Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Trishaw of Palau Penang

Watching the clouds the other day, as the storm slowly fades away, I who had nothing to do because of the power interruption, grab the pen and notebook then started to write. But actually, I have nothing in mind what to write. Suddenly, little bird chirping on the acacia tree in front of the apartment, and as the clouds move across the sky I remember my ironic, but happy and memorable trip to Georgetown, Palau Penang, Malaysia.

Palau Penang has been my dream destination since I was in college. I read an article once about the trishaw, and that stuck on my mind even years after. Its historical significance entices me, as historical enthusiast, travelling to historical places becomes my passion. When my mother wanted to visit her sister in Malaysia early April this year, I told her that I will accompany her. Unfortunately, due to some unavoidable circumstances, she was not able to go. However, with the preparation we have, I don’t want to waste it so I went to Malaysia alone. Instead of Kota Kinabalu, I redirected my trip to Kuala Lumpur. My trip redirection was a blessing in disguise, because I was able to visit Palau Penang.

How to reach Palau Penang? This is the first question that comes into my mind, hence from the map Palau Penang is far from Kuala Lumpur. So, here it is on how to get there. From the Puduraya Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur, Palau Penang is a four and half bus ride. But one should not worry because; with the good-condition of buses in Malaysia you cannot feel that you’re travelling more than four hours. The road is also good even you’re a first time traveller. Along the way, beautiful view relaxes your mind. The green scenery and beautiful flowers ease the boredom that you might feel due to long hours of travel. Winding road also made you feel excited on the way.
The State of Penang actually starts at the north western coast of mainland Malaysia. But the capital and the main seat of the state is a bridge away. This is a small island on the north west of West Malaysia. The island is called Palau Penang or Penang Island. Georgetown city is the capital of the state, the seat of administration and commercial centre as well.
As excitement pounding my heart to reach the island when I saw the towering buildings from the Penang bridge I can’t take out from my mind also, the days when I was just imagining of going to Palau Penang. I cannot believe it that I am a few minutes away from my dream destination. Finally the bus stops and I am now at the so-called the “Pearl of the Orient.”
The first thing my eyes search on as soon as my feet set on the soil of Palau Penang is the Trishaw. But, unfortunately I never saw one instead I saw taxis on the terminal. The driver approached us and asks where we are going to stay. With the list of hotels on my notebook I told the driver to bring us to the average hotel if not the cheapest one. So, he brought us to the Cathay Hotel, not the cheapest but at the average. And it was also one of the nicest hotels to stay in. For a person who has a tight-budget on the tour, like me, the hotel is quite reasonable.
Now, I am settled with the place to stay in, I search next for the food. I am a bit hungry because the bus left from Kuala Lumpur at 8:00 in the morning and we arrived around 12:45 in the afternoon. My body clock is now ticking for the fuel – that is the real food. On the busy street along the little India we found a restaurant owned by the Indian-Hindu. Though I am not used to the taste of the south Indian meal, I happen to like then the mutton with rice. Maybe I am just hungry or the food really suits to my taste buds. Well, mutton was also new to me. I do not even know what it is. The waiter told me it is a sheep meat. So, I said as long as it is halal and my taste bud and digestive system can take it, its fine with me.
The next on my list was still to see a trishaw. But still, my eyes were not able to catch any. So, instead of waiting for the trishaw to pass by, I decided to go and see the best that Palau Penang can offer.
My first stop was the bustling little India. I also long to see the Taj Mahal and the real Hindu Temple but going to India is quite expensive. With my fortune to visit Palau Penang, I saw then the real Hindu Temple, of course not the Taj Mahal. One of the important Hindu Temples in Palau Penang is the Sri Mariamman Temple. The beautiful sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses are found inside the temples. Visitors and Devotees alike are welcome by these sculptures. After paying respect to the temple officials and the temple itself, we moved to the next station on my itinerary.

The second place we visited in Palau Penang was the Goddess of Mercy Temple or also known as the
“Kuan Yin Teng.” This Chinese temple was built in the 1800’s by the early Chinese immigrants who settled in the city. It is also considered as one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang. Devotees and visitors also flocked to the temple all year round. The Chinese comprise a number of population in Malaysia and they are also significant in terms of business and commerce.
The third stop we have on the list was the city hall of Georgetown. The Georgetown city hall is an example of how the people of Palau Penang value history. The city hall was a well-preserved building from the days of British rule. It is located near the boulevard of Georgetown, where a relaxing sea breeze could be felt.
Opposite the city hall was our next stop, the Fort Cornwallis. The fort was built in 1786. In 1804, the convicts reconstruct it with concrete structures. The famous Dutch cannon or the “Meriam seri rambai” is found here. The cannon was a present to the Sultan of Johor by the Dutch and it was brought to Penang when the Portuguese stole it.

On our way to one of the most important Moslem sacred places in Palau Penang, we passed by the infamous Victoria Memorial Clock Tower. The tower is a 60 ft. high clock tower built in 1867. It was built to commemorate the 50th year anniversary of Queen Victoria.

Now, our last stop for the day was on the Kapitan Keling Road, the Kapitan Keling Mosque. This was named after an Indian-Muslim Merchant headman or Kapitan Keling. It was built in 19th century and the mosque reflects the Moorish Islamic influence. The mosque is one of the tourist attractions in Palau Penang. I was fascinated by the structures and how it welcomed people from other religious affiliation. Practically, everyone can visit the mosque, Moslem and non-Moslem alike. One can witness how the Moslems perform their prayers here, from ablution to performing Salah.
From 1:00 in the afternoon to 7:30 in the evening I was able to see the important places in Georgetown city, Palau Penang. But still, I did not see a trishaw. Where is the trishaw in Palau Penang? The thing that made me long to see Palau Penang was the thing that I did not see there. But I am happy and contented that I was able to reach Palau Penang even though I never saw the trishaw. Ironic isn’t it? But as what the saying says, “Life is like that.” You will be lead by something to some place but when you reach the place that something is not there or you cannot see that something. It is just an instrument that will lead you to fulfil what you aspire for in life.
As I wrote this, I realize that dreams do really come true in God’s perfect time. A plan to go to Palau Penang was not even in my list, but dreaming of going to Palau Penang lingers on my subconscious mind years before it happened. There is always an instrument of fulfilling one’s dream, sooner or later it will come true, when you believe it will. Like my Palau Penang experience, the Trishaw is the instrument of fulfilling my dream to see the place. Because of the enticement I have in my heart to see the Trishaw, the trip to Palau Penang stays in me for the a very long time, until I had the chance to see the place.
The memories of Palau Penang will stay in my heart forever and I wish one day I can go back and see a “Trishaw”.