Last known location: London, England

Georgetown: Colonials and Curries

Our first stop in Malaysia was Georgetown on the island of Penang, in the north-west of the country. We ended up flying as there were very cheap flights available, but i wished we hadn’t as we bumped along for the hour and a half journey – Gem claims it was all in my imagination but at one point i was fairly convinced we were doing a nosedive to oblivion! Apparently this wasn’t actually the case and we arrived perfectly safely.

Georgetown was one of the three British Straits Settlements (along with Malacca and Singapore) in the area, and was founded in 1786 by the British East India Company to control trade through the area. The town is full of old British colonial buildings, and a lot of the original buildings from the time still survive. Our hostel was in a traditional shophouse with high ceilings and wooden floors; it was lovely.

We only had one full day in Georgetown and we spent the morning following a walking trail around the sights of the old town. There are the remains of the Fort Cornwallis at the end of the peninsula and the nearby Town and City Hall’s built in European style with a green in between where they used to play cricket! How they every played cricket I don’t know – it was so hot that we had to retreat to the hotel in the early afternoon for a cold shower and a siesta!

Georgetown also has large South Indian and Chinese communities, descended from traders who settled in the area, and alongside the Christian churches there are Mosques and Chinese temples all over the place, as well as Chinatown and Little India areas. The call to prayer from each of the mosques rang out regularly and very loudly, as did the Bollywood tunes from the record shops!

We also visited the huge townhouse built by a family of Straits Chinese traders full of the antiques they accumulated and with its own private temple in the grounds. In the evenings we tried some of the local food and had a some tasty Chinese duck and some excellent (and extremely cheap) tandoori chicken!

Georgetown had been an interesting, if brief, stop and next it was on the islands!

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