Good memories of a previous visit to historic Penang prompted me to stop there on my way to Bangkok. After thirteen hours of chugging along on a train I was ready to find my street legs again.
I had a great nights sleep at the historic Red Inn on Georgetown’s Love Lane. Their breakfast of delicious local food gave me the energy to do one of my favorite things….walk. I grabbed an excellent brochure from the lobby… “Traditional Trades & Foods of George Town” (Self-Guided Walks).
My first stop was at Mr. Lee’s joss stick making shop. He hand makes several hundred of these a day. They are purchased by Taoists to use for worship at home and at the temple.
Before stopping to see the flower garland weavers I dropped into the Kuan Yin Temple next door. Commonly known as the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, it’s believed to be the oldest temple in Penang. Being the 15th of the month, the temple was extremely busy with worshipers lighting incense and praying to the gods. I love the huge pink joss sticks that they burn at the entrance.
Then, it was next door to watch the flower garland weavers create their magic from beautiful fresh flowers. I was amazed at the speed that this weaver worked. In the ten minutes or so that I watched he easily finished three garlands.
Have you ever wondered about those “funny” black hats worn by Muslim men. Well, they’re called Songkok and Haja Mchidin is a second generation songkok maker. He can complete one songkok in about two hours.
At 165 Lebuh Chulia the bertram blind weaver was busy varnishing a newly completed blind. Like the songkok maker, he is the second generation of his family to produce these blinds. They are handwoven from the stem of the bertram palm, and protect store fronts from the sun and rain. You will see them everywhere in Penang.
My next to last stop was the “Cotton Bedding Maker”. Mr. Ong has been making bedding from his store front for the past 60 years. His bedding is stuffed with kapok (Java cotton), which is the local secret for a good nights sleep in the local tropics. I wonder if this is the secret to his longevity?
Finally, I headed over to see Auntie Sim the local fortune teller. She is easy to find at stall 20 on the corner of Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Masjid Kaptan Keling. She’s advertised as one of the last “sidewalk fortune tellers” in Penang. For 20 MYR (Malaysian Ringatts; roughly $6US)) she read my palms and my face. Like most good fortune tellers she didn’t tell me anything to worry about. Apparently, I have a lot of years left in me, and I am going to be prosperous (hope that happens soon!). Of course, as Auntie Sim mentioned several times…”It’s all up to you (me).”
A walk around Georgetown wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the local street food. I have to say it was a scorcher of a day, and my appetite had vanished with the heat. However, I couldn’t resist sampling an onion baji (the one in the front). OUTSTANDING! ……
All of these crafts people have their shops in or around Little India, and with a map are very easy to find. This is an economical and fun day for any budget traveler. I spent less than $7US, and most of that went to Auntie Sim.
I booked the Red Inn through Hostel World , and highly recommend it. My room was clean and comfortable. I really enjoyed the breakfast of local food. Finally, you can’t beat the location.