Penang was so less crowded & frenetic than Kuala Lumpur. Yes, there were lots of citizens & tourists moving about, but in a more relaxed, enjoying the moment manner; not frantic, aggressive 'gotta get there/it now'. Speaking of getting there from Bukit Fraser - we had the choice of a 9 hour taxi, bus, ferry combination journey or a 2 hour taxi ride back to K.L. & a 1 hour direct flight. We chose the taxi/flight option, and the flight cost $12 each !! Fire Flyz is a new discount airline in the S.E. Asia region that really is a true bargain. The airline personnel are friendly & helpful, the aircraft seats comfortable & NOT spaced 8 inches from each other. Very good airline.
The heat is starting to rise and the smoke from Sumatra is an ever present breath component which results in a constant nasal/throat irritation with the accompanying nasal drip, cough & watery, red eyes. This is due to the slash & burn technique still employed by the Sumatran rural natives, as they strive to survive. Unfortunately this archaic technique has fundamentally set the whole island on fire thereby blanketing S.E. Asia in a particulate laden smog.
But on a positive note, Penang is considered the most genuinely 'Chinese' city in Malaysia. We found it to be an exciting & enjoyable mixture of old pre-colonial, colonial, early-mid 20th century and modern architecture. The central city is not too large, and so has walkable sections/neighborhoods that are easily connected by a short, inexpensive taxi or bus ride. So we did a lot of walking & wandering the streets & alleys enjoying the street artwork, both of ironwork & sides of buildings murals; many depicting everyday life of the citizens of all ages, especially children & young people - they are the ones full of life (current writer included !?) ! The world famous 'bicycle w/ two children in unbridled exuberance' being a highlight. Walking the streets has relief from the hot day's sun due to the five foot porticoes we first encountered in Singapore. The heat & humidity is also tempered by the offshore breezes. As a last resort we could also retreat to the hotel A.C. !
The food courts were also present, and had an even more eclectic smorgasbord of Malay, Chinese & Indian. Each of the 5-10 foot wide stalls, of which there could be 20 to 50 in a given food court, preparing their national/regional/personal food type specialty: meat, fish, veggie, rice, noodles, grilled, steamed, stir-fried, soup, spicy, aromatic, or just plain delicious.
The Chinese, Hindu, Islamic Temple/Mosque variety was another visual feast; all with their focus on ethnic/religious architectural decorative detail. The Penang Museum was a well curated history of ethnic historical tapestry of Penang; photographs, historical documents, maps, clothing, household items and the text explanations 'blah blah' (as Lidia & I call them). Not derogatorily, but in fact complimentarily ( my new word ?), as we search for & enjoy the blah blah.
Penang, which is an island (akin to Singapore) is a cultural treat worth the time to visit.
Next on to Thailand.
Ciao for now