Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour: Malaysia - Penang

Hello and welcome to the third installment of what Justin has dubbed the "Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour." As I mentioned in my previous post, we left Kuala Lumpur and headed for the Thai resort island of Koh Samui, but before we got there we had a very long train stop (about nine hours!) in the railway town of Butterworth. We got to Butterworth at 5:30 am, and we seemed kind of stranded because it didn't look like there was anything around the train station. There were no restaurants, hotels, or other establishments that we could sit in and wait out the hours until our next train.  We weren't going to be like some of the backpackers that we saw and sleep in the train station, so we opted to get the phone number of a cab to drive us to a nearby hotel for a shower and some sleep.

When the cab arrived we were greeted by Ahmad who cheerfully put our luggage in the trunk. When we told him that we wanted to go to the nearest hotel, he told us that we should reconsider and do a tour of nearby Penang island courtesy of him. He said he would drive us around and wait for us at all the attractions. We were still sleep deprived from our long journey and with us being very leery city folk, we were a little hesitant to have this complete stranger take us around and watch our luggage.  After thinking it over for a few minutes, we figured we had nothing to lose...except our belongings if he chose to drive off, LOL...just kidding...

So after we agreed to his personal tour, he asked us if we wanted to eat. We were pretty hungry so he dropped us off at Golden River for some dim sum (are you starting to see a theme here?).

A cute sign indicating where to get the plates and silverware

This sign indicated that there was a monetary penalty for wasted food (I guess for when they had unlimited buffets perhaps?).

Some of our delectable selections. I swear Justin still dreams about these dumplings to this day...

Then it was off to go sightseeing! Warning...it will be temple overload from this point forward. You've been warned! :)

All the temples were intricately decorated, as you can see from the pictures that follow.

This temple in particular was a Hindu temple, and people were making their offerings for the day.

People lighting incense.

A flower shop where you can purchase wreaths to place at the temples.

A Muslim mosque.

Inside one of the many Buddhist temples on the island.

We were on our way to Kek Lok Si Temple (the Temple of Supreme Bliss), which is a collection of temples located in the Penang hillside and we of course saw more temples...

Did you know that the city of Georgetown in Penang is an UNESCO World Heritage site? As you can see in the picture below, this is a Buddhist temple that is along side a building with traditional colonial British architecture. All over the city you saw this colonial architecture intact, but used for modern purposes. 

We had to drive up a hill in order to get to Kek Lok Si, and once we got there we entered the huge temple. In a lot of these temples we had to take off our shoes like Justin is seen here.

Say, "Sleep deprivation!" Just kidding. Although we were tired, we were having  a lot of fun ;)

Next we went to the outdoor area which was filled with lovely gardens and statues.

An outdoor Buddha statue

The second area of the temple was located even higher on the hill...
We had to take a mini funicular/cliff railway to get us there. Up we go!

Justin pretending to be scared

But the views from high on the mountainside were spectacular!

Located on this second level was the Kwan Yin Goddess of Mercy. It was really huge!

See how small I look in comparison?
Justin and I decided to take some selfies around the grounds

What I started to notice is that in many of these temples there would be multiples of the same statue...
According to our driver/tour guide we went at a really good time (early in the morning) because this place is typically packed with crowds. There was hardly anyone there when we arrived, so it was like we had the whole place to ourselves!
What's your sign? Your Chinese Zodiac sign that is... ;)

Stray cats roaming around the grounds.

Koi fish in the fountain...

Next on our tour was Penang Hill, which was a colonial hill station established by the British.

As the name indicates, we had to go up a hill, requiring us to ride yet another funicular train. This train was a bigger one compared to the one that we used at Kek Lok Si.

Up we go! Going up and looking down was kind of trippy!

The sign below indicating the early forms of transport to get to the top of the hill...

...which meant masters being carried up in special chairs.

Of course the place was a little touristy in that you could take pictures with birds and other creatures. This bird tried to escape and the handler quickly grabbed him.

More stunning views from the mountain top.

Cool fuzzy plants.

Between the servant chairs and the modern funicular train that they is used today, they also had an older version of a rail car.

We walked around and spotted another touristy thing. A love lock bridge, which  appears to mimic the one in Paris, France. Unlike the one in Paris, this one was a bit more commercial, in that there was a booth where you could purchase your lock. 

Lolz, love this message...

I spotted my name! Although I don't know who Teddy is...Ruxpin or Roosevelt I'd be fine with either. ;)

We traveled up more stairs to check out another temple 

This Hindu temple was pretty cool because of its pastel colors.

Justin with a huge cannon.

Justin enjoying the view!

Cheesy photo op time! 


After we left Penang Hill, I told Ahmad that I wanted to get some souvenirs.  We then made a stop at Penang Batik Factory. Batik is an art form that uses wax to resist colors in certain areas. By using this color blocking technique they are able to make wonderful works of art!

We ended up taking a small handmade batik piece home with us!

After stopping by the Batik Factory, we made another stop at a Malaysian chocolate place and a Malaysian white coffee place where we took home samples of both!


Then it was on to more temples!

This temple had a reclining Buddha (we would see the famous reclining Buddha later in our trip in Bangkok).

Ahmad felt we had to at least stop by a beach before we left.  Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to lay out on the sand or swim in the ocean.  Instead, we took a few photos and dug our feet in the sand.  Once we reached Koh Samui, we'd have plenty of time to hang out and relax on the beach.  I guess you can consider these photos a taste of what's to come on our next destination.

Another selfie, but this time not in a temple :)

Here's a photo of Justin and the man who helped make a nine hour layover into one of the best experiences of our trip.  Thank you Ahmad!  If any of you all make it to Malaysia, specifically Butterworth/Penang Island, let me know and I'll pass on his contact information.

Ahmad saw us off and made sure we boarded our train on time and safely.  So concludes the portion of our trip where Justin and I roamed around as backpackers, unshowered and sleep deprived.  We were super excited to finally make it to the island of Koh Samui.  After traveling by train and not staying in one place for more than two days, Justin and I were looking forward to staying put for a longer period of time.  Now all we had to do was make it to Koh Samui, which is another story in itself...

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