Friday, January 15, 2010

Ooh little China girl

Scenes from the Clan Pier Jetty in Penang, a Chinese Water Village built on stilts, extending out into the sea.

Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia. A photographer's playground. Colonial with a heavily Chinese heritage. Who wouldn't love riding trishaws through streets lined with palm trees and buildings painted bright, cheerful colors? The tropical hues reminded me of another Georgetown in Grand Cayman. Happiness: adding to our repertoire of transportation experiences.

A trishaw is essentially an extra seat attached to a three-wheeled bicycle with an umbrella. Also a great way to see the city at a slower place and without the the kiddies getting sore feet.

The brightly colored buildings occasionally gave way to white colonial beauties, or to very Chinese buildings, and the trishaws took us through the Little India of Penang for another contrast, yet it all fit. We saw places of worship representing most religions.

Our guide told us that the Sikhs riding around on motorbikes were not required to wear helmets yet, in order to accomodate their turbans, but that in some places they had specially tall, oversized helmets the fit atop the turbans. For some reason, we found that visual very funny.

In Malaysia the signs are all in Malay, and we loved that the name of the phone company on all the booths was 'helo' and the taxis are 'teksis'. I could say terima kasih, thank you. Other than that, English sufficed quite well.

The cruise ship's tour folks packed a ton into our 6 1/2 hour visit. We had wanted to go on the "Butterfly Farm and Spice Gardens" tour but due to low numbers it was cancelled. So we went with the all-around tour, which included things like seeing how silk is painted in the batik style and even a cracker factory, great for making the best of the time we had in port.

It also was the tour that didn't go to the Temple of the Azure Cloud, which is full of poisonous snakes. These snakes have supposedly never biten anyone, and are considered holy and friendly guardians. Friendly or not, I didn't want anyone trying to drape poisonous snakes over our necks to sell photo ops.

Plus, I think snakes belong outside.

See? It's good to research these things before you go.

Especially in Asia.

In case there is any question, I would like to assert that I am no coward since Indiana Jones wouldn't have gone there either.

However, I do think he would have liked the Khoo Kongsi Temple, built in 1906, which was one of the most fantastically elaborate ones I have ever seen. Not an inch of the place wasn't carved or gilded, to stunning effect.

The artistry was jaw-dropping. Next, we jumped back onto the bus and were ferried to the Reclining Buddha of Wat Chayamangkalaram. This was the largest we had seen at 33 meters long. The reclining Buddha represents Buddha at his death, smiling slightly to remind us that pasage into Nirvana is a good thing, according to Buddhism, bringing enlightenment and serenity.

Ironically, karmically speaking, there was a beware of shoe thieves sign and our guide told us repeatedly not to leave ours outside but to bring them in and put them where she could keep an eye on them.

All around outside the temple were thin beggars, and we gave a few more ringgits, walking among the other tourists, worshippers, food and trinket sellers.

Jackfruit seller

We wandered across the street to the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, which was founded in 1805. I decided to let Thomas run around in the temple gardens and handed Bethy my camera to take into the temple itself, an "I trust you" big girl sort of treat. Mike called me back to see, tickled when the monks borrowed the camera to have their photos taken with her. Then Bethy and the monks sat and talked for quite a while about everyday sorts of things such as which countries she's travelled to, what her school is like, and so on.

How awesome.

(Thanks to an unnamed Buddhist monk for the last photo.)

1 comment:

*Paula* said...

What an amazing trip! What must the kids think of such an adventure? I'd love to hear what Bethy thinks of everything she's seen.