Monday, March 27, 2017

March 25th – Feeling at Home in Penang

Ever since we first came to Penang when we were backpacking 17 years ago, I've always had a soft spot for the town. Maybe it's because of Penang's wonderfully preserved collection of historic architecture dating from the days when this was a colonial boomtown. Or, maybe it's because the diverse mixture of ethnicities who've settled here have given the town such an intriguing blend of cultures, religions and cuisines. Plus, it's one of the easiest towns to explore from a cruise ship – we dock right next to the colonial centre.

And in the last couple of years we have an extra reason to love Penang – our friends John and Phaik See live here, and they've been giving us a wonderful local insight into the place. So, they very kindly picked us up from the ship and took us round some of the most important sights in town. With every year, Penang seems to get better and better as it smartens up its act – more and more restaurants, smart cafes and boutique hotels opening up in its historic buildings.

We then went for lunch in a lovely seafood restaurant overlooking the sea – with the warm air blowing in from the water, we sampled some delicious food and wine and it began to feel like Penang would be a pretty good place to live. What's more, John and Phaik See had kindly smuggled in a bottle of champagne and an amazing 3-D jelly cake, so that we could celebrate Tracy's birthday in style a couple of days early. It was a wonderful lunch – great food and great company.

After lunch, we went to Suffolk House for tea. This splendid colonial mansion just outside of Georgetown dates from the very start of the British colony here at the end of the 18th century – it's so evocative of the Days of the Raj, that the House was used as a set for the British TV period drama, Indian Summers. Another superb piece of Penang architecture.

I don't know why, but in a way, visiting Penang feels a bit like coming home.