On Sunday evening we walked to a huge shopping mall in Batu Uban, the small town in which the marina is situated. Our purpose was to buy more food in the well-stocked supermarket there but we had a walk around before doing that. The building was wonderfully cool after the 30-minute walk in intense heat. Apart from a few cultural differences, the mall could be in any city in the world – all the usual designer shops, brands and fast food chains were in place, complete with a multiplex cinema on the top floor. I had a look around a bookshop which we thought might have been a Borders once, until we found an actual Borders on another floor.
In the alcohol section of the supermarket (suitably distanced from the shop’s more worthy items such as sugar-loaded cakes, biscuits and flavoured milks), Paul showed me how much more expensive it is to buy wine here. It’s almost double what it cost in Langkawi, so it’s a good job I’ve cut down ;).
On Monday afternoon we moved Sister Midnight from the emergency pontoon to a berth just around the corner which is where we’ll stay until the 2nd of September while Paul gets on with sanding and varnishing and other maintenance jobs. We also want to see some of the George Town festival however, so late in the afternoon we set out to check out the first of the events I’d chosen. George Town is further away than I thought. A bus service runs there and the stop is on the main road near the marina (in the shade of some trees luckily, considering the 20 minute wait in blast furnace heat). I didn’t know which window to look out of on the journey; we passed elegant Chinese-style houses and temples, shanty town-like shacks, coconut trees, farms, parks and the ubiquitous high-rise tower blocks were dotted in between them all.
We got out at the Komtar tower complex (basically another huge shopping mall, except this one includes a hotel). Paul knows the town fairly well so he led the way to the centre from there – quite a walk in the heat but plenty to look at on the way. I particularly loved Little India, an area of streets where saris, flower garlands, and Indian jewellery and statues are out on show in the colourful shops and stalls. The more unpleasant street smells are masked by the gorgeous aromas of incense and curry wafting through the air. Indian music coming from one of the shops added to the festive atmosphere.
The exhibition we’d come to see was in a venue called The Black Kettle, a modern airy cafe bar, which (unusually) served wine. We also managed to buy some real bread in the delicatessen shop here (well worth it at £3 a loaf!).
‘Penang Then and Now’, showed, in photographs, how specific locations in the city had changed over the years, with historical anecdotes explaining how and why etc, and I found it fascinating. I think Paul enjoyed it too :).
Back on the streets, we spent some time searching for a restaurant Paul wanted to revisit. It was worth the walk and the wait. We had delicious Indian meals (Mushroom Masala for me and Chicken Masala for Paul).
Before getting a taxi back we had a walk along the waterfront. The night was warm and as in any seaside town the prom was lively and crowded. I’m keen to go back and have a proper look in the daylight. The waterfront has several places of interest relating to the history and development of Penang, and some beautiful buildings too.