After a very restful night’s sleep in an air-conditioned room (this felt like a luxury!), I woke to a free breakfast provided by the hostel. It wasn’t much – toast and fresh watermelon – but it was enough to get me excited about a day exploring this World Heritage city.
I picked up a city map and decided to spend the day wandering around and looking at notable attractions in the area. The first interesting spot was Kapitan Keling Mosque, which was built in 1801 by Indian Muslim traders and is the largest historic mosque in George Town.
While strolling along looking at different architecture, I found myself near the sea in an area known as the Weld Quay Jetties. In the old days, fishermen, traders and dock workers built their homes and shops above the water on stilts. Wooden planks connected the structures to neighboring buildings and this eventually formed walkways.
I had a good time ducking in and out of the alleyways of this floating community and catching brief glimpses of local life. Despite evidence of modern conveniences like televisions and air-conditioning units, I still got a sense of nostalgia during my exploration of this area and imagined what it’d be like to live here during the 1800s.
Next I visited the Sek Tong Cheah Si Seh Tek Tong Hock Haw Kong Kongsi, an ancestral temple built in the 1800s to worship two Hock Haw Kong territorial patron saints. It is a classic example of Chinese architecture but includes beautiful lions atop the roof. This was a symbol of British loyalty by the Cheah Clan, one of the oldest Hokkien clans in Penang.
Another interesting site was the Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh. I can only describe it as a compound as there were many buildings surrounding a mosque set within a small enclosed area away from the streets. Tengku Sheriff Syed Hussain Al-Aidid founded it in 1801 for Achehnese settlers.
In other areas of the city, I found Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in George Town. Built in 1833, it’s special because of the intricate carvings of 38 gods and goddesses above the entrance on a tower. I also passed St. George’s Church, which was built in 1818 and is believed to be the oldest Anglican church in southeast Asia.
As the day proceeded into the afternoon, I rounded Fort Cornwallis, the Esplanade and city and town halls. There was supposed to be a night market in the area, but I was way too early for it. I didn’t see anyone setting up their stalls yet so I headed back to the hostel. Along the way I stopped for some pork hash, fishcake and pineapple juice before retiring for the night.