Sunday, May 18, 2014

Excitement in George Town!

18 May 2014

We came back from Langkawi on Saturday - it's a relaxing 3 hour boat ride on the fast ferry (or maybe the speedy ferry, I'm not sure which name they use).  We started with a window seat, but Richard discovered the upper deck and I spent the rest of our trip up there, with great views of the islands, the sky, and the calm Andaman Sea.

It wasn't a very sunny day, so the scenery was a symphony of greys and barely blues - great cloud formations looking like islands in the sky, islands coming and going in the distance, and the sea so smooth it reflected the whitest clouds.

As we got closer to the mainland coast (because Langkawi really is pretty far out to sea), there were these very strange clusters of maybe bamboo, in the water.  We saw several of these, just dried brown sticks and leaves pointing up out of the water - and always with a fishing boat nearby.  I'm not sure what's going on - if these are some plants that grow out of the sea water at some point during the year?  Or bamboo that the fishermen stick into shallow water, because then fish are drawn to the dried out plants to feed?  No idea, but there were three or four of these scenes, so it isn't some aberrant thing or anomaly.  (And we couldn't find anyone on the boat who spoke enough English to explain.)

At any rate, it was a lovely and interesting trip back, even if it wasn't the most gorgeous day.  I can only imagine how beautiful the scenery would be on a clear and sunny day!

We came back to our favourite George Town hotel, the Armenian Street Heritage Hotel.  We've tried a few less expensive hotels, not that this place is pricy.  But, well, as my mom always said, you get what you pay for.  Cheap hotels have worn out towels, or useless wifi, or rooms with no windows, or soft beds, or showers that aren't enclosed so the entire bathroom gets soaked no matter what you do.  Or some combination of all those things.  (Or all those things at once!)  The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is a lovely old hotel that has been renovated and refitted with newer plumbing and all the amenities one might want. 

The staff greeted us like family or old friends, and gave us one of their special rooms - there's only one room with this configuration on each floor, and it's the largest kind of room they have.  (This is just a regular double room, not a suite or anything.)  

There's a desk for Richard by the door.  An armoire for our stuff.  Luggage stand, reading chair and table.  A chaise, which I love for reading or working on the laptop.  Full bathroom behind the glass door, with a glass-enclosed shower.  Queen bed (and two nightstands, sometimes lacking in other hotels) and a big window.  Spacious, comfortable, understatedly elegant in that old world style.  We are both enjoying this room, situated between the elevator entrance and the emergency stairs - so we don't even hear anyone outside our four walls.  Check out the Armenian St. - absolutely the best place to stay in George Town!  (You can often find affordable rates by booking online - I like because they compare prices at a variety of sites.)

So, the excitement on Armenian Street - The Armenian Street Heritage Hotel is, funnily enough, on Armenian Street.  This is the street that will be featured in the British TV show for which we are slated to be extras.  The show is set in 1932 India, and the director was quoted as saying that George Town, and Armenian Street Heritage District in particular, has the best-preserved buildings of that period of British colonialism.

Some of the buildings appeared to have new signs that look very period-appropriate - that 1920-1930 retro look.  Vintage.  And there are extra bamboo shades to cover modernity (as in satellite dishes).  We walked along the to-be set, pointing out changes.

Further down the street, we encountered a street fair - musicians, items for sale, food stands, and such.  And a bunch of kids, in matching tee shirts, with musical instruments, tables, and lion masks!  Woohooo!

Well, we went to dinner at the China House, one of our faves,  but on the way I finally found the Happy Cats mural - well, we ended up calling it that.  The real name is "Cats and Humans Happily Living Together."  And I found out that the reason there are so many cat murals in George Town is that they are part of a project to make people aware of the problems of stray animals, to take care of and adopt these poor little kitties and doggies.  It's called the 101 Lost Kittens Project - more information on their website:

On the way back to the hotel, maybe about 8 PM (dark, so the photos reflect this) the street fair continued - the kids were set up to perform, but were sweetly and patiently waiting for the "old guys" to finish.  I asked one of the older boys if they were doing the lion dance, and he said yes.  I asked if it would begin soon - another yes.

So we waited too.  And wow, SO GLAD we did!  First, the kids performed their musical numbers - cutest little boy on drums with some of the older kids on cymbals.  Then, off to the side, two older boys put on the lion leggings, body, and head - the back of the lion was a big solid football-player type kid, and smaller and slimmer boy in the front.  Soon, the reason was obvious - this wasn't just the standard lion dance - this was an acrobatic lion!!!  Front kid would leap into the air and sit on the shoulders of the back kid, lion head extended up and feet sticking out like front paws!!  Then, back down.  Dance dance dance, leap up in a single bound onto the table!!!!!  Another up on the shoulders lion rearing up rampant move!!!!  Then back down and leap up onto a higher table!!!  Wow, they really were amazing!!!  I've seen the dragon dance and a normal lion dance, but never anything as acrobatic as this - it really was very exciting!!!  (And I didn't capture a lot of the action in photos, I was too busy watching things happen - I was like the littlest drummer and his younger buddy, absolutely entranced, enthralled, and mesmerized by the whole performance!!!!)

They finished, we gave a donation, I told the front kid he was great and really worked hard (didn't see the back kid around), and we headed "home."

So, upcoming events - we talked to our TV extra contact person, she'll email our schedule on Tuesday.  We hope.  We aren't sure where it all is heading, so we'll just have fun while we wait and see.

Until then, there's a Lion Dance on Stilts performance and competition next week, and we plan to go and see more lions!!!  More dancing!!!!  And on stilts!!!!!  

And yes, we still are enjoying Malaysia, and especially George Town!

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