I woke up early today, not on purpose but because that is what I do. I used the opportunity to chat with a friend back home about future travel (13 hours difference).
I read somewhere to go watch sunrise at the Clan jetties of Penang is a thing to do and since I am already awake I head down there. The Clan Jetties are this 19th century Chinese immigrant community that build their homes on stilts over the water. It is pretty unique. They open their community to visitors during the day (and sometimes nights since there is supposed to be a large Chinese New Year Party there Sunday night).
The jetty area does not open until 9 am to visitors so I am still too early. Luckily the char koay teow place that my tour guide recommended is open (Xen Teck) so seems like a good time to get breakfast and some of that extra strong coffee. There is a whole way to order coffee in Malaysia, kopi or kopi O or ??. I can’t remember the correct way. The default way comes with sweetened condensed milk that I was happy to try the first time (Do like the locals). But now I want it my way with unsweetened with just milk over ice. I thought I ordered it correctly but I got the sweetened one again. Good thing I do lots of walking to walk off all this sugar. The char koay teow is good; it is different from the one I had before since this has thinly sliced pork sausage in it (you don’t see it in pork in the other tourists areas out of respect of the Muslim community). It also had these little button like things that were slimy. I first thought they were mushrooms but they could be oysters? Sometimes it is better to not know. Anyway, the dish is good and satisfying, It is the breakfast I never knew I wanted.
It is still too early for the jetty so I do a tour of the street art nearby. One I believe is a Dutch artist and the others are local artists. The famous ones are from the Dutch artist.
It is 9 am so I head over to the Jetties. I am glad I am there early before the crowds. Not everything is open yet but it is pretty in the morning light. It feels a little weird walking close to people’s houses. It feels intrusive seeing laundry hanging and watching people inside their houses (many doors were wide open to the outside). This is open to tourists so they expect this I guess, still feels weird. There seems to be a boat tour at the end of the pier but is not running. Not sure if it no longer runs or if I’m just too early. It is a small pier so not sure how there will be a big party here tomorrow.
I tour the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the 19th century mansion that is a good example of the Peranakan lifestyle. Peranakan are a distinct type of Malay. When Chinese immigrants, mostly rich, arrived in Penang they were often offered a bride of native Malay heritage, often very young. The resulting offspring are the Nyonyas (women) and Babas that you still see to referred to in the culture today. The marriages were almost always arranged and the groom could not see the bride (and vice versa) until they are to be married. The brides often wore this very heavy metal thing on their head that masked their appearance. I am glad I made it time for the tour because the guide was very descriptive on how life was back then. He even commented that polygamy was common a while ago because often the groom would not be happy with the bride chosen for him. Many native Malays are of this heritage.
One very interesting piece from this museum is a piece of blue jewelry. It is actually created from someone painstakingly attaching blue bird feathers. Birds were not killed for it but I am sure it was painful for them. It is not allowed anymore.
Thought about visiting another mansion, blue mansion, but I was tired and hot – big surprise. Besides I think it is pretty similar to the mansion I just visited. I go back to rest and cleanup for the night celebration.
They are still celebrating the Chinese New Year and there is a large street party in Chinatown. There are dragons, dancing, music, crafts and food. I brave it out for a little bit. I get some snacks and watch some entertainment. Eventually the crowd is too much for me so I search out a bar.
I don’t like to drink much lately but for some reason I decide I want to visit all the speak easies I can in town due to my recently discovered sweet tooth. The tour guide from the other day suggests two in town. One he suggests never seems to be open when I try (or I don’t know the secret password). The other speakeasy he suggests is further away so it takes me a while to get up the motivation to go visit. Backdoor Bodega, hidden behind a store, requires reservations but I arrived around opening so they took me as a walk in. They have very inventive drinks and the staff at the bar took the time to converse with me.
Another night I happen upon a newer speak easy when I was trying to the other place suggested by my tour. Birds Nest is in a residential neighborhood. In fact you would never know it is a bar. The only reason I found it is because I followed some people who appeared to be going into someone’s house. Come to find out it sort of is. The owners, a couple, live upstairs. They’ve converted, and are still converting, the downstairs into a craft cocktail bar. They were very nice and offered me an orange and some new years crackers.
I finally try Nasi Kandar at the very popular Hameediyah Restaurant. It has an odd setup where you order your food from one store front but then you go a couple store fronts over to eat. I had a nice gentleman help me with the process except I almost walked out of the first building without paying. This Malay/Indian fusion cuisine is a a signature dish of Penang: a plate of hot rice, some fried chicken, beef curry, some turmeric-laced cabbage, or what you choose. There is a short line but I went shortly after opening time in the mid-morning.
It wouldn’t be Chinese New Year without fireworks. I skip the evening celebrations at the the jetty but I get to participate anyway via the fireworks that are going most of the night. Good thing I have a long bus ride tomorrow because no sleep is happening tonight.
At some point I ended up by this McDonald’s that looked very interesting. I didn’t go inside but I caught a grab around here.