Like my trips to Austin, I also had two opportunities of visiting the island of Penang on the western coast of peninsular Malaysia. First trip I had was for a week for a summit meeting for our project with Dell and the second was again for the Dell Penang Facility for deployment support.
It was in August of 2004 when we had this trip to Penang, my second entry to Malaysia after a very brief entry to Johor Bahru during my first trip to Singapore three months earlier. Also, this was quite an exciting trip that our colleagues in WeServ joked at us for having an Amazing Race-like trip that month. This was because two weeks earlier we flew into Austin, Texas and I flew back and forth to Los Angeles and flew back home to Manila to fly to Penang the next day. It was such a ride.
And so from Manila, along with 3 colleagues we boarded a Malaysia Airline flight to Penang connecting through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which I thought was very gloomy. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 7pm to connect to a 10pm flight to Penang. We arrived in Penang just before midnight and we had our first blooper in Malaysia. That is when our hotel driver walked us to our car, we all headed to the right side of the van. We were surprised that there was no door on that side only to remember that Malaysian driving is right-handed.
We spent most of the day Dell Penang Facility on the mainland in Butterworth. Butterworth is an industrial site where most manufacturing companies are located. We were just booked on the Penang island within Georgetown as most hotels and commercial centers are located. To go to the Dell Facility, we had to take a hour’s drive across the beautiful Penang Bridge. And at nights we just spend some time dining around Georgetown and in Gurney Plaza.
On our weekend there, the day before our return to Manila, we took a cab to drive us north of the island to Batu Ferringhi. It is where major resorts are located and the night market. We walked a few minutes to the beach side to watch the sunset before going around the night market. And in this trip is when I was introduced to the delicious Malaysian barbecue called the Satay. Also it was in Batu Ferrighi where I was able to by my souvenir plate of Malaysia.
Over all, that 2004 trip was very brief that I had no opportunity to see much of the island and so I was very blessed to be able to get back in 2006 for two weeks with four other colleagues to support our deployment again for Dell. This time I was able to see more of the island.
During this second trip we flew into Penang on board a Singapore Airline and connecting us through Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Also this time we were booked at the Traders Hotel beside one of Penang’s most distinguishable landmark, the Komtar.
Since we stayed there longer and had 2 days free during the weekend, along with two colleagues we rented a cab to give us a tour around the tourist spots on the island. Our other colleagues had other minds of going around the island with our American Dell counterparts.
In our itinerary that day, our first stop was the giant sleeping Buddha at the Wat Chatyamangalaran Thai Buddhist Temple. Outside the structure are enormous soldier statues that are beautifully and colorfully adorned with gold plating and dragons. Within the enclosed temple lie the giant lady Buddha which spanned about 50 feet, I think. Other Buddha figures are placed before and around it as well.
Next we crossed the street from the Thai temple to the Burmese Buddhist Temple. This temple had a different Buddha and this was stands high for about 30 feet maybe and also adorned with gold finish and around it are intricate wood carvings. Also around it are other Buddha images of other Buddhist countries. The main building of the temple is also different from its neighbor though although gold lined, it’s roof is has very intricate design.
Our next stop was the Tropical Spice Garden. It is a garden that according to the reception takes about an hour to go around for a certain fee. And due to our limited taxi time, we opted just to take pictures at the gate and did not bother going around. Then next in our destination is the Batik factory. Batik is a local fabric that is manually painted and designed. These are very common in the Malay countries and are used as clothing mostly for women.
Next stop is the Penang Butterfly Farm. Farm is located near the center of the island past the reservoir. Well it is like any other butterfly farm that I have been where the garden is filled with tropical plants and orchids and of course hundreds of butterflies of different species. The farm also had scorpions, spiders, and alligator snapping turtles. The also had a museum filled with dried butterflies of different species. After the butterfly farm, we intended to go to the Tropical Fruits Farm but our taxi time is up. So instead we stopped by a stall of durian vendors to taste some . One of my friends, Lucy, wanted to try the durian here to compare its taste from the once she has tasted in the Mindanao. Well, she liked it a lot but the rest of us did not. Durian is not a taste for me.
On our last week in Penang after staying the the Dell Facility for about 32 hours straight, I was able to get some sleep at the hotel and some free hours after that. It was a Wednesday and I made a solo walking tour around the Georgetown area. I walked from the Komtar area and past the Kapitan Keling Mosque where the street across it cobbled. I walked past Little India where the money changers are located. Then I headed strait to the old quarters of the town and into its historic commercial center at Beach Street where some colonial buildings are still located in good condition. I also went past the Town Hall and ended at the coast line near the port area. Also located across the town hall is the Fort Cornwallis, a fortress that used to be the main defense of the island in the colonial times.
I stayed in the seaside area until dusk then headed on the same route to our hotel. On the way back, I again stopped at the Mosque that was beautifully lighted. I walked around the building to check out how the Muslims do their prayers out of curiosity. One guy even noticed me and invited me inside but I did not as I had to go back to the hotel. The next day I again went back to Batu Ferringhi to buy some souvenirs at the night market and to eat some satay at the hawkers area. It was in this trip that I was able to buy a souvenir of the miniature of the Petronas towers.
On our trip back to Manila, we again connected through Singapore where we have decided to go out of the airport and checkout the surroundings as my two colleagues who are coming home with me have not been to Singapore. We just took the MRT until the Tanah Merah station and went back to the airport after a few minutes. It was a short connection that we had to run to our gates to catch our flight to Manila.