25 July 2009
It was a refreshing sleep – for the first time in recent memory, I was able to sleep before 11 PM and woke up at quarter before 8 AM. We went down to grab a breakfast of bread, jam and coffee – the usual they serve in backpacker’s hostel but it was enough to last us for the morning.
It was leisure breakfast coupled so it was already way past 10 AM when we left our guesthouse. First agenda of the day was the Blue Mansion at 14 Lebuh Leigh. We arrived just in time for the guided tour scheduled at 11. We paid 12 MYR each for an hour long guided tour conducted by a 4th generation Hakka named Eric. It was a very entertaining tour in which Eric talked about the history of the house as well as that of its original owner, Cheong Fatt Tze – supposedly one of the wealthiest Asian of his time and was at one time dubbed as the Rockefeller of the East. The fee for the guided tour was very worth, educational and at the same time funny. Sadly though, no photography was allowed inside the house. This is definitely one of the must-see in Penang.
We proceeded to have lunch afterwards in a restaurant of another backpacker hostel along Lebuh Muntri. After a hearty lunch comprised of peppered chicken and beef curry, we headed towards Fort Cornwallis. We passed by the several sights such as the Cathedral of the Assumption, St George’s Church, Penang State Museum (in which we entered to seek refuge from the scorching heat of the sun), the Town Hall and the City Hall until we found ourselves in the entrance gate of Fort Cornwallis.
Fort Cornwallis reminded me so much of Intramuros back home in the Philippines, a smaller version that is. There was not much to see really but on top of the walls, one can feel and enjoy the relaxing sea breeze. This was built by Francis Light (founder of Penang) immediately after his landing on the island and the present structure was completed in the early 19th century.
We resumed our self-guided walking tour and strolled along Lebuh Pantai where we saw the buildings of several multinational banks – HSBC, Standard Chartered and Royal Bank of Scotland.
A detour along Lebuh Gereja and we found ourselves on the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. We paid 10 MYR for the entrance fee, which comes with a detailed tour guide. The tour was not as fun as that of the Blue Mansion but the house itself was far more decorated and “complete” than the latter. This said house was built by Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, a colorful personality in Penang during the late 19th century. Now, it is a museum, which contains antiques of the Peranakan community. My favorite spot here was the temple they built beside the mansion, which contained very colorful fresco carvings depicting heaven and hell (?).
When we got out of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, we were already tired and decided to head back to our guesthouse. We passed by the temple along Lebuh King where a bunch of photographers were doing a photo session. Along the way, we also passed by the Goddess of Mercy Temple along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. I initially thought this was a sight but sad to say I was disappointed, we didn’t bother to go in, as we just want to rest our aching feet.
We did a short pit stop somewhere along Lebuh Carnarvon to try out what a colleague suggested, Lok-Lok. This is basically a street food wherein a bunch of edible stuffs are placed on a stick and you just pick out what you like and cook it in boiling water (ala Steam Boat, as what they call back in Singapore). The cooked food is then dipped in a sauce of your choice; you repeat the steps until you are full (or you simply ran out of ringgits for payment, whichever the case may be) and simply hand over your sticks to the stall owner where he will bill you accordingly. I would say it was not so bad – food was delicious and something very Penang!
Finally we are in the guesthouse, I will be taking a nap and probably afterwards get something to eat. Tomorrow will be the last day but it will still be fully packed, as our plane to Singapore doesn’t leave until 8:15 PM.