Finally Seeing Penang

By Jane Mountain | May 24, 2014

14,329 km so far.

Though we’d decided to get up early and ride to “the hill”, a rainforested hilly area just outside of George Town, a half-asleep early morning resetting of the alarm meant we didn’t set off until around 10am.

Honestly, I was tempted to call the whole thing off, but Stephen convinced me it would be worthwhile.

You Drive Me Crazy

The driving in Penang is insane.

People are aggressive behind the wheel but they have a complete lack of driving ability. Very bad combination. Even though there are lots of sharrows everywhere, bikes are clearly not welcome on the cramped maze-like roads.

To make matters worse, there are barely any traffic lights around the city. Roads are one-way thoroughfares, which you have to merge into and out of if you want to turn the corner.

This meant that we had to force our way across two or three lanes of steady, fast traffic every time we wanted to make a right turn. Stephen is pretty good at this; I am not. I hate it.

It’s a shame, because in every other way, George Town/Penang seems like a great little liveable city. But I would go crazy every time I had to go anywhere.

Temple Touring

I will let Stephen explain why he wanted to visit a Hindu temple in Malaysia.

Stephen Says…

I had heard there were some impressive Hindu temples in Penang, and thought we should try and see one or two of them.

Many of the Indians who live here came from Tamil Nadu, a state in the south of India, which is where my philosophy teacher’s teacher was from. Because of this, I felt that I would be able to relate to the temples in a way that might not be the case if the Indians here were from, say, Maharashtra.

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple, set high on the hill above Penang, is the biggest, most famous of the temples here. It is also the largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia.

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in Penang.

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in Penang.

The main temple on the site is dedicated to the deity Murugan, who was Ganesha’s brother.

A smaller temple to Ganesha is situated at the bottom of the long staircase you have to climb to get to Murugan’s temple.

murugan temple penang

5 elephant heads and a lion in the temple below Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple.

I loved walking through the temple grounds, talking to a few priests, watching one perform a ceremony to bless a new-born boy, and seeing all the different statues to the deities I know so much about.

Jane’s note: I loved watching the monkeys eat coconuts that had been smashed at the temple.

monkey with coconut in malaysia

I think we saw more monkeys than dogs on our Malaysian cycle tour.

It is strange to feel so comfortable, and at home, in a place that is so foreign.

Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple, Penang.

Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple, Penang.

No No No No No

A little further on from the temple is the botanic gardens, a big park-like area at the foot of the hill. On arriving, we were happy to see a nicely paved road winding through the gardens, meaning we could stay on our bikes as we appreciated the cool of the park.

View of Penang from the hill.

View of Penang from the hill.

We rode past the guards at the entrance, and were happily riding along the shaded, empty (except for us and a few monkeys) path. After about 10 minutes riding around, a security guard on a scooter approached us angrily.

“No no no no no,” he said, gesturing towards the exit. It didn’t take us long to figure out that he didn’t want us riding our bikes on the wide, empty road through the park.

Since I had just taken the camera out to get another picture of some monkeys, it was a minute before I was ready to leave. As I was putting the camera away, the guard kept angrily waving and pointing at Stephen.

No no no no no!

We have found that people in this city, unlike anyone we’ve met almost anywhere in Asia, like their rules. We’ve been told off for leaning our bikes against posts, for walking down a certain side alleyway, and for riding our bikes in the gardens, where there are absolutely no signs indicating you should not ride your bikes.

Ah well, we’d had enough sightseeing for one day anyway.

We turned our steeds for home and spent the rest of the afternoon working. We are now in the soft launch phase of Stephen’s new website design. There are still a few features to be added, but the bulk of the work is done. Hurrah!  


  1. Comment by Cassie

    Cassie May 27, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Love the monkey eating coconut photos!! Also love that you’re breaking the rules ;)

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen May 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Rules are for fools!

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