On April 1st, the day after the 2013 Penang World Music Festival, the festival organizers generously provided a media trip to discover the most interesting aspects of Georgetown (Penang’s capital) and the island. Georgetown (also spelled George Town) is located on the northeast corner of Penang Island and is named after Great Britain’s King George III.
Our driver that day was Fassim and traveling in my group was Filipino writer Niña Terol-Zialcita. The first historical place we visited was Fort Cornwallis, a British fort founded in 1786. Captain Francis Light from the British East India Company took control of the island from the Sultan of Kedah to serve as a base for the company’s spice and silk trading route. The fort includes the first Christian chapel built in Penang and various museum exhibits detailing the history of the fort and British colonial rule.
Next we visited the Chew Jetty. The jetties are residential areas on the shore built on stilts by Chinese immigrants. They are identified by a family name, using the clan’s last name (surname). Georgetown has eight jetties, including Lim, Chew, Tan, Lee, Yeoh, Koay, Peng Aun and Mixed Clans.
The Chew Jetty is one of the best known jetties and still holds clan activities. You can walk from Pengkalan Weld Street all the way to the docking area for boats. It’s a great scenic opportunity for photos. There are also souvenir shops along the jetty, where I found some of the best and most affordable gifts, including hand-painted hand fans, good quality refrigerator magnets, shirts, etc. You can also buy artwork by local artists.
We later visited various historical streets in downtown Georgetown. Pitt Street, also known as Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, is a must see location. It is one of the main historical thoroughfares and has several sections that reflect Georgetown’s past, with European, Chinese, Indian, and Muslim sections.
In the Indian part you can find beautiful Indian flower shops where you can purchase colorful blossoms for temples. A highlight is the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Penang. In features a remarkable gopuram (tower) with Hindu deities, soldiers and floral ornamentations.
The Chinese sector includes the impressive Kuan Yin Teng, Temple of the Goddess of Mercy and the Penang Chinese Town Hall.
The most visible architecture in the Muslim segment of the street is the large Kapitan Keling Mosque.
Our visit on foot took us to the corner of Armenian Street and Cannon Street. This is where you find the small Yap Temple, officially called Choo Chay Keong.
From there we walked over to the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, one of the jewels of Penang’s architecture. We had already seen the clan temple during the opening ceremony, but this time we were able to go inside. The tour includes a museum area and then the temple itself. It’s the most impressive building I saw in Penang. The museum provides details about the arrival of the Chinese immigrants and how they established their clan house and temple. A genealogical tree shows how the family grew throughout the years.
The last stage of the city tour took us to the state museum of Penang, known as Lembaga Muzium Negeri Pulau Pinang. The museum provides a historical perspective of Penang with exhibits and information about the three main ethnic groups that settled in Penang, the Chinese, Indians and Malays.
From Georgetown we headed to our new hotel, the fabulous Lone Pine Hotel in the Batu Ferringhi beach area. Lone Pine Hotel was transformed from a budget hotel to a luxury hotel a few years ago and the result is truly remarkable. The architecture, interior design and exterior decoration is exquisite.
Rooms vary from the Deluxe (45 sqm) with sea-view to the Grand Premier Suite (118 sqm), a two bedroom suite with sea-view balcony, a large living room and guest restroom, dining area, kitchenette and luxurious bathroom equipped with “His” and “Her’s” hand-basins. I had one of the smaller rooms and slept in the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve had in years.
If you want to keep track of international news, you can watch the BBC news on the 32’ LCD Panel TV. The rooms also come with DVD Player and free Internet access both WiFi & cable, a most treasured service for a traveling journalist. There were also complimentary flip flops, soft drinks and many more amenities.
The hotel services include a pure energy spa with more than 20 treatments available, including facials, body scrubs and wraps, body works, and waxing.
Lone Pine Hotel has three restaurants, The Bungalow, specialized in Hainanese cuisine; the Batubar, which serves cocktails and tapas; and Matsu, Batu Ferringhi’s only Japanese restaurant. I had lunch that day at The Bungalow and the food was truly delicious.
Aside from the spa and restaurants, the hotel has a Gymnasium, a Reading Room, a Games room, the Infinity salt water pool, a children’s swimming pool and a beach area where you can sunbathe, swim or practice water sports.
Later that night, my media colleagues and I went shopping along Batu Ferringhi. There are hundreds of street vendors and stores selling everything from local and regional arts and crafts to watches, purses, T-shirts, fabrics and lots more. I picked up some nutmeg oil, which is great for skin cuts and scratches; a batik shirt and various other things. Our day concluded with a tasty dinner at a Chinese restaurant.