Historic buildings sandwiched by absolute chaos

Our last day in Penang was spent pretty much like most of the rest of the days; Do something interesting in the morning, lie down due to the heat and humidity for afternoon and have a lovely dinner in evening.

The “interesting in the morning” section was to visit Pinang Peranakan Mansion or “this is how it would feel to be the richest Malaysian in the late 19th century”. It was the definition of opulent. Grand dining rooms including the finest china (different colours for different months – obviously), flooring and glassware from England, marble from Italy and much other spectacular stuff from all over the world. Oh, did we mention there was his own private temple and own Chinese medicine room? There were also some not so nice stories of how the women of the time being made to endure foot binding amongst other nasties. Was it fascinating? Was it totally over the top? Was it worth the £4 entry fee? A “yes” on all counts although I’m sure the originally owner wouldn’t have allowed us hoi polloi anywhere near even his front door.

Next up was our flight from KL to Phnom Penh. The flight itself was fine, but this was after queueing up at 4 separate check-in counters, 3 lots of security checks and an airport terminal that just couldn’t cope with the amount of flights. There was 1 shop selling cool drinks for around 50 planes-worth of waiting passengers. And don’t get us started on the Cambodian side, but best just say that over an hour and a half of absolute chaos and chasing and we finally got our precious $30 visa – we were not happy whatsoever. And it decided to absolutely chuck down with rain, so we were very happy when our taxi driver managed to find our newish hotel right in the middle Phnom Penh and even more happy to find out that the air conditioning was quiet, but effective, and the balcony doors were double glazed to keep out most of the noise of the busy city.

This morning we had a quick wander around this, the most bonkers of all cities. Phnom Penh is just so busy, it has loads of history and so much happening on every street corner. As we remembered from last time we were here, against every first impression, it is a city that we like, apart from the seedy undercurrent of the way too many girlie bars.

We dropped in on the excellent Daughters of Cambodia shop – read their story on the link, worthy is the word. We then ended up for a comfort lunch at the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). The FCC is another grand old building with history and views of the mighty Mekong river just across the road. Unlike other FCCs around the world, is not a private club, non-journalists and non-members are more than welcome. Comfort food of Pad Thai and Vegetable pasta was ordered and didn’t disappoint and we’re now ready again for the afternoon siesta.

House! George Town bingo

George Town is full of delights. However, we are suffering from a spot of travelling malaise (the tiredness and guilt one suffers when in the privileged position of becoming weary of unfamiliar rooms, transport, food, language, sights and customs) so have decided that Penang is where we will follow our whims. Our whims seem to lean alarmingly in the direction of air-conditioning and comfort food.

Despite the heat, we really enjoyed our slightly aimless wander through the town a couple of days ago. So we secure a map of the most famous street art and decide to fill in the gaps. It only takes an hour and half to zig-zag our way through: children on swing, giant boatman, child on chair, giant child balancing on windows and more.

The added benefit is that we get to see little alleyways, side streets and parts of town that we likely wouldn’t have passed through. Although it’s compact, the George Town UNESCO Heritage Zone offers lots of different streetscapes. Traditional ‘Chinese houses’ with their broad sliding front doors rub shoulders with art deco classics, spectacular Chinese clan houses and British colonial statement pieces (screaming ‘we woz ‘ere’).

Other than that, we splash out on sushi, laksa, pizza, sushi, real coffee and, er, more sushi. Much of our sushi is consumed at the monumental Gurney Paragon Mall, eight floors of beige marble, high end shopping and, aaah, air conditioning. We plonk ourselves down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 on the top floor. It’s loud, spectacular, funny and ridiculous. Just what we fancied. The whiff of Alaskan Spider Crab flavoured popcorn (which smells as bad as it sounds), not so much…