The Island of Penang
The Island of Penang is located in the NW corner of the Malaysian Peninsula. The capital city is Georgetown which is located on the northern end of the island (a.k.a. Pulau Pinang). Geographically speaking Pulau Pinang consists of the Island and also the strip of mainland known as Seberang Perai. Access to the mainland is available by ferry and also the 2 bridges. From the mainland city of Butterworth transport throughout the Malaysian Peninsula is available by express bus or rail service. Plus, there is an international airport located on the island.
Penang is most well known for its cultural diversity. The British had initially colonized Malaysia and as a result many immigrants arrived from other British colonies such as India. Additionally, the Chinese had been immigrating here for centuries to work as coolies in the Georgetown harbor and also work as tin miners on the mainland. When combined with the existing Malay population, Malaysia was left with a unique cultural combination after achieving independence from the British. This cultural diversity is most evident here in the State of Penang Therefore, Pulau Pinang is a great place to find many different cultural festivals and also sample the food.
“Pearl of the Orient”
Pulau Pinang was known as the “Pearl of the Orient” during colonial times and served as a rival trading hub to Singapore. However, Singapore eventually proved to be the more competitive location for ships and trading. However, Penang has since revived itself as an international tourist destination. Popular attractions here include Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, Bukit Bendera, the Botanical Gardens, Entopia and also the Spice Gardens. Additionally, many spices such as nutmeg are still cultivated here.
The best time of year to visit Penang is during the spring festival season. At this time visitors can take part in the festivals such as Chinese New Year, Thaipusam and also Pai Ti Kong. Additionally, Wesak Day comes around May every year and it really adds to the cultural adventure that defines Penang.
Having spent two years traveling through Sub Saharan Africa I was astounded by the wonderful assortment of natural phenomenon that exists there. My favorite country to visit was Madagascar. This is because Madagascar combined exotic diversity with adventurous destinations.
We traveled to many locations including Antananarivo, Anakao, Tulear, Ifaty, Isalo National Park, Tsimanampetsotsa Nature Reserve and Ft. Dauphin. These destinations provide an overview of the cultural history and also access to the world class natural ecosystem that exists here.
Exotic species that we encountered include the ring tailed lemurs, brown lemurs, chameleon, miniature nocturnal lemurs and radiated tortoise. Additionally, phenomenal trees exist here which are world renown. The tree species that I am referring to are the Baobab, Octopus tree, and Banyan plus many more!
Unfortunately, Madagascar is a former French colony and therefore sometimes we were to encounter an unexpected surprise. Although this encounter was not rough traveling or a bad experience with the native inhabitants or even the wildlife! The type of encounter I am referring to is with some of the French expatriates that hole up in what otherwise would be a very nice travel destination. That is correct, unfortunately they even figure out how to open businesses on occasion. The case in point would be the Longo Vezo Hotel in Anakao. The owners here were very unscrupulous and neglected to clean the rooms. Insect infestations were common and the owners would regularly consume excessive amounts of wine at dinner. Additionally, there was mandatory communal dining which enabled them to have a captive audience to play to. It just goes to show that it is important to read as much information about the establishment as possible before booking!
However, we had very pleasant experiences at other locations such as the Isalo Rock Lodge, Peter Pan Hotel and the Lokanga Boutique hotel in Antananarivo. Highlights include the hilltop views in the capital, surfing in Anakao and Ft Dauphin. Plus the fishing in Anakao and Ifaty was excellent! Additionally, don’t forget to check out the Spiny Forest in Ifaty because it is a worthwhile experience!