DAY 34 - 13 February 2023
CURRENT POSITON: OVERNIGHT IN SIGNAPORE
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
PORT VISIT UPDATE - PENANG, MALAYSIA
Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia and the eight most populous. Old Penang invokes images of the slow-paced lifestyle of merchants and planters in the Far East. European culture mixes with Eastern customs: colonial buildings stand next to wooden houses; and rick-saw pullers share their road space with bullocks.
Penang’s capital is Georgetown which combines endless rows of 100-year-old shophouses and colonial villas with priceless architecture that give the city its distinctive atmosphere.
Penang is proud of its UNESCO World Heritage status and vast efforts are underway to protect, preserve and promote Georgetown. The state and city authorities work with conservation specialists to sustain and manage the physical side of the city and historians and art organisations lead in promoting culture and educational activities.
Once a British trading post and settlement located on the North East quarter of Penang, a George Town was named after the British King George 111. George Town is a cultural melting pot with people from China, Malaya and India forming the largest part of the countries two million residents.
Penang gained independence from the British in 1957 but there are still many British and European influences and an identifiable appreciation of the country who ruled them. The secret to this continuing relationship is a direct result of the prosperity the settlers brought to the island of Penang.
The British introduced rubber trees and palm oil - Brazil brought coffee – and Penang has powerful resources of oil and gas with which to develop their economy. The country exports coffee beans and in a new development, following a visit of Penang’s 92-year-old Prime Minister, the Belgium company accepted an invitation to bring their chocolate making skills to Penang and. combine their exports withe the flourishing coffee trade. This innovative approach to partnership and the foresight of their beloved Prime Minister, allows the government stores to sell Belgium chocolate made in Malaysia.
These natural resources building the income means the country has work for their many incoming residents. Hindus, Muslims, Chinese and Europeans get along together in the best interests of the public and country.
Driving down the street known as Millionaires’’ Road, expensive buildings and high rise residences ensure that property prices stay high enough that only the rich can afford them. Workers and their families live further out of town to establish their communities, Many old colonial buildings have been restored to their former glory, often combining the newly restored exteriors incorporated to new high-rise seafront condominium towers for wealthy locals and cash-rich visitors.
One such super-wealthy trader owned a mansion in the centre of town where he and his family lived in extravagance and were treated as royalty because of their ostentatious extravagance. The two-story Mansion built in 1897, is now run by a foundation of ancestors of the original owner. The Mansion is designed to elevate the family beyond all of their neighbours and the vast historical collections of marble sculptures, table figurines, glass lamps, furniture, jewellery, clothing, paintings and an abundance of exotic floral bouquets and gold filigree are to be seen everywhere. A gilded palace.
The George Town Mansion welcomes visitors with its grand tiled foyer, formal dining room, with the table dressed and awaiting the arrival of quests, receiving rooms and rooms to entertain the daily Visitors and officials who called to gaze upon the style and wealth of the family whose origins were a combination of Chinese /Malay. The jewellery collection of the Highest Mistress of the household adds up to the GDP of a small country. Walking must have been almost impossible once she was adorned in heavy chains, gold, diamonds, precious stones and jade. Worth more than her weight in gold.
A highly trained staff of servants, hosts and sales people ensure the smooth running of the household and take pleasure in pointing out and showing off all the treasures. “Sit, sit, “ urged one uniformed official, “imagine you are enjoying dinner at this massive table with your husband surrounded by your distinguished guest. We offer you to experience what it must have been like to live here.”
Tourists in their shorts and t-shirts and carrying back packs could hardly look less like the kind of people who would have been entertained in the grand palace but it’s fun to pretend.
The nearby Buddhist temple to which we moved showed the golden side of worship at the temple of the largest reclining Buddha in the world. Surrounded by goddesses and sacred animals the statue dominates the temple with hundreds of burning candle, tinkling bells and flower offering. Taking off shoes is a requirement for stepping inside the temple and showing respect. An atmosphere of serenity and harmony pervades the temple and is powerful even through the mists of incense and constant chanting.
The mood when leaving the Temple , is one in hopeful anticipation that prayers to the Buddha and his golden gods and goddesses will bring about the reality of wishes being granted. The order of visits was coincided with the many other tourists visiting this sacred place. It is hard not to be awestruck by the joyful golden and red ornamentation of the temples and the high-rise buildings behind the temple that overlook the ancient sites.
Heading off for lunch, it became obvious that Gold was the theme of the day. The Golden Sands Resort, Shangri-La is a modern hotel with sweeping architectural features and hundreds of colourful bougainvillea blooms falling from each balcony.
The five-star resort Is on the beach and the wide-open areas of landscaping and palm trees produce a feeling or tranquillity and peace. The restaurant invited us to help ourselves to a buffet with a mouth-watering selection of soup, salads, pasta, meat dishes, fish dishes - all on display in a vast dining room, probably three times as large as we have on the ship. Delicate flower decorated desserts, hot and cold drinks and juices were all on offer. And it’s self -service. Before leaving the ship, we were made aware that many places still insisted on our wearing masks, that proved not to be the case. Retailers and hotel staff were not masked but a few cruise passengers choose to keep theirs on.
The resort was welcoming in its hospitality and the warm sunshine made everything bright and beautiful and beckoned to stay longer. However, that’s not the spirit of a Grand Tour shore excursion . Escorts, guides and drivers are constantly marshalling their flocks and making sure they move on to the next place of interest - on schedule.
A long drive up steep and winding mountain roads, brings us to a Malay village. Wooden houses are lovingly maintained covered in colourful flowers in small holdings where the temperate weather provides a home for fruits, plants and flowers to grow and flourish.
The Malay people are friendly and charming and though their life is simple, and most are poor, their lifestyle is presented with humour and grace. To be an honoured guest in their homes is a humbling experience.
An overall impression of Penang has to be that whatever is being done to keep the population in work, housed and family centred, offers an enriching look at a lifestyle where more often leads to attitudes where they think less is not enough. Not here in this country, their simplicity and happy acceptance delivers a message of hope and peace.
The rich man’s palace, Buddha’s Temple, a Malay village home all feel like viable alternatives to a Western life of hustle and bustle and chasing the dollar or the euro – or the British pound.
The driver navigates his way back down the narrow roads and on the return to the ship we travel down Harmony road where Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Chinese places of worship all coexist peacably.
There was one regret for me on my Penang trip. I planned to wave down a passing rick-shaw driver and have him bring me back to the ship. Our coach party were already running late when we arrived back at the ship for Sail Away. The sight of me arriving in a pedal-powered rickshaw may not have been appreciated by the officers and security manning the gangways waiting for late arrivals.
Next time I visit, I’ll make sure to travel in rickshaw style. Like the people of Penang, the rick-shaw drivers are charming, friendly and a reminder of an old form of transport not yet made obsolete by the passing of time.
PENANG GALLERY (1)
(click to enlarge)
PENANG GALLERY (2)
(click to enlarge)
The journey Continues:
COMING UP: PORT KLANG & SINGAPORE
Current position of Queen Mary 2: (13 February 2023) - 16:13 gmt
SINGAPORE (OVERNIGHT) PORT CALL ONE OF TWO.
Time since arrival 11 hrs 52 min from Port Klang/Malaysia (at 07:00 h local time)
Time until departure 1 d 8 min to Laem Chabang/Thailand (at 19:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Dubai: 3,679.09 nm (6,813.67 km)
Happy Sailing ... The Journey continues... Ellen
NEXT PORT - PORT KLANG, MALAYSIA
12 February 2023
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.