town. It was a scorcher, but what a great city! While I was hunting street art I saw Fort Cornwallis, met a female artist teaching traditional batik, and toured the clan jetties. Fort Cornwallis was built by the British East India Company in the late 1700s. It is a star shaped fort and is the largest standing in Malaysia - likely because it never engaged in any battle!
There are six clan communities in a row along Weld Quay and together they are known as the Clan Jetties. The Chew Clan is by far the largest among the Weld Quay family of clans. The jetties were initially rows of plank supported by stilts constructed as platform for passengers embarking and disembarking from the boats to the shores and vice versa. Later on, these platforms were joined together to become a jetty. These clusters of wooden houses were built by the Chinese poor immigrants who work near the port during the nineteen century. These immigrants migrated from the south-eastern coast of China, known as the Fujian Province over here due to the hardship they face in their homeland during that era. Later they brought their families over and made this waterfront their home. The Chew Jetty is still home to hundreds of people living in this area today but many have changed their social and economic lifestyle. It was quiet when I was there, and there is a great panoramic view of the city from the end.
There are fun murals around town, in addition to wire sculptures that tell a bit about the history and neighborhood in which they are found. These sculptures started out as a project to celebrate Georgetown as a UNESCO heritage site. These welded iron wall caricatures featuring the work of Penang cartoonists such as Baba Chuah are erected around the alleyways of the area. The designs are all drawn by artists who grew up in Penang, so they encompass some local flavor which adds an intimate connection between the art and the location. I found the local people very welcoming and friendly. Many people spoke English and it was easy to find my way around (they had a good map!). Georgetown had a hip, young vibe to it as well that was a welcome change. A map of the art can be found here.
I headed back to the guest house to beat the heat, but I was in for a surprise... American #2 was on his way to Georgetown. Serendipitous encounter, that's for sure. He happened to be staying 1 block away and we hadn't seen each other since December in South Africa. What are the odds? We swapped stories over drinks, found some dinner, and enjoyed more street art. But alas, once again we went our separate ways, and I prepared for my 5am bus to Hat Yai – I was headed to Thailand!
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Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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