Georgetown Festival 2012, Batu Ferrenghi and Butterworth, Penang
We headed up to Georgetown on another coach type bus with massive armchair like seats and freezing air con. Georgetown is the capital of Penang, most of which is on an island. Arriving by bus meant that we crossed the famous bridge on our way over to Penang island; the longest bridge in the whole of Asia.
We found a cheap place to stay after looking at some options at quite a high price with no bathroom and just a desk fan. It was in a very old building and had quite a dodgy bathroom but the room was large (2 double beds) with air con so we were happy. It just so happened that we arrived in time for the annual festival, celebrating the anniversary of Georgetown becoming an UNESCO world heritage site. It is a weekend full of cultural activities which were mostly free and spread throughout the city, entertaining locals and tourists day and night for 3 days.
We spent our days wandering the city, looking at the old, crumbling buildings and taking in a temple or two and the evenings enjoying the street entertainment laid on by the city and eating.
There were theatre and cinema events on the street, random pieces of art to stumble across, musical shows, snake charming, martial arts displays, lots of food and drink and more that I can't remember.
The two best areas were Chinatown and Little India. In Chinatown on the second evening of our visit there was a whole road of activities going on with things for sale (like this delicious satay – yum!) music and dance performances and the finale was a classic display of a lion dance and a dragon dance. They were very impressive to watch and the crowd lapped it up.
A few streets away the Indian community were not to be outdone and after a daytime programme of events which included an enourmous amount of free food cooked up for a feast (yum again) comedy shows etc there were also shows in the evening. However, each time we checked in the evening the programme of entertainment was running rather late so we did not quite get to see what we wanted.
An unexpected sight we discoved in Georgetown was the group of clan jetties. This is where the city has been extended on stilts over the water and many people still live and work there. They have electricity and the like (some have satelite TV) and it all feels quite solid but I'm not sure how comfortable you would feel in a violent storm, some of these jetties extend for a few hundred yards or more. An interesting fact is they were built for people to avoid paying taxes due for living on land.
Now, here is an example of what occasionally happens when you don't do a jot of research, turn up and just hope for the best…
Butterworth was not in any way in our plans other than as a place to change from ferry to train and head back down south. It is a bit of a ghost town, much smaller than Georgetown and with none of the history or character of the city across the water. We turned up at the train station only to find out that there was a grand total of 3 trains a day, and it was about 6 hours until the next one. Thus, we decided that staying the night was a better option than turning up at our next destination at 3am.
We stayed the night in a very good, cheap hotel and caught the train the next day.
Georgetown and Batu Ferrenghi 6th -10th July 2012