Little India was far cooler, though far smaller, than Chinatown – probably because it felt a lot more like the real India than Chinatown did like China.
(…Or at least that’s how it felt to me – someone who’s spent lots of time in China but never been to India. Which is probably a good indicator that my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt :P)
The thick scent of sizzling spices and smoking incense filled the air as motorcycles and rickshaws zoomed by in every direction; music shops blasted silly Bollywood tunes and women peddled their multi-colored saris. It was a scene that engulfed all the senses – a real joy to experience.
And of course, nearly everyone there – save for a tourist or two – was Indian.
One of the first things I mentioned about Penang was its diversity, which I must reiterate once more: it really is remarkable.
Just a stone’s throw from Chinatown you can step into an utterly different world – which is itself just a few blocks from a functioning Muslim mosque, Buddhist temple, and Hindu shrine. Different religions from different corners of the earth – all right next to each other in the heart of an old British colony in Asia.
As I made my through Little India and out towards the waterfront, it wasn’t long before I was again hit by an unexpected surprise: the British colonial district.
WOW does this city have a variety of distinct feels! For the first few days I felt like I was in China; then in India and now the UK.
Overcrowded noisy roads suddenly gave way to wide multi-lane boulevards, lined with churches and spotless old clocktowers.
It’s seriously like they crammed half the world onto this one little island.
Oh, and the infrastructure seems really quite solid – buses all have signs saying “hop on free,” and a remarkable portion of the city is blanketed by a fast WiFi network (“Penang Free Wifi”). In fact, many of the local buses even have WiFi of their own. And of course as mentioned, everyone speaks nearly perfect English.
Ok, so Malaysia may not be quite as awesome as Thailand – but now that I finally found a decent place to live it doesn’t seem all that bad 😉
I wrapped up my day’s exploration by following the Lonely Planet’s Colonial District Walking Tour, which provided a nice little snapshot of the last of Georgetown’s many flavors.
Then, with sore feet and a sweat-drenched tanktop, I headed back to my wonderful hotel for the night. Maybe for a bit of blogging?
Nope…XP64 is still causing me problems 😡
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above narrative took place on Sunday, January 16th.