Gurney Drive and Penang Hill
I spent the last few days hanging out by myself, or with friends I just met. I've wandered around George Town a little more with P and A. MM (Malaysian Mum) took us all for steamboat at MamaVege on Saturday (24th): We ordered two kinds of soup, which are served in bubbling pot on a hot plate built into the table. Plus a selection of vegetables, not-meats, and noodles, which we drop into the soup and watch simmer.
Then I wandered around Gurney Drive, an area north of George Town where there are lots of fancy condos and hotels and is a common place for tourists to stay. It's a far cry from the 'heritage' of George Town, and largely malls and plazas and shiny new buildings. I thought there might be some form of beach access, but it's mostly off limits because of construction in the sea (Penang Island is all out of develop-able land). At one point I wandered down a side street in the hope it might lead to the ocean, but it turned out to lead to some guy's orchard. Just as I realised I was on someone's land and should probably leave, the owner, Bok, popped out of the bushes to say hi. He told me all about the fruits he was growing (coconut, jackfruit, various others) and that he does it for fun not profit, now that he's retired from managing a security firm. He picked a small, yellow relation to the guava (English name unknown) from a tree for me to try; it was mildly sweet and fragrant.
I eventually made it to Straits Quay, or at least the shopping/hotel complex part of the area. There's a trail along the seafront that leads from Tanjung Bungah to Straits Quay, once you can find the way in. It runs behind a huge area of luxury villas, most of which are still under construction. It was more peaceful here than walking along the road... obviously. All of the villas have pools facing the sea. A good place to stay if you want to veg out and aren't interested in the local area or culture. I walked back along the seafront until I returned to Gurney Drive. I spent a short while in Brown Pocket, a cafe on the 6th floor of Gurney Paragon mall with big windows and great seaviews. Their wifi wasn't working though so I didn't get much done.
It started to rain. I went upstairs two more floors to the cinema to see Rogue One. It was great. I ate at TinTin vegetarian in the basement of Gurney Plaza (the next mall along), where by chance I also found vegan coconut ice cream by Sangkaya.
Yesterday (25th) I climbed Penang Hill with P and A. We walked first to the Botanical Gardens from our apartment, which took around 45 minutes. We started our climb from the Moon Gate. The first stretch was a lot of steep steps. This turned into steep climb with fewer steps and more sliding in mud. Someone had built a tin-roof kitchen part way up the hillside, where a bunch of elderly people were cooking noodles. I don't know how they got there. Later the path skirted around the side of a hill for a while, so it was fairly level. Then down a bit, then back up to being really steep again. We crossed paths with the railway, and and met a sprightly teenager who, after borrowing P's phone to make a call, guided us the most direct route to the top, which was again sheer steps. It was pretty exhausting; she patiently waited for us. The climb took about two and a half hours.
At the top are a few places for a good view, but not as many as expected. There's a food court (we got juice) and tons of random tourist shit like an owl museum, a toy museum, and terrible merchandise. There were loads of people (there's a train to the top from Air Itam). There's also a mosque and a Hindu temple.
After sitting around for a while and re-energising, we walked to Monkey Cup, a small cafe a little apart from the crowded area. There we had coffee in their garden, and enjoyed quiet jungle surroundings. I met a local scorpian. I was assured that he wasn't poisonous, and his stinger is "just like a little ant bite". Figured it can't be worse than Tigo. He didn't sting me, anyway.
We wanted to take a different route down, and got directions (and a hand-drawn map) from staff at Monkey Cup. We followed a narrow concrete path winding down the hillside. At some point we missed a turning and ended up clearly bound for Air Itam, rather than back to the Botanic Gardens. Oh well. We walked through hillside farmland and enjoyed views into the central valley and across to the coastline.
In Air Itam most restaurants were closed (between 3 and 5 is not a good time for seeking lunch in MY) but we managed to get some kway teow from a hawker stall, negotiating the exclusion of egg and prawn from mine. It started raining; we took an Uber back to George Town, because we'd walked quite far enough, and between three of us it cost the same as the bus (6 RM total).
Back home, A and I soaked in the pool for a while. Later that evening we ate at Lily's, a vegetarian restaurant close to the apartment. It was great; we shared satay, I had lam rice (rice in gravy with tofu and vegetables), and an almond jelly tofu fruit dessert. Staff were reallly really friendly, too, and the food was far lighter and less greasy than similar places.
Today... I'm staying home, trying to write some code.
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