Last Friday noon at around 1pm, I arrived at Penang together with my colleague, Siew Kian to attend the second Blogfest Asia which will be held there from 1 to 3 Oct. We were promptly greeted at Penang International Airport by Forrest Choo, a Malaysian blogger who had volunteered his time to ferry foreign bloggers like Siew Kian and I to and from the airport.
Forrest drove Siew Kian and I to our allocated hotels, Hotel Royal and Hotel Malaysia respectively. We figured we will have a little time to do some exploring from then till the official welcome dinner at 7.3opm, hosted by Tourism Malaysia. Hence Siew Kian took a cab over to my hotel where we met up for lunch at a nearby coffeeshop serving Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶) and Niang Dou Fu (酿豆腐), before heading off to do some sight-seeing.
As we did not have much time, we decided to head to the Fort Cornwallis area where many attractions seems to be located, according to a free Penang tourist map we picked up at the airport.
Our first stop was Fort Cornwallis, an ancient fort built when Captain Francis Light first landed in Penang. Captain Francis Light btw, is the founder of Penang as a British colony in 1786. The fort was built to stand guard over the island’s cape. Throughout history, the fort was never engaged in any battles.
From Fort Cornwallis, we walked to the nearby Esplanade area where Penang City Hall and Town Hall are located. The former was built in 1903 and is the headquarters of the Penang Island Municipal Council. The latter was the previous social venue for Penang’s elitee back in the 1880′s. Both buildings are not open to public, hence we were only able to marvel at their colonial elegance from the outside.
From the Esplanade, we then walked to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, dedicated to the Chinese deity for compassion, Guan Yin (观音). The first foundation for this historical temple was laid in 1728 by Chinese settlers in Penang and completed in 1800. Devotees still stream to the temple in this modern day and age.
Beside the Goddess of Mercy Temple, there was a small Indian shrine, housing the Hindu deity, Ganesha (the god with the elephant head). A priest was scrubbing the shrine when we passed by.
I find it interesting that it is not only in Singapore where different religious institutions can co-exist side-by-side. This happens in multi-racial Malaysia too.
We then made our way to the Mahamariamman Temple nearby, located in Penang’s Little India. Built in 1883, it is the oldest Hindu temple in George Town. A distinctive feature of the temple is said to be its Gopuram with 38 exquisitely carved Hindu deities.
Next, we decided to head back to Hotel Malaysia to catch the free shuttle bus provided to ferry us to the welcome dinner venue.
It was a relatively long walk, but the sights along the way were pretty fascinating. A walk thorugh the streets of Penang is like walking back in time when Singapore was still a British colony. I got trigger-happy with my camera and began snapping one too many shots.
As it was approaching dinner time, a lot of roadside food vendors began to make their appearance. I was drawn to order a banana lassi drink from one of these stalls.
Along the way back, we happen to pass by the Penang Hainan Temple. Found in 1866, the temple is dedicated to the patron saint of seafarers, the goodess, Mar Chor (妈祖). The present colourful building was built in 1895 and restored in 1995.
Next, we chanced upon the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion or the “Blue Mansion”, the former home of tycoon, Cheng Fatt Tze (張弼士). It is a famous location to film movie and television series because of its beautiful architecture.
We also passed by the Benggali Mosque, founded in 1803. It was built on land granted by the East India Company.
Exhausted after visiting practically all the iconic places of worships in the Penang core tourist zone, we headed back to Hotel Malaysia, about just in time to catch the shuttle bus to QEII at Pengkalan Weld, where the official Blogfest Asia 2010 welcome dinner was hosted.
We bumped into fellow Singaporean blogger, Silver Ang, at the dinner. Silver had came to Penang a day earlier than us and had went for the official half day tour which Siew Kian and I had missed in the morning due to our arrival timing.
Bubbly and pretty Silver was a people-magnet. A lot of bloggers and journalists popped by to greet us because of her. Thanks to Silver, I got interviewed along with her by a journalist from Sin Chew Daily (星洲日报) which got us featured in the Sunday newspaper.
After a night of mingling and name card exchanging, it was time to head back to the hotel to rest. I was still a little hungry when I got back, hence I ordered a burger from a roadside stall opposite my hotel for supper.
This concludes day one. Stay tuned for my updates on the Blogfest Asia conference on the second and third day.
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