|A beautiful 200 year-old mosque.
January 24, 2008
A much better day today. It’s so nice to say that.
We were off and running quite early. 6:45am, to be exact. We needed to get to the hospital at 7am so that Michelle could meet
with the doctor (since he was out yesterday for the Thaipusam holiday). The guy was freakin’ funny. Talk about a doctor with
a personality. He was pushing for Michelle to have one last test done – she agreed to it. Almost three hours later, we were all
done there and that would be the last we would see of Island Hospital in Penang. Everyone was beyond great and efficient
there…but let’s just say that Michelle is more than happy to be done with that place.
We eventually got back to our hotel. We actually stayed at quite a historical place out here. It’s called the Cheong Fatt Tze
Mansion. It won an award from UNESCO in 2000 for the best restoration project of that year. It was also featured in the film
IndoChine (with Catherine Deneuve) back in the day. They offer tours daily to the public – but if you stay here, you can just
join along with any of the tours. So that’s what we did after having breakfast. I guess this mansion is almost perfection when it
comes to feng shui. Even the shutters perfectly represent yin (bad energy) and yang (good energy). The details of this place
are eye-catching. I kept thinking about my friend Christine who is a great photographer and thinking that this place would be
eye candy for her and her camera. After this, we decided to see a bit of the Georgetown area.
It almost felt like a treat being able to walk around and see Penang. Yesterday, that was the last thing on our minds. Not only
that, I was more than okay with not seeing any of this city. I remember telling Michelle while she was in the hospital bed (as
the nurses were saying that she might need to stay for a couple days) telling her “Who cares about this city? There are just
colonial buildings. Big deal.” And that is how we both truly felt yesterday (though I think Michelle would have traded seeing
anything other than the hospital room she was in). That said, it was a treat to be able to see this city. After all, 24-hours earlier
it didn’t even seem like a possibility.
The Chinese temples that were sprinkled throughout the colonial-style streets were beautiful. We stopped by one of the older
Chinese historical temples that seemed to double as a school (before the Japanese dropped bombs on it in 1942). There, a
sweet Malaysian man gave us a tour. Of course the one thing that crossed my mind was ‘I wonder how much of a tip he’s going
to expect for this’ – and that was fine because it would have been well-deserved – but I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with
the amount of tip being balked at.
But that was the last thing on his mind. When we were upstairs, he wanted to take a picture of me and Michelle. Then he
wanted each of us to take a picture with him. It turned out that all he wanted in return was for me to send him the pictures.
How cute is that? He had pieces of paper with his name and address. I thanked him and promised him I would send those to
him (I figure I can print these out in Singapore and send them out from there). He also showed us where he was going to put
the pictures – we’re going to be going on the Tourist Wall of Fame (okay, it’s not really called that) at the Cheah Kongsi
From there we passed the picture-perfect mosque. We decided to test our luck and see if we could enter. We could. But our
timing was a bit off as the prayer call started just a minute later (there’s a sign that says to not visit within 15 minutes of
prayer call). But a local (who was as nice as could be) who prays at the mosque daily decided to take us around – if for no other
reason than so that the men there wouldn’t give us dirty looks. I laughed a bit. But then he smiled and said he was totally
serious. Oh. Oops. As I said, the mosque was beautiful. At least where the men got to pray. The women’s section was much
smaller and felt removed from the beauty of the mosque. But this man was teaching us a few things about Islam. For example,
it’s the woman’s choice to come here and pray while the men have to come. He also asked where we were from. When hearing
we were from America, he said “So being from America, you might be Jewish. Are you Jewish?” I paused before saying “No.”
(I would sooo fail a lie detector test with delays like these!) Then he told us that Islam is the most similar to the Jewish religion.
He proceeded to tell us that Jerusalem used to be their holiest place in the world. It was only later that Mecca became the
holiest. This was all news to me. I think I will Wikipedia this at some point to find out all of the details as I was finding this all
We made our way back to our hotel. The people there were incredible – one of the men told Michelle how sorry he was. He
even offered us a room for tonight on them. What a sweet offer. However, we already booked something at the beach
somewhat nearby in Batu Ferringhi. We both really found beauty in this city – but I know Michelle especially was looking
forward to spending some time near the coast. If for no other reason, at least she could be a little more at ease.
I just need to emphasize how absolutely wonderful all of the Malaysians have been when they have found out what happened
to Michelle. It is such a shame for them to have people like these motorbike drivers harm their city and their country’s
reputation. And we talked to many locals who have also been victims of such theft – fortunately for the people we spoke to,
none of them had to experience physical harm.
Our night ended with a beautiful sunset and a very nice and relaxing dinner at the Shangri-La resort near our hotel. It’s
actually getting quite easy to build good memories here.
|The sweet man that showed us around the
|In front of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.