The day that will remain in my memory for the record breaking number of things I did for the very first time in my life:
- The first time I watched the sunrise from an island
- … I had dragon eyes for breakfast
- … I met a French tourist whose company I enjoyed 🙂 (À bientôt, Anaïs!)
- … I got attacked by a leach
- … I bathed in the Indian Ocean
- … I drove an automatic car and on the left side of the road – and survived to laugh about it
- … I watched the sunset over the ocean.
- … I listened to Christmas carols on a sandy beach…
I have a good feeling about this place!
This island city is amazing through the variety of sightseeing opportunities it offers travelers.
You can see it all: from skyscrapers to colonial houses, from Jungle-clad-hills to grainy beaches , from sumptuous temples worshiping countless gods to small water villages overseeing the mainland shores (jettys)
Things we’ve learned in Penang:
- The locals prefer instant coffee – and most establishments will be happy to serve you a cold coffee to go – the only jest is that you don’t get it in a paper cup as you would in most parts of the world, but in a plastic bag. We learned this the hard way – by ordering HOT COFFEE to go. Not only was it sweet to the point of a diabetes-inducing-coma but we also had to haul it around town for a good few hours before it cooled down.
- Macaques – cute as they may seem at a glance, they are really living up to their reputation of local crime syndicate – they will stop at nothing to rob you of anything that may resemble food or drinks – case in point : they stole our coffee bag right from our hand – damn those acrobatic mobsters
- One should always be aware of and respect local customs, especially when entering temples – not only will you avoid insulting the local culture but you may actually enjoy the experience a lot more : BE SURE TO CHECK THE “FOOTWEAR POLICY “OF EACH TEMPLE BEFORE WALKING IN!
- Visit Kek Lok Si Temple early in the morning- to avoid the tourist rush and keep away from the Batu Ferenghi night market, unless you want to buy cheap knock offs. Also, don’t forget to do the local treasure hunt – looking for the funny murals in the Armenian street – it will make for some memorable pictures.
- Oh – and most importantly – when possible, avoid walking: there is hardly any proper pedestrian infrastructure, and as Susie -our very talkative taxi driver put it: “No one walks here…Only you (i.e – stupid tourists) walk! “
Thanks for Everything, Penang – it was truly marvelous!
Penang, Malaysia – Part 1
- First things, first- Accommodation – we are staying in a wonderful, freshly-renovated colonial style-house in the Georgetown section of the island. The entire house vibrates with history and its Chinese heritage is ever present. We love it: the brick tiles on the lower floor, the outdoor shower on the upper floor and the huge bedroom. Every minute we spend indoors makes us feel like characters in a movie depicting life in the turn of the century Asia…if only it weren’t for the street noise. It feels as if we are trying to sleep in the street. Not a car / moped / drunk pedestrian goes by our poorly isolated windows without us knowing about it. Of course, our bodies still being on a different timezone does not help either. So every night, we end-up falling asleep around 4 am…when the street itself seems to allow us to…but we do love the place, and that is no lie 🙂
Our lovely colonial house in Penang
- We did not linger for a moment , constantly walking the streets of Georgetown and cursing the sandals we had not broken in before our trip. We admired each temple no matter who it praised: Hindu Gods, Buddha, or Allah…they were all amazing, each in its own way and what was even more amazing was the fact that they were all in the same town and that people of varied religious backgrounds, had been able to coexist and cooperate for so many years. As it happened to be the day I would normally commemorate HIM, I managed to do it by lighting candles the Buddhist way, in a temple by the sea. It brought me peace … and I hope, wherever HE is…he got the message.
Religion in Malaysia is as important as it is varied
- If you mention you’re going to Penang to any Malaysian, the next thing you will hear will be how you absolutely must sample as much of the street food as possible, considering the island is considered a paradise for this sort of thrill-seekers. And it is true, for what is generally speaking the price of a Starbucks coffee, a couple can get their bellies full with some of the most delicious culinary treats the island has to offer: a wide variety of noodles (boiled/fried) with your choice of meat: duck , pork, beef , chicken and pretty much anything the fishermen brought in that day(prawn, octopus,oysters, crabs), banana pancakes, coconuts(excellent for hydration), Deep fried snacks, Cold Lyche & Sweet bean soup, black sesame and green tea cookies and the list can go on forever…
Street food in Penang – a tasty adventure!
All this talk of food got me hungry…let’s see what we have here (Thanks for the suggestion, T!):
Istanbul , Turkey – Part 2
- A lesson on how history works – Hagia Sophia. Whilst details are still fuzzy in regards to it’s exact placement in time – it seems to have been erected as a Christian place of worship approximately around the 537 A.D , only to become a mosque as of the early 1450’s until it finally became a museum displaying elements of both religions (1935). This was to me another proof that history is written by the victors and that the trend of the current ages seems to favor secularization rather than reverence for the divine.
Church+ Mosque = Hagia Sophia
- Spice Bazaar – aka – “The Assault on One’s Senses” is filled with flavors and tastes that you used to savor like the cherry on the proverbial cake (in small and most precious morsels) and that now seem to surround and bewitch you. Watching without stopping – out of the question. Stopping without craving – impossible. Craving without buying – inconceivable. This is why, after a brief walk through the market we ended up getting two Turkish coffees , some tasty baklava & sun-dried fruits stuffed with various types of nuts and almonds. This made for a most memorable breakfast in the sun in the inner courtyard of the Bazaar, next to the New Mosque and in the company of a very lazy cat.
- Speaking of cats…much like the Mafia – they seem to be the de facto rulers of the city. There is one to be spotted almost every minute you walk the street of Istanbul and they don’t seem to be bothered by the crowds although, I would not call them domesticated. Their presence is constant and their proverbial “I am the boss” demeanor allows for rather interesting snapshots…
Felines of Istanbul…
- The Food of Istanbul – having avoided to the best of our abilities the restaurants of the tourist areas – we have often found excellent meals at bargain prices. Our favorite choices: Lentil soup, Iskender Kebap, Adana Kebap, Ayran, Künefe and of course…freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (now a deeply-rooted addiction)
- As we were boarding the Airbus A 380 that would take us to Dubai, we kept smiling and thinking of how much we loved Istanbul and that we would most definitely like to experience it again in the not too distant future. We felt lucky to have strayed from the classic tourist attractions and to have simply walked the streets of Sultanahmet precinct otherwise we would have missed the Fish Market and the restaurant precinct that served sea food, the Real Bazaar (with prices for locals) and we might have neglected to cross the Galata Bridge and watch the townsfolk fishing no matter the time of the day or the temperatures…
Istanbul , Turkey – Part 1
- The 1 hr flight with Turkish airlines was a great experience, one that without me knowing it, would be just a sneak preview of what Emirates would have in store for us one day later: comfy seats (including the ever-so-vital leg room), good looking flight attendants, great food. Add to the list the fact that it’s a really short flight to your destination and you’ll get an idea of how pleased we were.
The colors come alive…
- Our hotel was in the touristy Sultanahmet area, which meant we had to use a subway and a tram to get there – pretty effortless once you figure out the map and how the public transportation payment works, but one should be prepared for rather crammed trams. But if you like it cozy, this should be an extra perk, considering the very convenient price of the trips – about 1.5 EUR Total/ person – to get from the airport to downtown precincts.
- You get a vibe of how friendly the locals are as soon as you get off the tram, as several people representing various business ventures (but tours, Bosphorus cruises, restaurants/ hotels) will approach you with the classic “Yes , my friend” (as if picking up a conversation from where it was last left off) and then continue to try to sway you into whatever they are selling. As soon as you say you are not interested, they won’t just leave you standing…they change their tone and offer to provide most valuable (and rarely accurate) directions to whatever hotel or street you are trying to locate. They are genuinely trying to help, but their faulty memory, lack of English skills or the continuously winding streets of Istanbul will get in the way of you getting to your destination as fast as planned.
Blue Mosque Interior
- My first ever visit to a Mosque – The Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet Square – will remain a landmark in my memory. It helped me understand the fascination tourists put on display every time they see one of the Romanian churches that are centuries old as well as the bewilderment of watching people of a different religion praying. There is something beyond words in witnessing the praying ritual in a Mosque -I was used to seeing people praying in churches and this is why now, it was all so new and powerful to me – watching the honest gestures and praises a man issues towards the skies and the divinity inhabiting them…
Sunset over Blue Mosque
As I was letting this town mesmerize me , I could not help thinking what sounds would be suitable for the experience…and then I remembered the jewel in my jukebox:
= A temporary return to traditional Aboriginal life, taken especially between periods of work or residence in modern society and usually involving a period of travel through the world.
Following a friend’s advice, I decided to keep a log whilst travelling. Not necessarily to keep track of everything I did and saw in my journeys…but most importantly to remind myself of how it all felt and of the state of mind simply wondering the earth can generate within us. Afraid that I might at some point in time , inadvertently lose my faithful notebook and hoping this may serve as a “happy place” to visit whenever things get more complicated than they should, I decided to bring this inventory of thoughts to the web.
This series of posts will contain adaptions of the “pearls of wisdom” I have scribbled in my journal and it will continue to get you acquainted to some of my hand-picked music in addition to acting as a gallery for the snapshots i took during my travels .
So…let’s go on a walkabout, folks…