Andy’s brother had thoughtfully passed through Penang a week ago and selflessly conducted a comprehensive survey of artisan expresso outlets and cool cafes in town. A happy day was spent testing the validity of his assessment (Nick – A+, well done), and wandering the old quarter. The town is in the midst of a month long cultural festival and as a result there were street performers, pop up art galleries, and Banksy-ish street art on every corner, making the shortest stroll last much longer. The peeling crumbling faded colonial buildings lining the streets are incredible photogenic themselves, as the camera-toting South Korean hipsters would give testament to.
The old town represents a fairly unique and very successful fusion of several ethic groups – Malays, Chinese, and Indian, many of whom arrived 10 or so generations ago. As a result, not only is the street food exciting, but even to an architecture dunce like me, so are the town’s buildings and atmosphere. One street can be lined with incense perfumed pagodas, Chinese noodle shops and green tea drinking backgammon playing old Chinese men, and the next street full of banging Bollywood soundtracks,sari-clad women, sizzling vats of samosas, and roti makers pounding the living daylights out of hunks of dough.
After a morning spent wandering the streets, we got down to the serious business – trying to replace my laptop. Having found the biggest electrical mall in town we wandered round dazzled by bright lights. I was about to spend $350 on a new laptop when a salesman took pity on us and led us down some dark corridors where his friend, a 18 year old techie offered to repair my laptop for 1/3 the cost of a new one – result. We celebrated with a late night out watching the heartbreaking Murray-Federer match until 3am in a room full of British backpackers.