Georgetown, Malaysia

girlFlying within Southeast Asia is easy and cheap.  On Sunday, I flew from Kuching to Penang for $20, which is kind of like flying from Fresno to Mendocino. Penang is a Malaysian province northwest of Kuala Lumpur that has been called the “Pearl of the Orient.”

Penang is famous for its food, which reflects the many ethnic groups here with rich culinary traditions — mainly Hokkien from Southern China, Tamil from Southern India, Malay and some English influences. I am staying in Georgetown on the island of Penang. Georgetown’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site 🙂 with architecture from the period of British colonization.

IMG_0111IMG_0143After checking into my hotel, I took off for a walk to find an electrical socket adapter. (In a town that is new to me, I usually start with an errand that requires me to walk a lot). I found one in a hardware store that was like the ones in the US where you can find stuff that has been on the shelves since 1921.  Most of Old Town is nothing fancy but it has a lot of personality and feels loved. The streets smell like Chinese and Indian herbs and spices, frangipani blossoms, and incense from the temples and small alters along the sidewalks. Old Town is full of busy cafes and food carts, bright colors next to faded paint, Chinese temples, Muslim mosques, and Georgetown’s famous wall art. IMG_0105

chewjettyI also went on a food tour, which featured dishes from street stalls (called “hawkers” here).  One of my favorites was char keow teow, which is rice noodles stir fried with prawns, crunchy bean sprouts, onion and chilies in a fish sauce. I also loved the Assam laksa, which is a spicy thick noodle soup made with fish, chilies, and vegetables.  It’s hard to find a salad here but I get little gifts of mandarins wherever I go because they are good luck during the month of Chinese New Year.
IMG_0087There is really not much here except charm and good food and a movie theater but Georgetown has been a good stop because I have been in kind of a funk.  Within the box of I am safe, not much has gone well.  In three weeks, I have had two colds, and two days of eye pain. My jungle adventures and bike tours in Borneo were cancelled because of monsoon rains so I spent three days pouting in dirty, boring Kuching. I expect down times and disappointments when I travel but I have lost some of that spark that keeps you going through the mosquitoes, the heat, the touts, and the loneliness.IMG_0051
 I will get my enthusiasm back of course and the first step is to get out of dodge.  But even that has been difficult! Expedia informed me yesterday that the airline cancelled my flight, which is not true. After talking to 14 agents over the past 24 hours, Expedia can’t tell me whether I am on a flight tomorrow because its system is down. Are there really billion dollar online services companies that still don’t have backup for their computer systems?  But they kept my money.

The end.
















  1. Kim, that top photo is lovely! (I always photograph bikes in my travels.) How cool to see the wall art and that area with houses on stilts, and to go on a food tour of Malaysian food. I love Malaysian food, and now that we live near Canada, I always have Malaysian food when we go to Vancouver. I hope your eye problem clears up quickly and that you continue to have wonderful adventures. The loneliness must be hard at times, and magnified when you aren’t feeling well. Take care!

  2. Thanks Wendy. Not sure whether you can tell by the photo, but it’s a real bike cemented into the wall with painted children on it. The young woman is real too. Several of the wall paintings here invite you to participate.

  3. The trials and travails of travel are a time-tested Alert System designed to notify the recipient that maybe it’s time for them to come home.


    Expedia should be embarrassed about their performance.

    The pics are wonderful. Again.

    Hope the actual trip goes/went okay and you’re back in a more congenial environment.

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