The taxi from Penang’s airport into Georgetown was perhaps one of the most serene of my life. The traffic was smooth, obeying traffic norms and entirely silent. Gone was the terror that accompanied any traffic journey undertaken in India.
Having just had a red eye flight from Kochi via Kuala Lumpur my eyes are appropriately stinging from the lack of sleep, my head was away in the clouds I had just descended through. Sitting in the back of an airport taxi en route to Georgetown, everything seemed alien, it seemed surreal, a simple experience as mundane as a taxi ride, that I had forgotten could be quiet and tranquil. The view from the car window was equally as peaceful, with no chaos, very little litter and no reason clench my hands till my knuckles changed hue, I had the feeling I was going to like it here.
This first day in Georgetown seemed like heaven to me. A reminder of how a society usually behaves, with working foot paths, clean streets, and delicious and easy to find food centres. In spite of my exhaustion I was buzzing, so excited to have an easy experience, I was bubbling with enthusiasm, not delirium, I’m sure?
Georgetown is pretty cool, over the next few days I enjoyed walking around and exploring the UNESCO listed old town and the old city surrounding it. There is so much to see here, grand colonial buildings representative of historic links with Britian, traditional Chinese temples and terraces showing the links to Hunan, there is also a little India here as well… much calmer and more peaceful than the real thing.
One of the coolest things about Georgetown is that real Penang-ites live here, it’s a living space, alive with real people, with real everyday shops and real facilities. Georgetown isn’t a museum town, gentrified and sanitised to portray the past, it is a living breathing city the locals I spoke with are proud of that too, proud of their city and heritage.
I can’t quite believe how much great food I tried in Georgetown, the hawker centres delivering many small portions of delicious, predominantly Chinese inspired food. The receptionist at the hostel was a real food enthusiast, as we checked in he painstakingly drew all over the incredibly welcome free map of Georgetown with many food related scrawls, enough to keep my appetite sated for a very long time.