Day 14 – Exploring culture

Lost voices, hangovers, yelling children and a lost room key; the perfect start of a new day. Today, the 31st of August, is Malaysian Independence day and our third day without mandatory activities. To make life easier, some activities were planned: touring with a scooter and exploring the city’s history. However it was unclear who wanted to participate in the exploration planned at 10:00, resulting in an alarm set at 9:30 and multiple frowned faces.

After waking up, most participants decided prepare themselves to explore the city. The remainders rented some scooters or continued sleeping. The city exploration lead us to the St. George Church, where a bible reading marathon was held. And we saw some old English buildings and an exhibition of two Transformers statues (Bumblebee and Optimus Prime). After posing in front of the statues, our inner child was challenged again. This time a small group decided to occupy all available swings.

The next notable stop was Fort Cornwallis. Since a high entrance fee was required, we just looked past the gates and left like real greedy Dutchmen. Instead, a part of the group tried to impress a local kid with their basketball skills while the remainder watched. During this time Willem tried a new sliding tactic, but failed tremendously and fell in a water puddle.

After the show‐off, we continued walking and encountered cheap vending machines, a big bus station, a pier with houses (Clan Jetties) and finally a pier with souvenir shops and catering facilities. Before we left for Georgetown’s famous street art, over 15 fresh fruit smoothies were purchased and consumed. With satisfied faces, everyone headed towards the hostel. On our way we, however, spent some time buying souvenirs, watching a mosque and exploring the Khoo Kongsi Temple. Following the tour, the participants refreshed themselves at the hostel, dinned at a nearby restaurant and played some card games.

Later that afternoon, a third of the group decided that they still want to make a scooter trip. After some discussion, an additional scooter was rented and the nine people were divided over five scooters. The people left behind either took a rest or played card games and drank beer.

The scooters first left the city, to drive alongside the sea shores. Because of the amazing view, we decided to stop and walk on the beach. After twenty minutes, the tour continued towards the mountains, but was canceled due to a lack of gasoline. The tank station, however, was close and we decided to re-enter the mountains and continue our tour because of the stunning experiences we encountered the time we had to turn back. During nightfall we agreed to go back to Georgetown, via the forest and some other cities. Due to road constructions, we however had to search quite a bit. Even though we used the highway due to a navigation failure, in the end all turned out well and we safely arrived back at the hostel. Dining at the food court, taking a shower and packing our bag were the only obstacles left before we finally could go to sleep. The next day is said to be a long and early one.

Nico de Mooij

Day 13 – Going Dutch in Penang

Today was the first day in Georgetown. We woke up in bunk beds in small but cozy rooms. We had breakfast that consisted of toast with jam and butter, and a piece of watermelon. After breakfast we went out to rent bikes. The weather forecast wasn’t too bright but we went out anyway. Around 10:00 we lost our way to the bike rental shop and this wouldn’t be the last time that we were lost this day… When we arrived at the rental shop we all got different kinds of bikes: mountain bikes, racing bikes and even a tandem bicycle. It seemed that here in Malaysia the traffic rules do not apply, the scooters overtake car drivers at either side, the trishaws ignore the red lights and the cars are constantly honking. We as a group of 30 bicycles went on the road, with speed limits up to 70 km/h. There were a sort of bicycle lanes: the side of the road. After a few minutes, at 10:20, we had taken a wrong turn and the whole group had to make a u-turn crossing a busy 3 lane road. We were lost at 10:28, 11:11 and a few times more, but I’ll save you the details. It was getting cloudy and the temperature dropped. Smell of fish and other food filled the air when we rode past the stalls of a local market. We arrived at the temple and couldn’t find the main entrance so Willem asked a local guy for directions. The guy pulled a gun out and said something. In a hurry the whole group went on its way again. We entered the temple through a souvenir shop, at this time it started to rain heavily. The temple was built on a hill and we went up in a cable lift. As we stepped outside the odor of incense filled up the air. A giant statue of Kuanyn, goddess of mercy was resting on a large platform. There were big wooden and golden statues of Buddha in big decorated halls. Later on we went to the pagoda, the tallest part of the temple, 30 meters high and built in 1930. Because of the rain we decided to cancel the rest of the bicycle tour. We went to a vegetarian restaurant located at the bottom of the temple. It was nice food for a vegetarian restaurant, we had no idea what the food consisted off but it tasted nice. We had to wear the special study tour shirts, so like real Dutch students we changed clothes in the middle of the restaurant and on top of that Tom opened his backpack and took out a bottle of rum. He said: “I need to drink some courage before I go on that road again”. The initial idea was to visit a mosque, but as mentioned earlier, this was cancelled because of the rain and at this time, 14:30, it was too late to ride 24 kilometers and back. When we left the temple the rain stopped. After a few kilometers of biking we stopped, I rode a few hundred meters ahead and talked to a local guy sweeping the court yard in front of a Hindu temple. The gate was closed, after a while he offered to open the gate for us. He explained what the statues resembled. We took a group picture and went on our way again. Cars were honking and waving at us. We circled along the shore where large hotels rose from the ground. Clearly this was the rich part of Georgetown. At this time it was rush hour, the crazy traffic of before was even worse, cross sections were jammed and traffic lights only seemed to serve as decoration along the road. We returned the bikes at 16:45. We went to Peranakan Mansion, an old Chinese colonial mansion, turned into a jewelry museum. The museum was guarded by an armed guard. The tour guide showed us all kind of interesting stuff and told about the culture. There was an opium bed where women and men went to smoke opium. There were golden toothpicks and a lot of shiny golden artifacts. Three colors of dresses were hanging on the wall. If someone passed away, it was tradition to mourn for three years. The first year they wore black, the second year blue and the third year green. During this period no one could marry. If a girl wasn’t married she had to stay inside 364 days a year to learn skills for her future husband. Only the day of Chinese New Year she could come outside. Also if there were bats in the house it meant good fortune. There were a lot of rooms: the dining room, the kitchen, the ancestor temple, the bedrooms and a lot of other rooms filled with art. If a man married to a girl who wasn’t a virgin anymore she could be returned to her family. It was an exhausting day, but overall it was a day with a lot of new experiences and a taste of a foreign culture.

Ruben Marteijn