I still haven’t been to most of the tourist landmarks and frankly I don’t care. But I’ve been to the museum of history and wandered every street of the old town over the last week, observing and taking it all in. I’ve gone past all the sights on the historic Penang walking tour, without the aid of a map. And I’ve been absorbing this city especially through the food.
Sure, I could rush off and tick landmarks off a list. Or I could just wander as I please, seeing the day-to-day and then coming back to bum and blog in the hostel with the little gang of us who have been here for a week or more. The flamboyant Dutch-Indonesian gay guy who inserts double entendre into every sentence like he failed at an audition for “Are You Being Served?.” The smartarse British dude who hates English teachers and uses this as a base in between rock climbing expeditions and teaching English and says that one of the best things about hostelling and meeting so many people is ‘that you come away from this knowing that you are actually one of the sane ones.’
I understand the Rapid Penang bus system and have made full use of the free city circle bus. I’ve wandered Chinatown, Little India, the old colonial administration area, the harbourfront and more. It’s been nice. I’ve had a lot of thinking to do (and still to do), so it’s been a good place to do it.
Today I went for my morning walk through the backstreets and decided to partake of dim sum for breakfast.
The basic dim sum place, Leong Kee Tim Sum Restaurant at 61 Lebuh Kimberly, was just SO Georgetown. Whole families sharing meals with little kids spearing dumplings with chopsticks and fighting over the last sweet red bean roll on the table, old friends, labourers and workers from nearby mechanics shops, young hipsters sipping Chinese tea outside with oversized sunglasses hiding them from the glare and tables of old men engrossed in a checkers game.
Typifying the Georgetown experience, the food was simple, tasty and cheap. Women bustled around in the small space with their steaming carts filled with treats, many not speaking English or Malay, just the local Chinese dialects and the language of gestures. Dim Sum is Sydney is an expensive but popular affair, but here it was no frills and I had my fill for $3, about one eighth what I’d expect to pay in Sydney at least. It also allowed me to indulge my love of admiring ancient chipped teapots.
This is a better way to see a city than any tourist tour, in my humble opinion.