Eighty Hours in Penang (Day Two)Saturday, February 22, 2014
Having done a small research, prior to our coming to Penang, we had learned that visiting the legacy of Chinese Peranakan in the island was a must. So, on our second day in Penang, we decided to visit the Peranakan Mansion, and also to have their delicious cuisine for dinner.
8:10 a.m. St. George Anglican Church
Waking up earlier than the previous day, we had the chance to have our breakfast at the hotel. Of all the common Malaysian breakfasts they served, we both chose Roti Chanai (an Indian bread served with curry).
Since we had mapped the streets of Georgetown in our heads, we took the shortcut to the old Anglican Church of St George where there was a Sunday service commenced at 8:00. By that hour, tourists would be allowed to enter its front yard and take pictures of the church from there.
Standing in front of this 19th century church, I learned that the congregation was dominated by Indians, followed by Chinese and Europeans.
I came to a dome erected to honor Sir Francis Light, the founder of modern Penang, right in front of the church. I regret however that I didn’t come inside the church to learn more about it.
8:30 a.m. Another Getting Lost
To reach the Peranakan Mansion from St George church, we only had to cross the street to Lebuh Gereja. We came way too early as the mansion was not open until the next one hour. So we ended up wandering on the streets of Little India and then hoping on the free CAT (Central Area Transit) bus, run by Rapid Penang, from Pengkalan Weld at Jetty bus station.
The people in Penang rely on the bus of Rapid Penang as a public transportation. Of all the routes it has, there is one route that is free. And that was the route we took that morning. To know further about Rapid Penang and check out all its routes, I advise that you go to this site.
My first impression of Rapid Penang was that the bus was clean, efficient, and of course comfortable. The route we took that morning was more like a circle or loop. It departed from Jetty, stopped once at KOMTAR (Komplek Tun Abdul Razaq) and then returned to Jetty.
KOMTAR is like the grand bus station of Penang. Nearly all the routes of Rapid Penang have to stop by at that station. Not only the Rapid Penang, but also the interstate buses connecting Penang with other Malaysia’s states.
9:50 a.m. Peranakan Legacy
Built unaligned with the street, which was a little bit awkward to me, this green painted house was less fascinating than the blue mansion of Cheong Fat Tze we had visited on the previous day. We spent few minutes in the front yard to take some pictures before stepping in to the mansion.
Not like in blue mansion, visitors coming to Peranakan Mansion were free to wander in this place without a tour guide. Beside the admission fee we had to pay, there was an extra charge for a museum tour with a guide. We chose to go without a guide. It was a relief to know that visitors today were allowed to take pictures inside the museum.
Nearly all the collections displayed depicted the way of life of Chinese Peranakan in Penang. How they set the furniture, and also, how they cooked.
As we got into the kitchen, we were surprised to know that the kitchen apparatus they had were pretty similar to those we found at home. Apparently, the Chinese culture and way of life had deeply influenced the daily life of people in South East Asia.
Not only the kitchen apparatus that were similar to those we had in Indonesia, but also the snacks. These colorful layer cakes and the green ball dish covered with grated coconut could be easily found all around Indonesia.
So actually, Malaysia and Indonesia share a lot of things in common. What would be the point of claiming things that we can actually share?
Going upstairs to the second floor, we had to take off our shoes. This floor was more like a private zone, comprising bedrooms and a seating area. One bedroom was dedicated to display the collected items belonged to the Mistress (Nyonyah). As for my favorite item, it was a vintage radio I found in the honeymoon suite.
We spent one hour forty minutes in the mansion, and decided to leave for Masjid Lebuh Aceh, an old mosque built by a wealthy Muslim trader from Aceh in 19th century.
1:15 p.m. The Old Mosque at Lebuh Aceh
Since the mosque was not open for tourists, we tried to find a way how to get in there. The only way to do that was by praying in it. So we planned to do the midday prayer in that mosque.
The interior was similar to some 19th century old mosques I had seen in Indonesia. Since the neighborhood today was mostly populated by Non Muslim, there were only several people pray in that mosque.
When I was in college, I learned about the nationalist movement originated by Sun Yat Sen of China. His teaching was spread among the overseas Chinese people, including those in the Dutch East Indies. Of all many places populated by overseas Chinese in South East Asia, Doctor Sun chose Penang as his base.
A small shop house in Lebuh Armenia was a witness of the regular night secret meetings held to discuss politics and of course, the teaching of nationalism. In the lobby, they hanged some posters, giving the detail information about Sun Yat Sen and his activity during his staying in Penang.
Like many traditional Chinese house in common, there was also an altar placed right across the main entrance. The difference was, this altar was not dedicated for their deity figures. It was used to honor Sun Yat Sen.
Behind the lobby, there was a small inner court for air circulation, and after that a small hall with a long table where the secret meeting was held. I guessed it must have been a small important meeting as there was not enough space for a huge meeting. At the back of the house was a traditional kitchen painted in indigo color.
We had to pay for the admission fee, but we didn’t have to pay for the Chinese Tea and Pandan Water. First time in my life, I tasted Pandan Water. It really didn’t help quench my thirst.
2:50 p.m. The Christian Cemetery
The sky was getting darker, indicating that it was going to rain anytime soon. Meanwhile, the humidity was getting higher. By using the google map, we found our way to an old Christian cemetery on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Actually it was my idea to visit this former European cemetery. I was interested to learn about the past by reading the inscriptions on the tombs. I was not sure if my travel mate would enjoy it.
The cemetery was beyond my expectation. It was preserved in its real condition, yet it was not well maintained. Many stones were scattered on the ground. There was no sign that the landscape was taken care.
We were fortunate to find the tomb of Logan brothers who played a significant role in defining the islands of Indu-Nesos which later became Indonesia. The most wanted tomb that visited by nearly all visitors coming to this place was the one of Sir Francis Light, the founder of modern Penang.
Despite the fact that people put flowers and candles on his tomb, it was ironic that the tomb was not really in a good condition.
Not only the Protestants who were buried on this cemetery, but also the Catholics. The two burial grounds were separated by a wall.
The rain finally fell. We were forced to find a shelter. We stood for like fifteen minutes in front of a repair shop next to the cemetery before walking back to our hotel at Love Lane.
5:30 p.m. In Searching of Penang’s Cuisine
While taking a break in the hotel, we made a plan to have dinner at a place where we could taste Penang’s cuisine. First choice fell to the hawker at the Esplanade which, according to the brochure we got at the hotel, was famous for its sate.
It was drizzling outside, and we walked from the hotel to the Esplanade. The hawker was located right across the town hall. We were a little bit disappointed as we found it closed. So we came up with plan B, which was taking the free CAT bus of Rapid Penang to Burmah Road, where there was a tea house that served the best laksa in Penang. Before we crossed the street to the bus stop, we stopped in front of the town hall to take some pictures.
The free CAT bus of Rapid Penang which was supposed to show up every fifteen minutes was late that night. To reach the tea house, we had to get off from the bus at Jalan Transfer, right in front of the police headquarter. It was the first stop after central bus station of KOMTAR.We thought the tea house was not far from the place we stopped, so we decided to walk along the Burmah Road. Turned out we were wrong.
We walked under the rain, and wondered where to stop. We met two Indian women and asked for a direction. Apparently, they both had no idea where the tea house was. But as trying to be polite with us, they pointed out a direction to a street which was obviously not the Burmah Road. We thanked them and decided not to follow their direction.
Not far from the point we met them, my friend saw the tea house across the street. We were glad as we had walked for hundreds of meters under the rain which later became drizzling. The tea house was small and located within a row of terrace house.
As we got inside, the restaurant was full. The only space available was the front lobby. We were seated by a woman who seemed to be the owner of the tea house, right in front the cashier counter. We told her if we wanted to see the making of traditional tea, but she seemed to be busy and preoccupied with the customers coming for dinner.
So we decided to order the foods. As for me, I would have laksa and nutmeg juice served with ice, and my friend would have fried noodle and mango juice. Our long searching for this place finally paid off when I tasted the laksa. It was absolutely delicious.
We spent more than one hour in the restaurant and had to walk back to Jalan Transfer to catch the free CAT bus that would take us back to the hotel. When we reached the bus stop, we saw an Indian man waiting for a bus.
After waiting for more than fifteen minutes, the free CAT bus didn’t show up. We began to worry as it was over 9:00 pm. I approached the Indian guy and asked him whether the free CAT bus was still available at that hour. Speaking in not so clear English, he told us that the bus was still available. But if we wanted to reach our hotel easier, he advised that we take the same bus with him, which was bus number 102.
The bus 102 showed up, and we hopped on with him. The fare was RM 1,4. I gave the driver RM 3,0 and expected for the change. I later found out that all bus drivers in Malaysia never gave the changes. So whenever you take a bus in Malaysia, make sure you have the exact amount of money they required. I lost twenty cents that night.
On the bus, I spoke with the Indian guy. He was an Indian citizen who had stayed in Malaysia since 1989. Few years after setting his foot in the country, he brought all his family from India to Malaysia. One mistake I made that night was not trying to know what his name was.
We thanked him very much for being so helpful when we got off from the bus. And that was the end of our trip on the second day in Penang.
Museum Peranakan : RM 20/person
Sun Yat Sen : RM 5/person
Dinner at Tea House : RM 17 for two persons
Bus 102 : RM 1,4/person