Monday, 2 April 2012

Chulia St, Georgetown, Penang 30th March 2012

Chulia Street..

From the guesthouse, it's a short walk to the top of Chulia Street, turn right along Penang street and about 50 yards on the right is Jaya cafe and an amazing variety of food laid out ready to Consume. A busy place serving mostly the Indian community, but some tourists are brave enough to venture in. Southern Indian inspired cuisine, but it's not all hot spice, according to the man dishing up anyway! As this is breakfast, despite being nearly lunchtime, i'll take the cautious approach and opt for a couple of slices of omelet, on rice with a ladle of mild curry sauce. The only coffee is NescafĂ© but that's alright for breakfast. The whole lots comes to about £1.30. Extremely tasty for an  omelet, filling and very good value for money.

Today is street pounding day - a look at Georgetown and why it has world heritage status. Chulia street, the main artery as far as budget travellers are concerned, being the place to find digs and even those on a splurge can get some nice accommodation at a heritage hotel. There really are not that many tourists about, late season perhaps, but those that are here seem to be the less alcoholic types, more for a cultural experience which helps maintain the areas quaintness I suppose. Traffic is rather busy along this small road, mostly cars, buses and bikes all making for rat runs it seems, but nothing like the mayhem of Bangkok.

Clean Streets
The streets are clean, no strewn garbage anywhere and there seems to be a sense of pride among locals. Lots of sweeping up, plenty of wheelie bins around too and it's 500 RM if caught littering! The Cantonese Association hall is about 400 metres in, on the right heading down from Jalan Penang. Nothing special on the outside, but curiosity kicks in as the archway to the main hall has some rather interesting carvings, and the architecture generally is worth a photo. But, inside it's a different story - an amazing array of Chinese artifacts, paintings and more carvings. The old timer at the desk, smiles and lets me take photos. Asks if I would like Chinese tea, rude to say no, so it's a good time to sit and rest a while. The tea, an acquired taste to say the least. An earthy flavour, but relaxing, a little drowsyness sets in if anything - what is in that tea?

At the bottom of Chulia Street, it's a busy main road from the dock towards the Southern parts of the island and the airport. It's a struggle to get across, but eventually there is a gap. Heading Southwards then, along the waterfront and on the left are a collection of wooden structures, arranged neatly in rows towards the waterfront. A walk along the first row here reveals a community living above the water - houses on stilts. Quite away into the harbour, a bit smelly as there is garbage floating around and in between the legs. A fishing boat tied up here next to a house with an old timer sitting on his door step. Just out of curiosity I ask him "how much for an hours ride? ". After some mumbling it turns out to be $50, and that's US Dollars! Not this time and I walk off leaving the chap mumbling away, something about being in the British Army. Just opposite is a food court, worth investigating. Again, it's a struggle to get across the road, but the lure of some real Chinese food was worth the risk. Its big, about 20 booths line the edge, and everything in Chinese cuisine, and close to the stuff pumped out by the Chinese takeaways back home. It's all cheap too, 80p to about £1.20 per dish, a foodies paradise I would think.

OK, that's enough street pounding, it's hot, no breeze so only one thing to do - find a giant shopping mall, and cool off. I can see the KOMTAR tower, it's never that far away from anywhere in the town. 10 minutes from the waterfront and there it is, a giant complex of four malls. Starbucks is well represented in Georgetown, especially here in the malls with 2 outlets to choose from. 1st avenue has some comfy seating so that's the place. It's £1.70 for their medium, which actually is the British large, and it's good too. Easy to get hooked on this place with lots of cool air, good value coffee and lots of style wandering about, yep it's all here. While I'm here might as well go for some of that Chicken rice, if I can find the place again of course.

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