Monday, April 8, 2013

G: Oh, the places you'll go!

G is for Georgetown (Penang), Grantchester, and Gulliver’s Land

It's Day 4 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited. 

Georgetown (Penang), Malaysia, January 1989
The last year we lived in Japan, Mike and I spent our Christmas holidays in Singapore and Malaysia. Georgetown is a city in Penang, which is an island (and a state) in the northern part of Malaysia. It's also a transportation hub for the huge tourist hub that is Penang.

Cathay Hotel, Georgetown, Malaysia
To get to Penang, we took a six-hour train ride from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, and then a ferry across to the island, arriving in Georgetown. Back in 1989, the ferry cost only 40 sen (which I think is only 10 cents or so). Our first night in Penang we stayed in the Cathay Hotel, a very picturesque, old establishment, but without a double bed. After checking out in the morning, we explored the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, designed by the same people who built the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. We had tea in the garden, which is right next to the sea. Then we went to the Kuan Yin Teng temple, followed by a mosque and Fort Cornwallis. We also had some nice Indian food at the Taj Mahal restaurant. I enjoyed Georgetown more than Kuala Lumpur, because it had a lot more character. 

Kuan Yin Teng temple
The next day we went to the Penang Hill station, the oldest colonial hill station established by the British during their time in Malaysia. We rode the funiculur railway for 30 minutes up to the top, which is 826 metres above sea level. At the top, we went to a Hindu temple and a mosque and then into the Bellevue Hotel for tea and sandwiches and a lovely view. 
Railway up to the top of Penang Hill
View from the Bellevue Hotel, on a cloudy day (not my photo)
We had to wait quite awhile to catch a train going back down (it was January 2, and the place was packed with tourists). When we got to the bottom of the hill, we went to the Kek Lok Si temple for the goddess of mercy, where we climbed up the seven-tier, 30-meter-high pagoda, which is Burmese at the top, Chinese at the bottom, and Thai in beween (good representation of Malaysia, which is a melting pot of Asian cultures). The Goddess of Mercy towers over the hillside--it's beautiful. A little Chinese man began chatting with us, speaking about the wonders of the Chinese religion. After climbing back down, we went to a turtle pond that was literally packed with turtles (to the point that it made me sad). 
Kek Lok Si temple (with the pagoda)
Too many turtles
Goddess of Mercy
Then back into town where we had Chinese food for dinner and took a trishaw back to our hotel through the busy streets. According to my journal, Mike clung to my hand tightly as we were whisked through the busy streets. Then all of a sudden--our trishaw driver ran into a motorcycle that had stopped suddenly, which ran into another motorcycle. No damage was done, but to hear the tone of their voices you'd have thought there'd been a major accident! The trishaw driver gave the motorcycle drivers a piece of his mind. (Both of us have blocked this incident out of our memory, although it came back to me when I read about it.) We were relieved to finally reach our hotel. At the end of our time in Georgetown, we were ready to head for the beach the next day.
Trishaw in Georgetown
Grantchester, England, multiple times

Grantchester is a small village on the river Cam, and home of the wonderful Orchard Tea Garden. The village is said to have the highest concentration of Nobel prize winners, most of whom are affiliated with the University of Cambridge. 
On the banks of the Cam
The Orchard, and Grantchester itself, has a wonderful literary history. Writer Rupert Brooke and his Bloomsbury friends, including Virginia Woolf, used to congregate in the Orchard. He also wrote one of his best-known poems about having tea in the Orchard, "The Old Vicarage," which ends with "Stands the church clock at ten-to-three, And is there honey still for tea?"

We've spent many an afternoon in the Orchard over the years, enjoying our tea!

A spot of tea with honey (not really...)

The Cam

My parents and mother-in-law sitting on the river in Grantchester
Mom having tea and relaxing in the Orchard

Gulliver's Land, England, 2004
Gulliver's Land is a cute amusement park near Milton Keynes, and we spent a day there when we visited in 2004. It tends to be geared more for the younger set (they cater for ages 2 to 13), so it was perfect for our kids' ages at the time. It reminded me a bit of our Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon, but it had more rides. 
Kieran riding a little cart

One-year-old Kieran with his cousin Victoria, waiting for the train

On the merry-go-round with Grandma England

On a ride

On the merry-go-round one more time!
For some reason, I have only photos of Kieran--not sure what happened to the other ones!

You can check out A-F here. Tomorrow is Asia and England once again! 


  1. I'd LOVE to go to Grantchester. It looks so beautiful.

    Happy A through Z blogging.

  2. I loved the pictures of Asia. It must have been a lot of fun to meet those mystical places!
    Father Dragon Writes

  3. So beautiful. It reminds me of China, although I can't imagine a pond being full of so many turtles without them being stollen for a good meal.

    You're very brave to do this all with children, I wish I had it in me because I can't wait to take them to Asia.

    1. Yes, you might be right about that! We didn't do this with children...we have traveled to Europe with them but not yet to Asia. One day!!

  4. Don't you wish you could have vacation do-overs so that you can reshoot all in digital?

  5. Reading this is so inspiring to me. Traveling with children, where you went. I love it all.

    1. Thank you Jean, but we didn't go to Asia with children. Much of this was when I was in my early 20s, before we had kids.

  6. I visited Malaysia a couple of years ago and really wanted to get to Georgetown/Penang but never made it, so I enjoyed reading your account of it and determined to get there one day!

    Love the photographs - what great memories!
    A to Z Participant (A to Z of Travel Bucket List Inspiration)

    1. Thanks Kellie--yes, Malaysia was great fun!

  7. I'd go there just for the turtles! That's awesome.