“Scotty, do you think you could fly us “in time” for my uncle’s wedding?”
“Which uncle, Captain?”
“Great-uncle René Onraet. One of my grandmother’s little brothers.”
“The one who was Inspector general of police in Singapore in the thirties? When and where was the wedding, Sir?”
“According to family history, he married Muriel Burghore in Georgetown, Penang, in 1914. I don’t have the exact date.”
“Well, Sir, I’m afraid I would need the precise date, but I can take the ship to Penang. And we can walk the very streets your uncle walked.”
“Splendid! Passengers and crew, buckle up. En route to Georgetown, Penang island, Malaysia. (Get your motor runnin’)“
It seems to me nothing defines Georgetown better than the façade of the traditional Peranakan shophouses in the historical centre. The above (c)ourtesy of my good friend Tiffany Choong, a Penang artist. (See the link to her site at the end of this post)
Those were shophouses, narrow but running the entire block to the other street. One double door, two windows, and butterfly-shaped ventilations above. The shop was downstairs, the warehouse in the back and the living quarters upstairs.
Ganesh, or Ganesha, the elephant God of the hindu mythology stands guard at a temple in Penang. Ganesh is the wise one. He is the remover of obstacles, a patron of arts and learning. Myths vary but some say he is the restored son of Parvati and Shiva.
The Penang or Pinang flag and tree. Penang’s modern history starts in 1786 when Georgetown was founded by Francis Light as a trading post. There are a few cities called Georgetown across the world, all named after King George III of England. The tree is known as poko pinang in Malay and produces the betel nut, once widely chewed (and spat) in Southeast Asia.
Street art in Penang is widely developed and unique. This is on Chulia St, the bohemian street of Georgetown.
Penang doors. (If you recall, one can still find the same Peranakan houses in Singapore)
(c) Tiffany Choong. Kam siah Tiffany.
Welcome. Don’t ask me how it is said in Hokkien, the specific dialect or language of the Straights Chinese. I am told it is a dying language, slowly replaced by Mandarin. A shame.
This one, at Kim Haus, Penang, is for my dear friend “Edith” the Ed. Visit her at:
Pirates of the Straights (Kim Haus café). I have it on good authority that Captain Sparrow’s next adventure will take place in the Straights, between Penang and Singapore.
At the Peranakan Museum. The traditional blouse is called Nyonya kebaya I believe, which bears Chinese influences and is worn over a sarong, the wrap-up piece of cloth traditionally worn all across southeast Asia. Note the young lady on the right. Picture is probably taken in the fifties, and though she wears the traditional costume with pride and elegance, her hairstyle is definitely western. And there is an Air Conditioner on her right. I will come back to this “fusion” of cultures across many of the places we just visited.
At the China House, a wonderful café-restaurant on Lebuh Pantai. As I mentioned, the houses run the entire block, so China House has a succession of rooms laden with art, great beer and food. The character in the green robes looks to me like an aging Hanuman, the king of monkeys in the Ramayana. The longest epic poem of world literature. Brief synopsis of the 24,000 verses: Divine Prince Rama’s lovely wife Sita is abducted by a villain, Ravana the Demon King, and Rama gets Sita back with the help of Hanuman, after many a bloody battle. 🙂
Pot-smoking Rastafari Sadhu (Hindu holy man). Penang. Fusion I tell you.
“Keong hee huat chye”, says the cat. Happy Chinese New year to all. Though he adds as a post-scriptum: “Year of the dog, year of the dog. When will the year of the Cat arrive? Tsss.”
Kam siah, merci, Tiffany for lending your art to this post. Visit Tiffany’s wonderful site at Bulanlifestyle:
Tiffany’s art has inspired me two stories so far. One is apropiately named “A night in Penang”. If you haven’t read it yet, follow the link:
Kam siah, thank you all for flying Equinoxio’s Time-Space shuttle. Note: all mistakes are mine. Corrections welcome. Until next time… Have a lovely week.