After a very strange week, I woke up that morning with the idea of going for a long walk. I was in Georgetown, the capital of the state of Penang, whose center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In theory I had been there for a couple of days, but I still had not seen the city, famous for its colonial architecture. I had also heard that there was a lot of street art and I wanted to find it.
I left the hostel almost at noon (I was staying in the dorm and did not sleep well), so it was very hot. The hostel was in a non touristic area nearby the center, and the streets were almost empty there. I liked the entrances of the small houses and the arcs that protected me from the sun. I do not have any sense of orientation so I usually check the map very often. My challenge for the day would be not to look at it.
I found a building in ruins… what was it? It seemed to have been a school. And then, which way? I wanted to find the sea, should be over there… yes, there it was. Oh, I was a bit disappointed that there was no seafront to walk along, only a small part in front of an expensive hotel.
I left the waterfront and took an avenue that led me to a small park with a fountain. I passed in front of two churches and a mosque, and realized that I would not be able to visit any mosque that day. I had forgotten the scarf. A bit later I found a big park next to the Fort Cornwallis. It was time to get a drink and some rest! I got an ice flower tea (or something like that) and sit on the park. It was Saturday so it was quite crowded with families with kids and groups of friends.
While I was in the park, a mother with her daughter approached me and pointed to her mobile phone, making the gesture of taking a photo. I understood she was asking me to take a picture of them, and nodded. Then… she gave the mobile phone to her daughter, sit on the bench next to me, and the girl took a photo of us! Then they exchanged, the girl sat next to me while her mother took a picture… I smiled, a bit in shock. They thank me and they left.
That situation reminded me of Kanyakumari, in India, where a group of women had asked me for pictures. It had happened 3 months before but it seemed so far away… like it had been another trip, years ago.
I kept walking, passing by a clock tower and some colonial buildings. It was all still decorated with red balloons for the Chinese New Year. And I finally found the first street art! Where were the others? I thought there would be more, but maybe I was not in the right part of the city. I did not check where to find them!
I kept walking with no specific direction. I saw a nice Chinese temple and some time later I reached what I thought might be Little India. There were shops selling saris and flowers for the hair, and bollywood music animated the streets. By that time I decided to get another drink and search in internet where was the street art in Georgetown.
I was quite lucky, there were a couple of streets nearby with some of the famous street art paintings. So, looking at the map, I headed in that direction. And, like I had crossed a magic door that transported me to another dimension, I started finding a lot of street art. Not only the famous ones, but many more. In back and white, in color, serious, funny, picture-real or simple ones, the art decorated the otherwise unnoticeable walls.
Now that I had found it, my thoughts diverged. I looked back at the last week and it seemed surreal. It started in Perak, where I stayed with couchsurfing with a nice Malaysian girl. After that, she was going to Georgetown where she had an expat friend who was also in couchsurfing and could host me for one night.
Wednesday was the Chinese New Year so everything in Georgetown was fully booked. My host had a friend who had just opened a hostel and he gave me the contact. The hostel was also full but his friend invited me to go to Taiping, in Perak, to spend the Chinese New Year. So I went back to Perak and spent the New Year with a Malaysian Chinese family (which was very similar to our Christmas days… family meetings and lots of food!). All this thanks to couchsurfing, and thanks to not booking things in advance!
After that I came back to Georgetown, where I could stay in his hostel for free in exchange of some help and a review in booking (and I did not know yet that the day after I would take care of the hostel, and that would change my trip… but that is a story for another day!).
Lost in my thoughts, I had not realized that I had been walking for nearly 5 hours, almost non stop! Like the realization had clicked a button, I suddenly felt tired. I also realized that, in addition to the scarf, I had forgotten something else… to put on sunscreen. At noon, in tropical weather. Oh well.
On the way back to the hostel I went to the Komtar tower, the highest building in Penang. My last stop of the day was an Indian temple, and then… back to rest. It had been a long walk, about 6 hours and a half. I deserved a long rest and a good dinner!
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