Hello, dear readers! It has been quite some time since my last post. Where my last update left us lazing and relaxing in the warm
embraces of the Andaman Sea, we next found ourselves amidst the vibrant, pulsing George Town, Penang in Malaysia.
George Town is the capital of Penang state in Malaysia, and the inner portion is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site where preserved British colonial style streets and buildings infuse the town with an old-style charm. In contrast, you will see streets lined with food vendors and hawker centers selling their nibbles amidst intensely aromatic plumes of mouthwatering steam and smoke. Malay, Chinese, Indian cuisines dominate the food scene and create some of the world’s best street food, which all taste like an eruption of expertly combined spices and flavors. We were in foodie heaven. I’ll have to dedicate another post entirely to our Malaysian food extravaganza, but for now, more on our stay in George Town.
Mitch and I found George Town to be a surprise in its artistic sensibilities. Buildings are vividly adorned with vibrant street art. We spent an afternoon checking out some of the most famous murals and continued to enjoy many more during our entire stay.
While visiting a beautiful art gallery and museum featuring batik paintings (invented in Malaysia), we saw a flyer advertising a short film screening and eagerly headed over later in the evening. The screening took place in an empty courtyard surrounded by beautiful old buildings and charmingly decorated with bulb lights and, of course, a beautifully painted street mural. The screening turned out to be part of a few small events leading up to TropFest SEA, a large film festival featuring short films from around the world. We had a blast, planned on seeing a few more screenings while in town, and ended up winning the coffee prize — which was bestowed upon us with great reverence — for that evening.
While we missed the actual TropFest SEA by one day, we were able to attend three screenings beforehand and saw many lovely short films and some full length films as well. One that struck me deeply was called “Lost Loves,” the true story of a fiercely strong Cambodian woman who lost her husband and many children during the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge. The movie, directed by Cambodian Chhay Bora, was written by one of the woman’s surviving children who also starred in the film as her mother (and is also the director’s wife). While it was a bit rough around the edges, the movie was very moving and sobering. This is a part of world history I barely touched upon in school, and while I had read about this horrific part of Cambodia’s history online a bit, seeing a true story was powerful and painful.
In addition to our art-filled days, we took some time to see the typical tourist attractions like Si Kwon Ki Temple with its beautiful vistas as well as the Penang Fruit Farm towards the center of the island. Of course, driving a motorbike along the coastline then into the mountains to see the fruit farm was so fun. We love renting a motorbike because it allows us to be self-sufficient with transportation and see parts of cities we would never otherwise be able to experience.
Our time in Penang was wonderful, but our favorite aspect was the amazing food! Next, I’ll dedicate a post to some of our favorite dishes — don’t forget to check it out!
By the time Mitch and I left George Town, Malaysia, we had been traveling for four months, and I was starting to feel it. I have learned a lot on our travels and appreciate all of my blessings even more, but that didn’t mean I was immune to missing some of my creature comforts and family back home. After four months of traveling, I was a bit run down and missing not having to wear flip flops in the shower every day, not having to pack and unpack all the time, my bathroom that never emanated the faint smell of a sewer, my own personal space, sheets that only I have ever used, routine, and family and friends.
After four months, I was having a moment of being just tired. I hope this does not come across badly, but sometimes it’s hard to travel long-term! I know how lucky we are to be on this trip, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with any challenges. What I mean by that is that I was becoming tired of constantly being “on” all the time. Mitch and I constantly have to think of everything: of where to eat breakfast, where to eat lunch, where to eat dinner and how to get to each of those places in unfamiliar cities. We are always planning what to do next and how to get there, thinking about exchange rates with every transaction, finding places to stay that don’t have bed bugs, figuring out the best modes of transportation, and being aware of our surroundings at all times. It takes a lot of energy to be a prudent and efficient traveler, and the effects were starting to hit me. I needed a break and respite from our budget hotels and planning.
It’s a good thing we were meeting Mitch’s dad in Singapore next!