Next up was Georgetown, a melting pot of Indian, Chinese and European influence on the north Malaysian island of Penang. Our host at the charming Malabar Inn promised we’d fall in love with the place and despite two days of torrential rain and a windowless bedroom, he was right.
The maze of streets (including the aptly named Harmony Street boasting a mosque, church and Hindu temple almost next door to one another) were paved with mosaics and lined with colourful arches supporting the porticos of traditional ‘shop-houses’, many of which hadn’t changed for a century.
And, as one would expect from a place with a Little India and a China Town, there was no shortage of exceptional restaurants. The trendy PikNik café served as welcome shelter from the rain and we dug into their signature smoked salmon and scrambled egg waffles. Two divine dinners were had at Restoran Kapitan (we had scoffed at their bold claim of serving the best naan in the world until we tried it…) as well as a beautiful fish laksa at Tang Bistro, a converted Chinese Medical Hall.
On our first dry day we hired a scooter and ventured out to explore Penang. Our trip took a slightly bizarre turn when we arrived at Kek Lok Si, a seven story pagoda housed in a landscaped garden filled with fake horses, plastic flamingos and speakers playing birdsong.
The weirdness continued when an hour later we pulled up at a tropical fruit farm and Loo convinced Elliot to join a guided tour of the orchards. The rest of the women in the tour group wore burkas so we felt a little underdressed but it was extremely informative all the same (it takes SEVEN YEARS to grow a macadamia nut?!) and joy of joys, we were rewarded with an all-you-can-eat fruit buffet.
In contrast to its traditional architecture, Georgetown is also famed for its street art. In 2012, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was invited to transform the historic streets with a series of interactive murals as part of a local art festival and we spent a hot but rewarding afternoon hunting down each piece.
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