Random stuff to do in Penang

“Let it be slow as long as it’s safe; a mountain won’t run if you chase it.”
-Malay Proverb

I hadn’t planned to see Penang at all when going to Malaysia, but it’s an easy bus ride from KL and I was unsure about what to do and how long to stay so I hopped on kind of last minute and decided to check out this Penang-business.

Claire had stayed in Georgetown for a spell, and recommended it to me. I ended up staying in several places there over almost two weeks. My escapades included the Food Museum, Penang National Park, Fort Cornwallis, the Cat Café and the Snake Temple in southern Penang – as well as several restaurants and a couple of trips to the local Subway. I know, I know… But I just needed something a little familiar at this point, so…

My trip to Penang National Park turned out to be one of the wettest of my trip. All the way there on the bus the sun was shining and the moment I stepped out of the bus at the final stop (the entry to the park) the heavens opened and all the water in the world rained down upon me. It’s safe to say I kept my camera in my waterproof bag and only documented the trip with a couple of snaps on my phone.

I waited at the registration office for about 30 minutes hoping against hope that the rain might abate just a little, but finally, when it didn’t, I went full Norwegian, signed in and just started hiking through the monsoon.

“Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær!”
(“There’s no such thing as “bad weather”, just bad clothing”)
– Norwegian proverb (So suck it, weather!)

The only wildlife I saw on this trip was before the raining started, so from the bus mostly, and I cut my trip short because of the weather, but it was still a good trip. Good to get out and move about in the woods for a bit, and I had the place all to myself (shocker…)

Didn’t need that huge bottle of water I brought though… It remained quite unopened.

THE FOOD MUSEUM
One of the oddities in Georgetown. They have several museums that are weird. The Upside-Down Museum, the “warped perspective”-museum and now The Food Museum. I didn’t know what it was, I just saw the sign on the street and had two hours to kill before I could check in to the Container Hostel so I dumped my bags and went back to check it out.
It’s described as a “novelty” on TripAdvisor and something new and exciting. I have never seen anything quite like it before, but exciting is not a word I would use to describe it. It was interesting and kinda fun, but it is literally mock-ups of various types of food spread out across two floors of the museum.

They have themes, which appeal to my designer-brain, and you can read about local and traditional food from Malaysia and the surrounding areas, also they dip into food art, critique the use of shark fins in soup and address anything from world hunger to showcasing the world’s most expensive food. So yeah, absolutely interesting, and I would say worth the money – but don’t go expecting to be thrilled or excited. That will only lead to disappointment.

THE CAT CAFÉ
What a great idea for cat lovers of the world… I did some research going here because I’ve heard of similar places where they just cram a bunch of cats in, don’t care if they are happy or nervous and just exploit it all as a gimmick to get cash from tourists.
This place LOOKS ok… but in all honesty, I could be wrong about that. The staff here where pretty adamant that I conducted myself properly around the cats, cautioned me about the two new arrivals from the shelter, saying they where shy, that I should leave them be and maybe they would come to me etc. They also seemed to cuddle and care about the cats even when they didn’t know I was looking… I got a brief intro with about the shelter they are taken from and the routines around the cafe because I asked. I also bought a small bag of cat treats so I could give the cats a reason to interact with me. Turns out they knew the sound of that bag *lol*
The cats came around, sniffed me, ate the snacks and then if I was lucky they wanted to play or cuddle. Especially Teddy was pretty happy being scratched while sleeping…
Around the cafe you can see pictures of each cat with the name and the information they have on them, as well as what they like and don’t like, so you can avoid scaring or stressing them. Like Teddy not liking you to scratch or pet him other places than the head and shoulders.

One cat went on the “hamster wheel” a few times, which I am hoping is not a sign of him being bored or stressed, but again… You don’t -really- know. I got a good vibe off the staff, so I am inclined to think this place actually cares though.
I had a smoothie, by the way. Fresh, strawberry smoothie, while I talked to cats who stared at me like I was dumb. One cat decided to mark his/her territory on my backpack, smelled lovely. Day well spent…

FORT CORNWALLIS
“Fort Cornwallis is a star fort in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century. Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. The fort never engaged in combat during its operational history.”

It’s sort of a “must see” when you’re in George town. It now comes complete with a store and café, of course, and the Nepalese guy checking tickets who says he “collects currency from around the world, so if you have any of your own currency can he please have it as a souvenir”… But there’s no denying the history of the place.

Captain Francis Light took possession of Penang Island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 and built the original fort. It was a nibong (Malay: palm trunk) stockade with no permanent structures, covering an area of 417.6 square feet (38.80 m2). The fort’s purpose was to protect Penang from pirates and Kedah. Light died in 1794.

It’s and old ruin of a fort, with the old walls standing and some tidbits here and there, but if you’re not a history buff or interested in walking “where the soldiers walked back in the day” there’s really no point in going here. I enjoyed myself, but I will acknowledge that I have an affinity for places like these so… Trying not to get your expectations up too much for an old fart of a fort here… It’s interesting enough to visit, not cool enough to cry if you miss it.

PENANG SNAKE TEMPLE
Complete waste of time if you’re not heavily into snakes and have time to kill. I like sneeeks and I was just milling about trying to find something interesting to write home about so of course I went there.

Not before walking around the place for a whole hour though. In the heat. I was dying. No joke. So hot and humid and I missed the mark completely so I was trudging next to the freakin’ highway for the longest time ever. Fun times. I finally found it though, and met up with two guys responsible for taking the touristy picture where you hold the danger noodle and smile. The guys saw that I was comfortable with the boa they placed around my shoulders so they decided to up the ante and place the local, lazy viper on my head. It was fun, -actual- good times.

That was the highlight of the visit though. You can see the “snake breeding area”, but that’s just an enclosure with a huge tree and some snakes in it. You don’t get close or anything. I the olden days people believed that the “sacred smoke” rendered the snakes (vipers mostly) harmless, but these days they are de-venomed for safety as many tourists visit and many locals come to worship. They still have their fangs though, so the CAN bite, but I doubt this happens often. Visitors are cautioned not to pick them up for pictures and stuff, but I don’t quite see how they get to do that anyway, the way they talk you’d think there were snakes lying around every which way at this temple, but they really aren’t.

Or you know, maybe I just didn’t see them because I’m blind. Not seeing the snake pit for the one, lazy dude wrapped around the tree…

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