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Our ferry ride to George Town on the island of Penang was highlighted by a very interesting bootleg copy of “The Hobbit” film being shown on the ferry. Let’s just say the subtitles (in English even though the movie was in English!) were very entertaining. I never knew Gandalf did so much cursing. We ferried by islands and many fishing boats and fishing net areas until we cruised into George Town, Penang. On the way in we noticed many impressive highrise ocean front buildings along the coastline.

This was much more built up than the island we had just left. We landed in the heart of the old historic part of town where we were fortunate enough to stay in a great hostel just steps from all the great sightseeing we would be doing.

As we settled into our hostel (Guest Inn Muntri House), our host recommended we check out the Red Garden Hawker Center for dinner, right around the corner. What a recommendation! Turns out Anthony Bourdain had done the rounds here too. More on the food later!

On our walk to and from the Red Garden we notice some really interesting murals and street wire art. We later found out there was a whole series of both murals and street wire art throughout the historic part of town.

For the next few days it was our task to try to find and take a picture of as many of these art pieces as possible. The murals were a particular challenge, but we managed to find all of them (a few were all but gone). Mural right next to our guest house.

One of the best.

Another favorite.

This one is fading fast.

This one was cute.

This one was very hard to find (but worth it).

And this one was in another alley across the street.

This one is just a shadow of its former self.

And we found the last one just before dusk.

Our stay on Penang also coincided with the final celebration of the Chinese New Years festivities.

There were various street festivals every night, and one especially large ending festival where we were able to take in some fabulous entertainment and a wonderful fireworks display.

Ouch.

Lovely ladies.

We really did luck out as we were immersed into a sea of food, fun, and cultural festivities.

Dragon dance…on stilts!

On our daily walks around the old town we discovered some more Hindu and Chinese Temples and mosques, and on one occasion we both had to wear a kaftan to enter a mosque.

Here too, as in Singapore, was a great mix of ethnic neighborhoods, which meant those intoxicating aromas of simmering curries and grilled foods. Again, some very memorable dining was enjoyed and will forever be missed by us. OH BLUE SKY!

Our taste buds will always be craving for more. (See Mmmmmmalaysia blog, coming soon.)

There was also a lively but small Little India.

Uh…?

One day we decided to part-take in a trishaw ride. Our driver, a cute old guy but a bit wily, took us around town to some sights we hadn’t seen.

He wanted us to take several museum tours while he waited for us, meter running of course, so we quickly caught on to his game and finally had to cut the ride short.

But one place we did especially enjoy going to while on his trishaw, was the “Clan Jetties”.

It’s an old existing working community built over the water on wharf piers.

Laundry day on the piers.

It was amazing to walk through this community, and we even ran into some Homestays in the “Clan Jetties”.

We also enjoyed our time around Fort Cornwallis and the Esplanade.

We made a point of visitin the beautiful (acclaimed by Feng Shui experts as one of the most perfect Feng Shui buildings ever built) “Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion”, aka the Blue House.

It was also used in the movie “Indochine”.

Beautiful inside and out.

There was something special about always walking back to our hostel, right smack in the middle of this wonderful, magical, old, culturally overflowing world bazaar.

At times I felt that, if caught in a time warp, it wouldn’t be unusual to see Mr. Hemingway sitting at one of the many rustic bars or old sidewalk cafes, smoking his cigar and jotting down notes for one of his novels.

It was that type of feeling here in Penang. A good crossroad of off-the-beaten-path characters.

Which brings me to “Mark the monk”, well, that’s how we eventually came to know him. Every day, as we set off to our adventure, we would run into this unusally happy go lucky, 50ish, slightly pudgy monk. Now Mark, did not look like your usual monk. No, actually Mark looked like he had just arrived from the good old US of A, shaved his head and donned his new ochre colored monk robe. He would always greet us with a smile and say something along the lines of: “What a beautiful day it is” or, “welcome to Penang” or, “have a nice day!” Kristin would say, “that guy is creepy”. I would wonder, “is that what a monk would say?” Not until our last day did we see posters put up saying “Beware of false monk, Mark”. Apparently there is all kinds of drama, even in Penang

We did only one excursion out of town to Monkey Beach at the Penang National Park. I failed to mention that it was warm and humid in Penang but not more so than it was in Langkawi. On our day to Penang National Park we decided to hike the 5+ kilometers through the rainforest to Monkey Beach. It wasn’t the heat, so it must have been the humidity, because by the end of the hike it looked like I had swum to Monkey Beach.

And to make things even hotter as we broke out of the rainforest on to the beach, a topless (the locals said she was probably Russian) woman was seductively sunbathing on the beach. What!? And with fully clothed Muslim women walking around on the beach. Hey, we just kept walking to the other side of the beach in search of monkeys. But, alas we only found one lone monkey as he quickly scampered away after a local fed him some food scraps.

We were slightly disappointed when our ferry ride driver showed up on time to take us back. Just when we were getting on to the ferry, we spotted a whole pack of monkeys raiding the picnic area on the beach.

Since we were the only passengers the driver gave us time to go over and take a few pictures.

Monkeys! Mission accomplished, we headed home to our hostel, hoping not to run into Mark the monk.

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