Sunday in Penang 2/8/2007, continued (finally!)

Gosh, Sunday was a long time ago! Let's see, I think we got as far with Sunday's whirlwind activities as the mosque and the Blue Mansion when I had to quit rambling for the day. After the Blue Mosque we went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch -- I had a lot of things I never even heard of before, with Yumi as a very knowledgable guide. My favorite was a fish roll coated in a batter that included seaweed, deep-fried and then dipped in a special sauce to eat. So tasty, as was everything. Then we went to a batik production site and store. I was surprised to find that Malaysian batik is done differently from what I have seen in Java. Here the main technique is to draw the outlines of a design with the melted wax, either free-hand or using blocks, but then instead of dipping in a series of dyes with more wax in between the dippings, they brush the dyes into the various sections that have been divided by the wax. So more of a painting process than a dying one. Very interesting to me, of course, I always like to see how people make things. And very lovely. The work is done on silk, cotton, or a silk/cotton blend that they refer to as rayon (at least, that's what it sounded like when the clerk said it). Fun place to shop. They also do batik paintings that are intended to be mounted without backing, and hung either with a back light or in a window, so that the light glows through it -- quite lovely. We were puzzled as to why they kept turning off the store lights, until these paintings were demonstrated to us!

After shopping, it was temple time. First we attempted to visit two Hindu temples, but both were closed so we could only view the flamboyant exteriors -- they just had a big festival this weekend, so I guess they were worn out! Then Jason joined us and we found yet another Hindu temple down in Little India, which was indeed open. A decidely brusque priest? monk? somebody who belonged there, anyway, dabbed our foreheads with red to indicate the third eye of inner vision, demanded payment, and then let us look around the temple. [it just started pouring rain here, I'm glad I came back to the hotel when I did!] The temple was rather small, low-ceilinged, many-pillared, with many colorful statues of goddesses, pink elephants, etc. It was very interesting, though none of us had very much idea of just what it was we were seeing. Very colorful inside and out, no particular color scheme, they include all the colors of the rainbow in a vibrant jumble.

Next, Khoo Kongsi, the clanhouse of the Khoo clan. The most ornate Buddhist temple I've seen yet (which is saying something!), every inch of every surface is decorated in some style or other, and the whole thing has been recently restored with exquisite care (earned a special Unesco award) so it was an impressive place to see. Decorations include gilding, multi-layered 3-dimensional stone carving, water color painting, wood carving, mosaic, ceramic cut-and-paste work . . . it was dizzying! But there is an overriding color scheme -- a predominance of red, yellow and blue, accents of green, and of course lots of gold and gilding (except the watercolors, which tend to be quite delicate pastels). The clan complex also includes an outdoor stage, used primarily in the Ghost Month, when operas are performed with the spirits of the dead as the primary target audience (live people can watch, but they're not the audience that matters), and on the lower level of the temple, a little museum telling the history of the Khoo clan.

Not far from Khoo Kongsi is a small Taoist temple (the name escapes me at the moment) which added yet another religion to our Sunday. Similar in style to the Buddhist temples here, also very Chinese in design though in this case, at least, not so ornate. The main thing I noticed here is that they burn lots of big joss sticks. Very smoky. In place of Buddhas, they have statues to the three Pure Gods. Murals showed human scenes, rather than images of gods. I found it odd that through a side doorway of the main hall of the temple was an eatery! Not sure if it's actually run by the temple, or if space is just that tight! Someone in the cafe had a little dog with her -- maybe a Pekinese? -- while we were there the dog trotted through the temple and out to the street! Fortunately someone ran right after it -- wouldn't last long the way Malaysians drive!

That concluded our sightseeing for the day. Went back to Jason and Yumi's apartment complex and had supper at their courtyard eatery (people here don't tend to cook at home much, restaurant food is quite cheap, home kitchens are cramped, and cooking heats up the house! Also, refrigerators are very small, those who cook generally go to the markets in the morning to get the day's meat and vegetables, none of our buying-ahead! Produce really is very fresh here.) Jason had to go to a student recital, so Yumi and I spent a little time just chatting and relaxing, and she showed me some of the beautiful Chinese antiques Jason has collected, before I went back to my hotel.

There! Finally caught up! I'll write about today shortly, but not in the same message.

Love to all,


Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to