Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Random Acts of Art and Beauty

29 April 2014

We're still hanging out in Georgetown, having fun and waiting for our costume fitting call.  Or maybe just a call saying "you don't have the look we need."  At any rate, we're enjoying Georgetown and the environs, and aren't worrying about the call we have not yet received.

We moved from the 1926 Heritage Hotel, which we enjoyed, to a big multilevel modern hotel closer to the center of town.  Not that we didn't want to stay at the 1926.  But since we travel without a plan, and don't know how long we'll be in a place, we tend to just book one week at a time at any given hotel.  Then, when we decide to stay longer, the hotel often doesn't have a room available.  So we switch hotels.

Anyway, we're at the Hotel Continental, on the 18th floor.  AMAZING views of the Straits of Malacca and the bridge to the mainland off to the south, the continuing shoreline off to the north, and the hills in the center of the island off to the west(ish), which look very moody and atmospheric with morning mist and fog.  Plus, of course, wonderful views of old Georgetown - a patchwork of terra cotta and green and grey shingle roofs interspersed with tall modern buildings where some lovely old place was obviously torn down.  We can see temples both Buddhist and Hindu, mosques, and maybe one or two churches from our window on high.

And of course a few murals, most notably the trishaw driver just beyond the parking lot, and where there's usually a line up of trishaw drivers waiting for tourists.

The parking lot is for the Red Garden - that's www.redgardenfood.com

This is a night market and food court and Malaysian fast food center all rolled into one.  Under a big sprawl of red roofs, there are food stands built into the structure, each just a small kitchen with cooktop and storage space, serving just about every Asian cuisine imaginable.  Hungry tourists, locals, neighbours, workers, children, grandparents, everyone comes in and wanders around, ordering satay or briyani or tom yam or penang chicken rice or mee goring or nasi lemak or tempura or sushi - and all you do is tell the chef at the stand what you want, and what table you're sitting at.  They come out with a plate of food.  You pay them.  There are separate staff people who come around and ask what you want for a drink - they take your order and bring it back to your table, you pay the few ringgits.  Really, I had chicken tandoori with veggie briyani one night, it came to $6 or so, and was such a huge portion I ate half and had the other half for lunch the next day.  Two sushi rolls for 10 ringgit, or about $3 US.  Tonight was chicken satay - 10 skewers and fabulous sauce for 9 ringgits.  

It's like an open-air market for fast food.  Great for people watching, inexpensive food, music in the background, and live music later into the evening.  The place has an energy and pulse all its own.

And check out the neon sign - it's a pulsating light show!  Really, the two photos are different, just moments apart!

On Sundays, in the other direction, there's the Little Penang Street Market - a combination of a food, arts and crafts, and flea market event filling the street under tents.  Interesting, and I found some lovely earrings.  (Such nice souvenirs, LOL - there's always room to slip an extra pair of earrings into a bag.)

I found this odd red/pink/white display at one end of the market, looking more like a wedding than a street market, but hey, it was pretty, I took photos.  NO idea what it really was all about, but I just liked it.

Our hotel is also up the street and around the corner from the Purrfect Cat Café, so of course I've been back a few times.  It's great to order an iced latte or something, go upstairs to play with a kitty or two, and just relax and cool off with a cold drink and a cat playing at your feet.  Or stealing your straw.  

My favourite kitty is definitely Bear - she has the colouring of a Russian Blue, but the face and ears of a Scottish fold.  Just so adorable.  (She went over to every single cat and woke them up for a little cuddle and lick and maybe a bite.  She's truly a character!)

As usual, with walking around the city, we stumble onto a mural or two.  Today, though, I found gorgeous paintings in the road.  I'm not sure what they're all about.  They were both in the general vicinity of Little India, and one definitely looks something like a mandala, a circular sort of symmetric and radiating design often used to center one's thoughts during meditation.  Mandalas represent the universe in an abstract artistic expression, and are used in both Hinduism and Buddhism.  (I didn't realize they were also Buddhist.)  The other was right in front of a shop, looking almost like a welcome mat.  They were both just beautiful, so of course they are now in our blog.

The peeling gold man making a funny face?  I'm not sure - an ancestor?  Demon?  Spirit?  There was a place for incense in front of him, so he's something or someone being remembered.  Loved his face, though!

I've been looking for a few murals - we have a map that lists many of them and shows the locations, but not all the little alleys and lorongs and lorings are on the map, so it isn't easy to find them.

Today, we stumbled on Kung Fu Girl - a young girl, larger than life, using two windows to prop herself up as she practices her kung fu kick.  She's probably about 10 or 12 feet tall (3 or 4 meters), but looks like she's maybe 9 years old.  Just to add to the humour, she's located in the courtyard of a Buddhist temple.  She's adorable, and looks ready to fight off any boy who tries to wave a spider or frog in her face.

If you're looking for her, she's just down Muntri from the Purrfect Cat Café.

Around the corner from our hotel in the other direction is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.  This beautiful and elaborate building was started in the 1800s, and was the home of (obviously) Cheong Fatt Tze, a wealthy man living in Georgetown at the time.  He built this mansion hoping to house nine generations of his family, according to stories handed down along with the house.  Here's the website - you can actually rent this incredible site for special events, or even stay in the guest rooms overnight!  http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/ 

Anyway, it's sort of an electric cobalt blue with amazing tile mosaic trim, a wonderful entrance gate, and enormous grounds surrounded by a garden and ornamental walls.  Takes up half the block.  I haven't had time to go see the interior (the tour is pricey but I'm sure worth it!) - but the exterior just begs to be photographed.  The colours are so rich and lush and unexpected!  Absolutely wonderful!

I'll leave you with a view of Georgetown at night, with all the lights glowing.

And we're heading to the beach this weekend, so I'll report back later.

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