There are worse things than listening to a two-piece band playing “Girl from Ipanema,” while drinking Tiger beer with friends, on a Malaysian island in what would otherwise be the dead of winter.
Our visit to the island of Penang was a way for us to accomplish a few things: first, visit with our friend from Seattle, SuJ’n (and her boyfriend Alan), who’s currently teaching English in South Korea and happened to be on vacation in the same area of the world at the same time as us; secondly, see another part of Malaysia – the island of Penang has a distinctly different character from Kuala Lumpur; and thirdly, to sample the world-famous Penang food, particularly the spicy assam laksas and Penang curries at their source.
Penang is a popular tourist destination (for Malaysians and non), and the fact that we’d ended up there on a 3-day weekend — Chinese New Year being an official Malaysian holiday — compounded things. Long lines for attractions and slow traffic dampened our spirits slightly, but considering that the mission was simply to “relax,” it wasn’t much of a setback. Our first full day, we checked out the Kek Lok Si [see below], Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist temple, which had some amazing huge statues of some deities we’re not familiar with.
We also made it to a lazy little beach (after a languid lunch at the Eastern and Oriental, Penang’s swankiest hotel), where we took a dip in the Indian Ocean, which was bathwater warm. Nice. The two pictures below come from the beach.
Afterwards, a quick trip to the tropical spice garden, where we got many exotic bug bites and smelled a lot of exotic spices. Here, Sarah and Suj’n enjoy a swing strategically located in front of sheer drop to the jungle floor.
After the fruit farm, we headed back to our hostel, did a little last-minute shopping (Sarah bought some batik, and a funky hat for me, the latter of which caused a taxi driver to remark “Michael Jackson, nooooo no noooo…”) and got ready for the return trip to KL.