We took another trip into Georgetown to take the funicular up Penang Hill for a good view of the island. But upon arrival, we discovered it was closed for maintenance… good thing we are staying for a few more weeks! As a consolation prize we headed toward the waterfront and the Chinese Clan Jetties. Chinese families with fishing livelihoods set up the jetties generations ago, and many homes are still occupied. The wooden boardwalks and cobbled-together appearance give the piers a rustic vibe, contrasting the shops selling trinkets and snacks (ice cream) to tourists.
Just up the street is the Georgetown ferry dock. We took a 15 minute trip across the Selatan Strait to Butterworth to get a view of the cities from the water and spend time in the breeze. The ferries are smaller than those in Seattle but still carry cars and are more brightly colored. A cluster of passenger benches takes up the center of the upper deck, between two lanes of vehicles. Though two bridges connect the island to the mainland, the ferry can save time coming from Georgetown, especially in heavy traffic. The ferry ride ends at a bus and rail terminal, and there isn’t anything interesting in walking distance (yet… there were several construction projects underway), so we just paid the return fare and enjoyed the ride back and a view of a massive sea eagle skimming the water.
Back in the afternoon heat of Georgetown, we stepped into the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple because it had shade. It turned out to be my favorite temple in Georgetown so far – recently restored, it was full of incredible artwork (tile floors, small statues along the roof, intricate corner beams, painted doors). Though it is still in use, there was almost no one inside and we were able to enjoy a break from the noisy traffic and spend time admiring the skill that went into creating the complex.
Around the rest of the city we discovered more street art, and that preparations for Chinese New Year, coming up on February 8, are in full swing. Lots of stores have displays for the Year of the Monkey, gift baskets, red and gold decorations, and red clothing (red being a lucky color). It is just like the excitement building up to Christmas in the US – everyone will visit family to begin the new year and celebrate with cleaning, gift-giving, and lots of food.
Speaking of meals, we can check a couple more local foods off our list: Penang Hokkien Mee (prawn-stock soup with egg noodles, rice noodles, prawns, pork, and a hard-boiled egg), and stingray (lots of bones). As usual, both were tasty choices.