Saturday, February 23, 2008

Malaysia - Penang

We went to Penang because we heard it was a great place to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but when we were there, it was totally dead. Maybe the parades and dragon dances and fireworks happen some other time, or maybe they don't happen at all, we'll never know. Even though Chinatown was shut up, everywhere else was open so we spent most of our time over in Little India. The transition between neighborhoods was hilarious. You would cross a certain street and it would go from the quiet, breezy calm of Chinatown to an explosion of people, sound and smell in Little India. Tons of people out in the streets, everything was open, and every other shop was blaring Indian pop music. Instead of spending our time in a street party, like we thought, we ended up seeing a lot of sites: walking all over town checking out the different temples, going up to Penang Hill and then engaging in a ridiculously steep (from 800m to sea level over 5km) hike down to the botanical gardens and lots of eating. Luckily all the hawker stalls were open, so we had tons of satay, a tom yum soup so hot it was deliciously painful and various indian feasts. Malaysia is an amazing food country, incorporating the best of chinese, indian, malay and other southeast asian countries (notably Thailand), and it's all super cheap. We were eating good meals for MYR10 (about $3) and had an enormous indian dinner with way too much incredible food for MYR20 ($6). It seems like other SE Asian countries get more tourist love, but Malaysia was fantastic.

Abby in the archway of the Chow Yun Fat mansion. Used to belong to a rich Chinese merchant, now a hotel that you can also take tours of. Expensive tours, so we just admired the outside...

Indian temple

The outside of the Kek Lok Si temple, supposedly the biggest Buddhist temple in SE Asia. Leading up to the temple was the traditional t-shirt and other assorted junk hawker hallway.

There was a writhing pond full of turtles in the temple, for some reason.

There were Buddha statues everywhere inside the temple, of all shapes and sizes.

A view out over the city of Georgetown from about halfway up the temple.

We didn't take this picture, it's from wikipedia, but this was going on while we were there. They only light up the temple during Chinese New Year, which is 15-20 days long.

They also have great fruit in Malaysia, but unlike in the Philippines, they actually eat it! You could buy fresh fruit and packets of sliced fresh fruit everywhere, even late at night.

There were a lot of monkeys on the hike down from Penang Hill to the botanical gardens.

There were also a lot of monkeys in the gardens, but unfortunately there were also hordes of tour bus tourists feeding them. This guy just opened his brothers mouth and helped himself.

We also visited a Burmese Buddhist temple which was really beautifully done.

This reclining Buddha is the third largest in the world! Or maybe Asia! I'm not really sure, but that's one big enlightened being!

A shot inside another Buddhist temple. There were a lot of people praying in all of the temples we visited. I'm not sure if that's normal, or if it had something to do with CNY...

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