Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tourguiding in Penang - Day 1

A couple of weeks before I moved to KL, my good friends from Beijing Joanne, Zhao Jie and Zhao Lei came to Penang for a short trip. They were actually in KL for a business visit, but extended their trip to have a few days of leisure. Since they were interested in visiting Penang, I offered to be their tourguide for the weekend, with pleasure. :)

The group of them with my mom arrived Penang at about 11am, and our first destination was none other than the famous Kek Lok Si temple, which is well-known even to the foreigners. Luckily for us, the temple was not that crowded that day, and we found a nice parking place easily too. The first view that greeted us at the bottom of the hill was this pond full of tortoises. I believe tortoises are considered as spiritual animals symbolizing longevity in the Chinese community, and I see them almost in all Chinese temples around. There were also peddlers around selling vegetables to the visitors to feed the tortoises.

Tortoises in the pond

The hike up to the temple was filled with stalls on the left and right, selling goods from Penang and clothings. Surprisingly, the clothes and dresses found here were pretty cheap! You'd think that they would charge a higher price since it's a tourist destination, but I actually managed to get a dress here for RM12! Can you believe that? I'll show you the dress later on. ;) After about 15 minutes and lots of perspiration, we reached the main temple of Kek Lok Si and started praying. As usual, places like this are always filled with smoke, due to the burning of joss sticks.

Main temple at Kek Lok Si

Joanne who's a very spiritual person, told us that she wanted to spend more time praying in the temple. In the mean time, I brought Zhao Jie and Zhao Lei (they're married, by the way) to look around.

Zhao Jie and witch at Kek Lok Si

I asked them whether they're interested in climbing up the pagoda and they were enthusiastic about it. So the three of us ventured to the pagoda entrance and paid RM2/person for the entrance free.

Our targeted destination

The pagoda is synonymous to the Kek Lok Si fame and also a signature place of Penang. One look at this pagoda and everyone would know that you've been to Penang before. :)

Pagoda at Kek Lok Si

At the bottom of the pagoda, we took some pictures of the view surrounding the temple.

View of Kek Lok Si

Then we started climbing up the pseudo-spiral staircase up the pagoda. There were 9 storeys in all, and we reached the top greeted by breath-taking view of the Penang island. One side of the view was facing the mountains, while another side of it was facing the city.

View from top of pagoda - mountain view

I prefer the city view in this case, since you're able to have a clear view all the way to Georgetown.

View from top of pagoda - city view

Zhao Jie and witch

Outside pagoda

After we descended from the pagoda, I showed them what the LX3 wide angle could do. *LOL* They tried to take a full-length picture of the pagoda using their digital camera but failed. Hence, my LX3 came to the rescue and we managed to take several shots of the pagoda at the entrance.

Zhao Jie and witch at Kek Lok Si pagoda

After the visit to the temple, we had a short late lunch at the laksa stalls in Air Itam. I didn't take any pictures there as I was already too hungry from all the climbing and walking! Plus I didn't have breakfast before that! *gasp* Anyway, we left to the hotel to check in later on, which was Copthorne Orchid in Tanjung Bungah. I chose that hotel because it was reasonably priced (~RM170/night) and it was next to the sea! This is the view from our room, complete with the sound of waves. :) The beach was just within walking distance from our hotel.

View from hotel room

When night fell, we had a quick dinner at one of the nearby food court in Gurney. A quick dinner because we had to send one friend to the airport to catch a flight. Guess where we went after sending her to the airport? QEII or Queen Elizabeth II! It's this waterfront club/pub/restaurant just by the seaside next to the pier. Very romantic and very nice view. If you're lucky, it would be windy and cooling too. It was my first time there and I'd always wanted to visit this place since I heard a lot of good comments from my friends. Since none of my close friends were 'clubbing kakis', I never had a chance to go there, until now. We found the perfect parking spot just in front of the entrance! Parking fee was RM5 flat.

Church Street Pier

The signature QEII logo, brightly lit and distinct at night.

QEII by the sea

You're about to see the RM12 dress that I bought from the stalls at Kek Lok Si! I bought it because it had unique batik design that was local to Malaysian culture. Also, my friend Zhao Jie was attracted to the design and bought an exact one in a different colour.

witch at QEII entrance

Look at our identical dresses. :) Which colour is nicer?

witch and Zhao Jie

We also took a picture with her husband Zhao Lei, who was a really shy but friendly guy.

witch, Zhao Lei and Zhao Jie at QEII entrance

We found a table just by the sea, and the breeze was extremely strong that night so it was pretty comforting. We chose to sit outside in the open air just for this reason. Plus, the smell of smoke was also minimal with the cooling wind. I was happily enjoying the ambience and chatting with Zhao Jie when suddenly, rain started to fall. :( No wonder the wind was so strong prior to that. A storm was brewing indeed. We had to move indoors, which was much louder and hence deterred us from chatting. However, I would say the overall environment of QEII was much better than most other clubs in Penang that I visited before. I would recommend this place (outdoors) if you hate the smell of cigarette smoke and stuffy air in most other indoor clubs. :)

That concludes my first day of tourguiding in Penang. We reached the hotel after midnight and slept like pigs to the next morning! *LOL*


khengsiong said...

Joanne is very spiritual? Hmmm...

I spent a couple of months in China several years ago. My impression was that Chinese were not spiritual, thanks to decades of Communist rule. Perhaps things have changed.

Regarding your camera... one of the characteristics of wide-angle lens is that it "exaggerates perspective". You look slim in the picture!

J2Kfm said...

funny seeing a witch in a temple. :)
but how true, the power of the LX3!
the wide angle really saved me a lot of backtracking, composing etc.

foongpc said...

Wow! Be a tour guide some more, not bad! Seeing the photos gives me nostalgia. Would love to visit Penang again!

Hey, I like the RM12 dress - very nice! : )

Yin Hoon said...

RM12 for a dress?! Wow!

jc said...

That Zhao Lei fella looks like Kah Wei!

zewt said...

i think it's time for me to visit penang after a loooooooong time....

iamthewitch said...

khengsiong: Well she's actually from Hong Kong, but I don't think being spiritual is affected by where you're from? And eh!!! Are you saying I'm actually fat... :(((

J2Kfm: Yea I absolutely love it! You have one too? Hi 5! Hehe

foongpc: Yea Penang has definitely changed. It's time to visit! And thanks for the compliment. ;)

Yin Hoon: Surprising eh? :)

jc: Is it? Maybe in the picture... :P

zewt: You should! :)