I began my way to town again and eventually arrived at Komtar, the transport centre from where I had started the day before. Close by I caught the free ‘hop on and off’ tourist bus, seemingly patronised almost entirely by locals; tourists who did arrive were swamped in the stampede to get on. After a while I began to be able to work out where I was. The bus passed some lovely buildings. The central area of Georgetown has been proclaimed ‘World Heritage’ and there were marvellous sights everywhere I looked. The bus also stopped at the impressive Queen Elizabeth II pier from where the ferry runs to Butterworth on the Malaysian mainland.
Penang was established as a British trading post in 1786 and became part of the federated states of Malaysia in 1957. Although Malaysians are mostly Muslim, Georgetown is a mixed bag of ethnicity and religions. Chinese, Indian and other Asian cultures all seem to cohabit with tolerance. I saw every possible style of dress in the streets and within a few feet of each other there were Christian churches—Methodist, Anglican, Adventist and Catholic—and Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as many mosques.
Back at the end of the tourist bus circuit I went into a nearby shopping plaza. Many of these temples to the God Mammon dot the landscape of Penang. Shopping seemed to be the national sport. In this mall I found brilliant shops full of feminine gee gaws, thousands of pieces of jewellery and ornaments, all very cheap but pretty. Many were for use on head coverings or as hair decorations. Make something taboo and this is what happens. It becomes a focus of attention.
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None of my three adaptors fitted the electric plugs here so the next day I walked to Tesco’s, two bus stops towards the city, where I was assured I would find one. Wow, what an enormous supermarket, with an incredible range of goods—some of the assistants zoomed about the place on roller skates. But the extensive meat and fish counters left a lot for the hygiene police to focus their attentions on. They were all open to the air, not to mention fingers. And smelly too. Even though the goods were packed in ice I didn’t fancy this method of display. The bakery goods were on open trays too and I saw a small boy poking the cakes. Nice. I bought cheese and a local hard crunchy chip, which, I found later turned out to be a mistake.
Returning to the Naza, I decided to investigate a side road. Well, truthfully, I thought it would be a short cut along the beach but I am becoming increasingly embarrassed about admitting the mistakes I make. This small road, lined both sides by rows of tiny, two-storied wooden houses fronted by plants in big pots, led to a lovely little bay piled with huge rocks on which the sea broke in spray. On one side was a large old red- and gold-painted Chinese temple, and on the other, high on a cliff above the water, was a ramshackle cafe. There was a stone breakwater with a couple of small boats moored at it, but there was no further access along the coast. This bay was enclosed.
Back in my room after this detour, I munched on the rock-hard crisps and broke a tooth—a front incisor. I had a seriously horrible-looking gap where a piece of tooth had gone missing. I must have swallowed it! I needed a dentist, fast. The reception desk people gave me the name of a doctor gigi (‘gigf is the wonderful Malay word for teeth) not far away. I checked the clinic out on Trip Advisor on the internet and decided to risk it. In the past I had read conflicting reports from health tourists who had come to Malaysia for what would have been far more expensive treatments in their home countries. Some told horror stories, others were all praise.