Clan Jetties of Penang

Wake up at The Frame in the same bed with MacKay, both in our skivvies, and it’s basically this classic Candy Martin scene but with more coughing.

Clean up and head downstairs for some coffee. The Frame is a rustic, concrete and edison bulbs kind of place. Good vibe here, travelers going about their breakfast routines quietly to themselves. Doesn’t seem to be a mingling crowd, mostly solo folks on laptops, but that’s all good.

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Now how do you work this damn coffee machine? The buttons are written in Malay or something and I feel like I’ve pushed every one of them. Combinations? The guy who checked us in last night sees me struggling and comes over to help. Does this guy sleep? He waves his hands like a magician and whispers “hocus pocus!”, hits one button and coffee starts filling my cup. No. How? He points to a button on the back. Ahhhhh ok.

This dude seems interesting. He’s a quiet talker, barely audible sentences and I feel I’m only picking up 40% of what he actually says but he’s nice as can be and helpful. I go back to the front with him and get our room booked for another night.

MacKay is up and about now so it’s time to get out into Georgetown and see what the capital of Penang is all about. Another UNESCO heritage site and former British settled trading port, again with large Chinese influence. Our taxi driver also filled us in on some gastronomical suggestions last night, should be interesting.

We leave The Frame and head  North Eastwards towards the water and a hospital I looked up. While my cough seemed to be getting better I was a little worried about my eyes that were still red and stinging. All this despite our bromantic new ritual of Boxer Time plus MacKay pouring drops in my eyes just before sleepy time. So sassy, so reeeeeal.

Our initial walkabout scores little in the way of tourism for some reason, but we do pass by a collection of badass architecture and old colonial estates, one of which was turned into an art college.

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We find the hospital and I go check in. Nice modern place, totally the opposite of the shitshow in Yangon. We start getting odd looks because we’re the only ones in here sweating profusely. Everyone else is wearing jeans and hoodies, it makes no sense to me to be that acclimated to this humidity.

My number gets called and I give the receptionist an overview of symptoms. She tells me to go upstairs and check in with an eye specialist whose name she writes on a card.  While I’m doing this, MacKay comes over with some totally ridiculous iced chocolate mochas with ice cream and whipped cream. They’re gigantic and delicious. Now we’re really getting some odd looks as we’re two sweating white dudes browsing the second floor for an eye specialist and sucking back these massive iced mochas.

I find the right area and show the name on the card, pointing to my eyes and the clock. They get across that they can’t see me until 2:30 (4-5 hours from now). Hmmmm that will pretty much break up our day and turn the whole Georgetown experience into being about this trip to the hospital. Fuck it. We decide to just continue the whole self diagnosis thing and hit up the next pharmacy we find for doxi and anti-bac eye drops. It’s just my eyes, I’m sure it’s fine..

We loop around and head back towards The Frame. We’re in a residential zone now beside a large outdoor grass area with multiple soccer and baseball fields on it. Some tennis and basketball courts too. Kind of reminds me of the Commons area back home in Halifax.

Georgetown has an interesting vibe to it. Relaxed, almost sleepy. Really colorful place and that mix of architecture that we’ve been seeing throughout Malaysia, the melting pot of cultural influences. I like walking through this area, it gives me the feeling of what it would be like to live here. And it feels comfortable and peaceful. We’ve somehow missed any sort of touristy place on our walk around this heritage city so far but we’re really enjoying it nonetheless.

We get back to a main road and head southwards again towards the hostel. There is a large banner by the road showing mosquitoes and how to protect yourself from the Zika virus. “Dude, you totally have Zika!”, “I do not…” and I start looking at the symptoms on the banner. Coughing, red eyes, tired… “Fuck man, maybe I do have Zika”, “Haha you’ve got zika for sure, don’t get Queenie preggers any time soon.” Although we’re laughing our asses off about this, the whole situation is only partially funny.

We come to a spot called Nagore Square that seems somehow significant and dip in to take a look. Looks like this is the party zone of Georgetown with numerous establishments through a long street and accompanying walkway. Drink specials galore but none of the places are open midday. We tour through and take a mental note in case we want to hit this up later in the day.

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Alright, that got our drinkometers revving and now we’re craving a beer and some AC away from this humidity. We stumble upon a little craft beer kind of spot called Two Buns that looks like it’ll do the job. The unbelievably tall Malay hipster working there recommends some bottled English beers I’ve never heard of before and we sit for a bit and cool down. Better than the usual asian lagers but nothing memorable.

Ok a couple beers in and we’re back at The Frame to jump on wifi and figure this town out a little more. Some people do this sort of thing months in advance. We didn’t even know we’d be in Malaysia actually and now it’s turning into one of my favorite spots on the trip.

Low and behold we’re pretty much in the perfect location to walk to every cool sight in Georgetown and somehow on our morning jaunt we just managed to miss all of them. Next up then is the Clan Jetties just down the street on the water.

Gangsters of Penang
Some pretty cool history here, back in the late 1800s the wharves by the Quay were built up to manage the mooring of boats and the loading and unloading of goods. Naturally this fostered some competition and so people started to live on the wharves, mainly Chinese clans. Soon each jetty was associated with a given Chinese clan and lots of gangster shit was going down. Leonardo DiCaprio was basically running one dock and Daniel Day-Lewis, aka ‘The Butcher’, was regulating in some rival gang just a few wharves down. Things got bloody. Pretty sure there was a deadly boat chase. Anyways, now it’s all open to tourists.

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We walk down a couple of these Jetties, most notably Chew Jetty, and they are kind of awesome. Little huts built up on stilts in the water off the wharves with parking for scooters in the front and boats in the back. Chew Jetty even had an old Chinese temple on it. Great views of the waterfront, really neat spot.

People are still living here though, you can see right into their daily lives as you pass through, so we didn’t really dip into any of the huts or the temple. Another interesting tidbit is they haven’t ever paid taxes because they don’t live on land.

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Here’s a view from one Jetty out to another:

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There may have been some talk of throwing a Narcopiggy hostel up right here and not paying taxes…

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Well that was cool. Up next is Fort Cornwallis!

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