My first stop in Malaysia was Georgetown, on the island of Penang, a city whose inner centre is recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site for it’s unique architectural and cultural townscape. This comes mostly from having such a wide range of influences; built by the English, inhabited by Malay, Chinese and Indian populations and all following an array of different religions. The satisfying thing is they all seem to mix together with no problems.
The inner city also benefits from an artistic feel, with a series of wall paintings to be found on the various streets as well as iron wall art usually coupled with some kind of thoughtful message.
After getting a feel for the city on my arrival the following day I explored the outer reaches of the city, firstly with a visit to the botanical gardens. Free to enter it was a great place for a peaceful morning walk and also to sit and watch the monkeys at play.
From the gardens there was a path all the way up to the top of Penang Hill, which turned out much longer and steeper than I expected, a long uphill walk for a couple of hours through the jungle. The views of the city through the trees on the way up were great and even better when eventually reaching the top. There was also a temple at the summit of the hill – Bukit Bendera – and, luckily, a cable car back down the hill.
Some more exploration of the city led to me to Fort Cornwallis, the site where the English first landed and settled, not much to see but still worthwhile for the minute entry fee. From there I went on to one of the more popular sites in George Town – Kek Lok Si, or the Temple of Supreme Bliss. It is supposed to be the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, with many different buildings, temples, statues and pagodas.
At the top of the main temple complex there is a a giant 36.5m high statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, which was quite impressive to see.
Geroge Town was an enjoyable place to visit, particularly for the various cultural influences, but it was time to continue my journey onwards to Kuala Lumpur.