There’s something about the name “Malaysia” that sounds so exotic to me – it’s one of those places that seems like it’s part fantasy and not completely in the real world. I think it’s because my only encounter with Malaysia has been at the Toronto Zoo, where the Malaysian pavilion was one we always visited; but I was only familiar with it in the sense I am familiar with the Aztecs: as an abstract concept. Notwithstanding, I have now traveled to Malaysia twice and as a result is has become a real place with real people and politics. As one of Singapore’s closest neighbours (both politically and spacially), it’s hard to go a day without hearing about some aspect of Malaysian society – in fact, for a brief period of time after independence, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Goodbye Peter Pan.
My trip to Pulau Penang was very enjoyable, and a little less hectic than when I visited Kuala Lumpur. Penang is a reasonably sized island in northern peninsular Malaysia, and its capital is the very British-sounding Georgetown. The architecture matches the name and with the exception of the Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques scattered throughout the city, it is like visiting a little piece of Europe instead. Dad and I stayed at a very modern and friendly hostel named Hutton Lodge, and spent the first day walking all over Georgetown to see the various sights and attractions. On day two we had a relaxing breakfast (which lasted until lunch time) then hit the malls for some shopping before flying back to Singapore in the evening. The cost of these little trips continues to amaze me – we spent less than $100 each on the entire two day trip, including all transportation, flights, lodging, shopping and food. Nowhere else can you experience so much for so little.