Friday, 28 January 2011

Georgetown, Malaysia

In Georgetown I was very lucky again. Although the whole town was pretty much fully booked due to the upcoming Chinese New Year festival I got a very nice and cheap room in the very first hotel I asked. For 6 EUR I had a single room, even with my own shower. And of course, around the corner were plenty of food stalls and an internet cafe for 0,50 EUR per hour. Well, I ended up staying for 5 days....

Before I came to Malaysia I had always thought that it is a Muslim country. But inside the country I had to learn that this is not always the case. Some provinces are mostly Muslim, but the province of Penang for example is predominantly Chinese.

Buddhist Temple
Some historical anecdote here: When both Malaysia and Singapore gained independence from the British they were both ONE country for a couple of years. But then Malaysia decided to more or less "expel" Singapore. Why? Singapore is big and predominantly Chinese - in a combined country the Chinese would have been the majority. But Malaysian politicians wanted a Muslim country - and therefore decided to get rid of Singapore to outbalance the majority.

Georgetown has a lot of Chinese monuments - for example the Chinese clan houses. When the Chinese came first to Malaysia in the late 1800s they formed clans to help each other according to the region where they came from. When these clans got wealthier and wealthier their clan houses or meeting places cum temple got more luxurious - and are a big tourist attraction now.

Chinese Temple
Another Chinese monument is the Sun Yat Sen house - don't worry: I had not heard of Sun Yet Sen before either. Sun Yat Sen became the first president of the Republic of China in 1912 after the overthrow of the Chinese monarchy. As a revolutionary and political leader he was not liked in China before 1912 - actually there was a bounty on his head and therefore he was hiding in Georgetown for many years and planning the revolution from there. The house were he lived in is a museum now.

Fun War Museum?
But there are other, rather weird monuments as well, like an old British fort converted in a war fun park cum paintball now. The fort was built by the British in the 1930's in expectation of a Japanese attack. But when the attack came, the fort fell quickly and was occupied by the Chinese until the British regained it at the end of WWII. The fort is situated in the outskirts of Penang smack bang in the jungle. And despite the outrageously high entrance fee it was an interesting site. The new owners have "rejuvenated" the fort, added some rather tacky attractions for the daily night tour (advertised with "Don't miss the fun") and also created a paintball war game zone. The result is some Rocky Horror War Show Malaysian style..


Monte Clifford said...

Did you join in the paintball games?

Anonymous said...

Capt Francis Light who founded Georgetown was the father of Col William Light who designed Adelaide in South Aust so the two cities have a Light link.