Monday, May 17, 2010

Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia
April 7, 2010

I took the ship’s walking tour of a local food market and a flea market. The local food market was very busy as women were doing their daily food shopping. This type of market is strange to us, although it is similar to fish markets in seaside towns in America. Meats were being carved; fish were laid out and being cut up; live chickens were for sale, and were butchered on the spot. All of the fish and meats were laid out at room temperature; there was no ice and no refrigeration. Meat would have to be sold and cooked the same day before it spoiled. Fruits and vegetables were laid out in beautiful displays. Many other household products were also available.

The flea market was quite extensive and sold both items (mostly used items) and foods -- beautiful fruits and vegetables. The flea market was similar to flea markets in the U.S. except that it also sold fruits and vegetables. It was not very interesting to me, and I returned to wait in the bus.

The tour then stopped at the Penang museum with an interesting display of the history of Penang. Half of the building had been bombed by the Japanese during the war and not rebuilt; I made a quick tour of the museum, and then reboarded the bus. I am not very interested in museums.

This was a morning tour only. After we returned to the ship, I decided to go out again, thinking I would go for a walk in the “downtown” area. After walking a short distance, I saw a young couple with a map and asked them where they got it. They said far from there, but they had another one in their backpack. As they searched for it, we talked about sites, and agreed that it would be nice to go to the big temple on the mountain -- Kek Lok Si, with its seven story pagoda that overlooks all of Penang. A taxi came by and we asked him how much he would charge us to take us there. He said $10 American, and I said let’s go. On the way, we stopped for photos at the national mosque and then a Hindu temple. The temple complex was incredible, by far the largest and most impressive temple I have seen. I was so pleased that I had decided to go there, and I loved taking photos of the young couple who had joined me. They were very nice and I loved being with them. Their names were Alex and Catarina, from Chile. They were on a work-study program in Australia and were in Penang on holiday. I took many photos of them, and they gave me their email addresses so I could send the photos to them later.

After the mountain temple, the taxi driver took us to Wat Chayamangkalaram with its gold covered reclining Buddha more than 100 feet long. We also visited the temple across the street from the reclining Buddha temploe. Last, stopped at the oldest mosque in Penang for photos before returning to the ship. It was a truly great day. I gave the taxi driver $40; he reminded me of the taxi driver in Istanbul, an older man just trying to earn a living.

It turned out later that an eventful incident occurred at the hill temple. As I was taking a photo of Alex and Catarina, a couple passed by, with a woman carrying a large camera. I mentioned that she had a large camera, and they smiled and continued. Then they stopped and returned and asked me to take their photo with their camera, which turned out to be a Nikon D700, the same as my camera. I took several photos of them and went on, not thinking more of it. I take many, many photos of people with their cameras. However, later, I met the same couple again on the ship, and they turned out to be Bas and Monique, who came to be close friends and with whom I would take many tours of sites along the cruise. Bas is one of the truly great amateur photographers I have met, and I have learned much, much from him about photography.

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