April 13th, 2014
On Sunday we arrived in Penang, Malaysia, in the town of Georgetown - a UNESCO world heritage site because of its preservation of colonial architecture. It has many colonial buildings as well as preserved Malay "shop houses" - shops on the bottom, shuttered living quarters on top.
The town was closed up tight because it was Sunday but we managed to get to some sites. We were looking forward to seeing Wat Chayamangkalaram, a particularly beautiful Thai temple, but, because it was the Thai New Year, Songkran, the visit was cancelled with much protest from our group. It seems that Destination Services on the ship did not want to contend with unruly passengers with ruined cameras. The Thai New Year is noteworthy because it involves water - lots of it - to wash away the sins of the past year. The water comes in cups, buckets, and fire hoses so there is no way to stay dry. My camera was already starting to act up, anyway. Unbeknownst to me, going from AC to tropical humidity is death to a camera lens. You are supposed to wrap the camera in a plastic bag with moisture-absorbing gel-packs until it comes up to the local temperature. Who knew?
At any rate, the substitute for the Thai Temple was the Khoo Kongsi clan ancestral house. Clan houses are for families of a particular lineage. It's an odd combination of club house and temple - very ornate and full of symbolism.
We also went to the Chew Jetty. The jetty is made up of neighborhoods built on stilts that jut out into the bay. The government tried to get the inhabitants to move into more modern housing but there were massive protests as the settlements have existed for hundreds of years. Plus, because they are not theoretically on land, they don't have to pay taxes!
The weather continued to be very hot although we were acclimatizing to it a bit. I started rating the days with a "sticky index" - from 1- 10 - which measured just how uncomfortable we were at the end of the day. The ship, however, was wonderful and we spent a lot of time on our balcony, cooled by the sea breezes.