George Town, Penang, turns out to be a charming colonial city

Right now I am looking out our balcony door and it is raining. A fairly heavy rain. Chet notes the fresh water is washing the salt spray off our windows. We have been on this ship for 18 days and it has not rained, except once or twice at night (and I am not even sure about that). It is 5:30 p.m. and getting dark here in Malaysia and I feel cozy in my small suite that has been our home for so many lovely cruising days.

We spent the morning exploring the old section of Penang, Malaysia, which is known as George Town. Rather than take a tour, we decided to join Jim and Amy Telford (who pretty much always do ports on their own) to explore. Each couple hired a trishaw (a metal rickshaw propelled by a bicycle rider) and we spent an hour and a half seeing the local sights. These consist mostly of colonial buildings, temples (Buddhist and Hindu) and restored mansions.

It is easy to see why George Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Many buildings have been lovingly restored and more at being worked on at this time. The streets are clean. Many of the streets have lovely patterns of ceramic tile embedded in them. This part of the city is low-rise although we can see skyscrapers in the distance.

The streets in the old city are narrow and they hum with traffic…drivers on motorbikes, real bikes, cars and trishaws zip down them with little heed to the few traffic lights and even lesser heed to folks on foot. Crossing the street can be very, very tricky, as we soon learn.

We paid our trishaw drivers $20 for the two of us for 1-1/2 hours (always negotiate the price and time in advance). They dropped us off at the huge Prangin Mall, where the free shuttle bus from the ship drops passengers. Here we sent Chet back to the ship while Jim, Amy and I headed back out for some shopping.

We ended up walking through a muslim shopping area, then through Chinatown and then on to Little India where I finally was able to purchase punjabis for my granddaughters. We also picked up some other little items along the way…maybe there were knock-offs, maybe not. You are never sure in this part of the world…but I love the Dior sunglasses that I bought for 25 ringit (about $8).

At this point, we start to look for a taxi to return to the ship when Jim looks at the map and discovers we are only about four blocks from the pier. So we just walked on back. It was a nice morning and it was nice to see how accessible George Town is from the cruise port.

Tonight is our last formal night. Chet has just donned his tux for the fourth time and is pretty tired of it. While there are many who still love this tradition, it is dying a slow death, even on the luxury ships. There are many men on board in dark suits and Chet wishes he were one of them (even though I love him in a tux).

Tomorrow is our last stop…the dynamic city of Kuala Lumpur. We will be packing tomorrow afternoon as the next day we arrive in Singapore and we want to have some time to get out and explore the city. We leave on a flight in the middle of the night!

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise.com. She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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