Saturday, July 20, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - Tardy Scone Edition

The rain was hammering down when we were roused from our various sleeping dens and herded our to see temples.  By the end of this trip I’ll be as cultural as all hell.  The rain had pretty much stopped by the time we had climbed the hill that the temple sprawled over leaving those of us with rain jackets boiling in the heat that replaced it.  The temple complex was huge but it had to be to provide a home for a positively gargantuan statue of Buddha (well it was unlikely to be Darth Vader was it?) on his feet this time.  The whole place (including the statue) was built and is maintained by public donations.  At this point it might be helpful to mention that sixty percent of the population of Penang is Chinese.

After being given enough time to be appropriately awestruck we hopped back in the minibus and rattled to the centre of town and a visit to a much more modest Buddhist and Daoist temple in the city.  There a monk splashed us with water (always welcome in the heat) and tied a yellow string around our wrists in case we forgot something.  Our sightseeing around the temple was interrupted by people who insisted on kneeling down to pray in front of the best photo opportunities.  Still we managed to get in some good shots once we elbowed the religious maniacs out of the way and then surrounded by our new monk induced aura of sanctity went out for more profane sightseeing.

The aura of sanctity lasted about thirty seconds before being burnt off in the sun along with the outer layers of our skin.  Despite the absence of divine protection we were driven around various buildings and Fort Cornwallis which was built by the British East India Company notionally to protect the locals from the Thais.  Obligatory historical buildings thus completed we were taken to a Chinese wharf.  When the Chinese first turned up they were effectively illegal immigrants so rather than build on land they constructed long wharves stretching out into the harbour and lived on those.  Some of them still do which means as we touristed our way along the wharf we were constantly peering into peoples living rooms.

After the Chinese wharf experience we had more free time which consisted of being abandoned in the middle of town and invited to make our own way back to the hotel unless we preferred to sleep in a doorway.  There was some debate over this but eventually the hotel won because all our stuff was there.

Penang is famous for its food for some reason.  We popped into a cafe partly because we were hungry but mainly because it was cool.  Here in recognition of Penang’s period of colonial oppression under the English the Transylvanian German and I ordered an English tea.  For the record “English tea” consisted of tea (or coffee), a slice of cake, cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam and cream.  The tea and coffee arrived first, then the cake and then the sandwiches.  After that we waited and then waited some more.  Eventually an apologetic functionary informed us there would be a delay on the scones.  We told him we had worked that out for ourselves.  Some time later a more senior functionary came over to tell us there would be a delay on the scones because they were cooking them.

By this point half of our dining companions had abandoned us with only a couple of noble souls waiting to guide rescuers to our sconeless corpses.  Eventually long after we had given up hope the scones arrived piping hot from the oven or possibly from being left outdoors for thirty seconds.  They were very nice if you like salt with jam and cream.

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