Many cruisers visit Penang in order to go through the bureaucracy of acquiring a Thai visa. But Georgetown, with its UNESCO-listed heritage, art scene and world renowned street food is so much more than a visa stop-over. Here’s our guide to what to do and see in the island’s capital, and some suggestions of where to stay and eat.
The island of Penang lies south of Langkawi on the north-west coast of mainland Malaysia. Before Kuala Lumpur developed into the international capital it is today, Penang was the economic and cultural hub of Malaysia. But it wasn’t always so.
The sound of the hissing steam and shrill horn transported me to Britain in the 50s, The Railway Children, Murder on the Orient Express, Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, the railways that built America, George Stevenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Sometimes we were so close to the shops hewn out of the rock along Hill Cart Road I could have easily removed a speck of dust from the eye of a passing housewife, or handed a letter to a family of children.
Cliché or no cliché, Akbar’s ‘City of Victory’ really does “rise majestically” from a barren rocky plateau. Referring back to my note book, before writing up this visit, I found a string of exclamations: “The scale! Location and position! Extraordinary! Fabulously well-maintained! Power! More palace than fort!” An extraordinary place…
We’d only been in Jaipur a day and a night and already we’d witnessed some police brutality, so we thought we’d balance it with a bit of civilised culture. Cue one UNESCO World Heritage site and a huge palace-cum-fort. After visiting these incredible places, however, we thought we’d get back to reality with some interaction with beggars, street-dwellers and kids rummaging through piles of rubbish. Just to remind ourselves of this diverse city we’re in before leaving for the Taj.