Night-time Niceties in Georgetown

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The streets of Georgetown, Penang are made for nightlife. The Chinese, in particular, never seem to go to bed. Their open-front restaurants are noisy gathering places where waiters shout your order to someone in a back room. A jukebox, if there is one, is turned on full volume. Hawker stalls on Gurney Drive and the Esplanade do a thriving business, while brightly lit stores cater to late-night shoppers. At the fashionable hotels, latecomers wait in line at the discotheques. There are roof top restaurants where dinners look down over the city light, hills and harbor, and dark cellar cabarets with no view at all.

Those who prefer to seek entertainment in bars can find a few around Georgetown and on the northern outskirts of the city. Some small and friendly establishments, like Hong Kong Bar, keep a “family album” of snapshots showing just about every traveler who has walked in and bought a drink. They provide jukeboxes for dancing, game machines for entertainment and barmaids for conversation. If you prefer a light music and comfortable surroundings, I would like to recommend the Penang Bar Street, along the stretch of Penang Road from Cititel Hotel and to where it intersects with Lebuh Farquhar. Others are more consciously sophisticated, like the Farquhar Bar in the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, which only operate until midnight.

At the Heart of History

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Penang Museum and Art Gallery, located is Georgetown, Penang, a 15 minutes walking distance from the Fort Cornwallis. Walk into the compound of the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, and you will first be greeted by a regal bronze statue of Captain Sir Francis Light, the founder of the Penang Straits Settlement, gazing down upon you. In Penang Museum, on the other side of the street, visitors can peer into a Chinese bridal chamber created in the lavish style of the 19th century, when Malaysian Chinese girls took great pride in the quality beadwork on their slippers. One room, dedicated to a glimpse of yesteryear, is hung with old paintings and etching from the days when Fort Cornwallis was the center of town. Another is an opulent showcase of bejeweled krisses, the dragger-like weapons Malay used for protection and for prestige.

On the first floor where the Art Gallery is located, display batik painting, oils, graphics and Chinese ink drawings. Most of the techniques are new but the solemn, moody sea scenes and village portraits recapture a way of life that is little changed from the pioneer days.

The Penang Museum & Art Gallery open from 9am to 5pm daily except Friday and Public Holiday. Admission Fees for Art Gallery Art Gallery is free. RM 1 for adult and RM 0.50 for children will be charged for visiting the Museum.

Fort Cornwallis

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The Fort Cornwallis, named after the Governor General in Bengal in the late 1700s, Charles Cornwallis, is one of the most interesting historical landmarks in Georgetown, Penang. It is located close to the Esplanade, next to the Victoria Memorial Clock. Originally, Fort Cornwallis was a wooden structure. Between 1808 and 1810, it was rebuilt with convict labor. Today, the old fort still stands, but its precincts have been converted into a public park and playground. Its ramparts are still guarded by the old cannons; the most venerable and famous of which is Seri Rambai”, known to many Penang residents as “the travelling cannon”. The cannon has certainly travelled. Cast in Holland, it was presented by the Dutch to the Sultan of Johor in 1606. Seven years later, in a devastating raid on Johor, it was captured by the Achenese in search of a Bugis alliance. After the British bombarded Kuala Selangor in 1871, the cannon was captured and brought to Penang.

For several years, it was left lying in the sea off the Esplanade until it was hauled out and places as its present location. Like most ancient cannons, Seri Rambai is attributed with magical powers; it is believed that women desiring children will have their wish fulfilled if they place flowers in the cannon’s barrel and offer a pray. Legends are always a beautiful mystery, but that is not a loss for giving a try.

The Coast of Navy

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Pangkor lies off the coast of Perak, and is the most popular beach resort in the state. To get there, you need to take the road from Ipoh to Sitiawam and Lumut. The broad Perak River is crossed at Bota Kanan, where there is a hatchery for river terrapins. After the town of Sitiawam, head for the coast at Lumut, the principal base for the Malaysian Navy. Their officers, ships and apartments can be seemed from Pangkor just across the bay.

Many local don’t even make the crossing to Pangkor, but instead make to Teluk Batik, a pleasure beach resort 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from Lumut. There are some resorts in Teluk Batik recommended by the tourism Malaysia, which are Teluk Batik Resort, Marina Cove Resort, Crystal Bay Chalet and Impian Chalet. Others go to the Wilderness Adventure Camp, south of Lumut, where activities are arranged to exercise the body and to teach adults and children alike about life in the forest. Make an appointment at and custom your own adventure with your friends and family. The Pesta Laut (Sea Festival) is held in Lumut in August every year, and sea sport competitions, funfairs and food outlets attract the crowds. Pangkor can also crowd during this time and any of the Malaysian school holidays; so if you like the beach to yourself, make sure you choose the right month.

A pioneer’s castle

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Kallie’s castle (Kallie’s Fort) is located near Batu Gajah, and is about 20 minutes from Ipoh, Perak. Some years ago this building was overgrown with wild fig and banyan trees spreading over and into it, but an effort has been made to rescue this interesting structure from the encroaching foliage. It stands on the land of what was once the estate of William Kellie Smith, a rubber plantation owner who made his fortune in Malaya (Old name of Malaysia). The house was intended to be his second home, but it was never entirely finished, as Smith died while he was visiting his native Scotland. The house was meant to be reminded of his Scottish castle far away, but now it lies all but forgotten, and the remnants of its fine architecture and the orange colored bricks lying in ruins give it the air of something from a fairy tale.

Smith was an interesting man, who was evidently popular with his South Indian worker. A Hindu shrine stands nearby, erected for the plantation worker during a time of sickness. Amongst the figures of animals and gods, stands a man in a white suit and hat, presumably Smith himself. A walk around the ruin is to step back into the prosperous days of colonial life. A bridge has now been built across the river, providing access from main road. Tours can also be arranged from Ipoh.

A Walk along the Old Perak

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Kampar, a very Chinese town at the foot of Bujang Melaka on the main trunk road south of Perak, prides itself as being largest of these towns, while Gopeng has its long gone prosperity wanly reflected in its largest wooden market, the Chinese theatre and the signified rows of shop houses. Walk along and you can see the Kampar Independent Clock Tower located at the center of the town. Some old and historical restaurant or stalls along the road might make appetite. Clay pot Chicken Rice, Sago Dessert and Chinese Egg Tarts are Kampar delight. Where to go? Which restaurant? No worries walk and spot a restaurant with a small crowd, and that’s the place you go. Otherwise, take a walk in the market in the morning or night, delicious local food just around the corner.

Just south of Gopeng, a narrow side road to the right branches off to Kota Bharu, a little village on the railway, it then leads on to Mekam Teja, the tomb of Bendahara Alang Iskandar, one of the great state officers of 19th-century Perak and a direct ancestor of the present ruler. As is often the case with the graves of distinguished Malays, the site has become a shrine (keramat) visited by humble folk in search of blessings or tradition that a newly installed Sultan of Perak must pay his respects at this shrine.

The Underground Riches

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The Kinta Valley, whose tin production of long time ago was half that of the rest of Malaysia combined and 17 percent that of the world’s total, stretches funnel-shaped for 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Sungai Siput (Siput River) in the north of Ipoh (Capital city of Perak state) to Kampur in the south. The speedy North-South-Highway cuts straight across these hills joining Ipoh with the Perak River Valley and Kuala Kangsar.

What was once a vast expanse of forest crossed by sluggish jungle streams and swamps has over the past 100 years been virtually denuded of all its trees, its swamps drained and even the course of the Kinta River straightened out; the land now lies flat and open, offering nothing but the vistas of deserted mining pools spreading over the bleached scars of tin tailings; dotted here and there are the wooden palong (boxes) of the Chinese mines; and floating majestically in pools of their own making are the huge tin dredges.

Mining townships, occupying land once roamed by wild herds of elephant, scatter themselves over the face of this valley. Some, like Ipoh, rose with the tin industry, but when the local tin deposits were exhausted, they declined and shriveled into villages or even became a ghost town, like Papan, Tronoh and Pusing. Some, such as Batu Gajah and Gopeng, were once greater and more prosperous than Ipoh itself. Take a walk in this small town and discover the history of mining.

The Cameron Highlands

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The Cameron Highland is one of the Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations. Not part of Perak but Pahang, but they can only be reached through Perak. The road to the Highlands branches off the main trunk highway 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Ipoh (capital city of Perak state). It shoots off toward the hills and for 90 kilometers (56 miles) winds and twists its way to the top. As cool air funnels down the mountain pass, the temperature drops. Palms and banana trees give way to deep jungle growth. Coniferous trees appear, fern line the road and clusters of bamboo add the touch of a Chinese scroll painting.

The Cameron Highlands are actually spread out over three districts. For the newcomer it can be a little confusing, and at first somewhat disappointing, especially when after 48 kilometers (28 miles), you arrive at Ringlet, the first district and a rather ugly little settlement. Better push on! Four kilometers (2.5 miles) later comes the pretty Sultan Abu Bakar Lake, a man made body of water formed by the damming of the Bertam River, and extensively covered with lush green plants. Perched on a bluff above the lake is The Lakehouse hotel, a Tudor style building with sweeping views of the surrounding valley. Pay a visit to the vegetables and fruit farms, Strawberry Farm, Bee Farm, Butterfly Garden and the Flower Garden. For shopping advice, visit the tourist souvenir shops or the night market.

Fraser Hill

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Situated at 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), Fraser Hill was initially created by the British as a cool retreat in the mountain. Fraser Hill (or Bukit Fraser in Malay)is a hill resort located on the Titiwangsa Ridge in the state of Pahang in Malaysia. The resort takes its name from Louis James Fraser, an elusive English adventurer, who had long disappeared when the hill station was built in 1910. Fraser Hill is a relaxing retreat for business executives seeking respite.

Scattered over the seven hills that make up the resort, a series of English greenstone bungalows were built, surrounded by neat English gardens blooming with roses and hollyhocks. More modern facilities have been added including a new hotel. Economical and old fashioned accommodation is offered in the form of bungalows and youth hostel. Fraser Hill is for those who like to relax in the countryside, walk along jungle paths or swim in the pool of Jerlau Waterfall. There is also a 9-hole golf course, tennis court, playground and pony rides for the slightly more active. Unfortunately, for those without a private transport, Fraser Hill is rather difficult to reach. Start with a one hour bus journey from Kuala Lumpur (About 100 km/ 62 miles to south) to Kuala Kubu Bharu, from where you have to board a second bus which takes another one and half hours to get to the top. The last 8 kilometers (5 miles) is up a narrow road which an one-way traffic system operate. So, tourists are advised to get a rental car to get up to Fraser Hill.

Genting Highland

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From a distance, the Genting Highland stand aloof shrouded in mists that blanket jungle covered hills high above Kuala Lumpur. Genting Highland, otherwise known as Resort World Genting is a hill resort in Malaysia developed by Genting Group. Here is the mystical palace of pleasure perched on top of the Barisan Titiwangsa mountain range that runs down the center of peninsula. It is at an average of 1,740 meters (5,710 feet). This all-modern and civilized hill station houses the Malaysia’s only casino, where Western gambling games are played among traditional Chinese games like tai sai. Neckties are compulsory, or you can opt for a traditional Malaysian dress. A sign over the door of the casino is a warning from the Sultan of Selangor and Pahang that Muslims are forbidden to enter and try their luck here. Gambling continues around the clock every day.

Set in a lush countryside, Genting Highland has several modern hotels and resorts which include First World Hotel, Awana Hotel, Theme Park Hotel, Genting View Resort, Genting Grand, Hotel Seri Malaysia Genting Highland and Ria Apartment. Tourists are advised to make an online booking during the peak season. There is also an artificial lake, a golf course and an indoor and outdoor family theme park, which features roller-coaster, boat rides, monorail, pirate ship, snow world and more exciting games here. Save your jungle shoes for the other hill stations.