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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nov 22 – 29, 2012 Penang – Our Favorite Town in Malaysia (so Far)…

Happy Thanksgiving, America! We arrived in the beautiful Straits Quay Marina at mid-day.  It is only 18 months old and still growing. This place has got the makings of a perfect marina. It is beautiful, quiet, peaceful, surrounded by a mid upper-class condominium complex with the first two floors being a shopping mall full of wonderful restaurants, clothing stores, and a multitude of sundries. There is a large TESCO (similar to a super Wal-Mart) one block away, and a Cold Storage (a high-end grocery store that stocks a number of "Western" products) within a kilometer the other direction.  We have very nice laundry and ablution facilities, a cruisers lounge and access to a beautiful swimming pool. The bus stop is very close and for 30 RM we can ride all day every day for a week (that's about $10 USD). A cab ride into the heart of town runs between 25 – 40 RM if we prefer not to ride the bus. We could seriously stay here forever.

There are only two yachts in here that we know: Blue Heeler (Aussies) and Kilkea II (Canadian/Irish) We met them for happy hour at the Irish Pub and then afterward Frank and I dined at The Cheeky Duck, having Peking Duck for Thanksgiving. It was perfect!

Early Friday, we boarded the bus with Ally and Wayne from BH, for a trip to the Thai consulate to get our Thai visas, (our next cruising destination). The bus dropped us right in front of a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop so naturally we just had to stop for an ice cream on our way to the consulate. Application for the visas was a breeze. We were told to return at 3:30 PM to pick up our visas. So we trotted off to Pen Men Marine, the local chandlery. It turned out to be a very big disappointment – so small you had to go outside to change your mind! And the prices were as high as Whitworth's in Australia. As our Aussie friends say, "Bugger that!" Next stop was a nearby shopping mall where we met Ute and Hans (Taimada) for lunch. They were anchored nearby. We then returned to the consulate, picked up our visas and returned to the marina.

Every day here was something different because there is so much to see and to do in Penang. One day Frank and I embarked on a guided bicycle tour of the old town – Georgetown – into the Clan Jetty where we learned the history of the inception and development of the Chinese Clans in Penang and walked onto an actual Clan Jetty where the Chew Clan still thrives. Its construction is a marvel in itself. This part of the waterfront is completely owned by the various clans. We next toured the Clan Temples and museums. The Chinese influence is very strong here and still prevailing today. We saw many of the street murals and sculptures that make Penang famous, went on a culinary journey as well into Little India and China town, all part of the tour. We spied secret tunnels and went into Muslim and Hindu neighborhoods to gaze upon their most famous worship icons. It was truly a fascinating and memorable tour. We would recommend this to anyone visiting historic Penang.

We enjoyed the company of Ally and Wayne as we embarked on several escapades together, going up the Penang Hill Funicular for incredible views of the island, then over to the
Kek Lok Si Temple - the largest (and probably most beautiful) Buddhist temple in Asia, and then rode trishaws to dinner at "Kapitan" which is a fabulous Indian restaurant where we'd had breakfast during our bike tour.

The Gurney Street Mall is the largest and nicest in Penang where we caught the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall", for 14 RM per person (just under $5), including popcorn and soda. Penang offers free wifi, everywhere.
It is simply an amazing city, melding ancient with modern cultures, architecture and entertainment. There is one major concern to be aware of here, however, and that is the existence of "pick-pockets" on the buses and in the crowded areas. Of course this is no different from many major tourist areas, yet it is certainly something to be aware of. One of our friends was relieved of her wallet on the bus one day. It was taken right out of her backpack and as soon as she realized it the thief had hopped off the bus and was long gone before she could do a thing about it.

We fully intend to return here though to spend quite a bit more time in this lovely marina and on this fascinating island. But our schedule beckons us to move on now. We have a prepaid booking at Rebak Marina just off Langkawi for Dec. 1st.

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