There aren’t many places in the world where these two cultures co-exist so prominently as here. The super powers of Southeast Asia, China and India are thrown into a melting pot with Malay cultures and what results is the fascinating island of Penang, Malaysia.
A mostly uneventful overnight train took us from Surat Thani across the Thai-Malay border to Butterworth.
We were unable to book the train that would have us crossing the border the day our Thai visa expired, so we opted for the day after, feeling assured the Internet that stated we had a day grace period was accurate. It was not. Arriving at the border we were quickly ushered into a separate room where we were asked to each pay a visa overage fee. The fee was not so great, but we had purposely spent all of our Thai money. After brief directions I scurried across over the tracks and across the border to a bank, only after assuring the border patrol that I just needed the ATM. I ran back to the station money in hand just as our train whistle was blowing to announce the departure. Rushing through stamps and customs, we were the last passengers to board the train before it pulled away to steam towards Butterworth.
Arriving in Butterworth and still recovering from our close call, we walked a hundred yards and caught a short ferry to Georgetown; a city that defines the island of Penang so much that, for many people, they’re interchangeable.
After finding a suitable guest house, we admittedly slept most of the afternoon away in our windowless and thus very dark room. However, the next morning we were refreshed and ready to explore the city.
What we found was a very amusing night food court complete with lights and of course, karaoke. Luckily it was covered as a monsoon-force rain storm began in the middle of our dinner. Although we had but a 10 minute walk back to our guesthouse, we were drenched.
The next morning we got going thanks to some Malay style coffee which is made with palm margarine and condensed milk and is very sweet. With the sun already high in the sky, we escaped the oppressive heat in the Penang Museum which was very well put together and informative concerning the history of all the cultures that converge on the island.