From All Over The World


This blog entry about the events of Friday, February 11, 2005 was originally posted on February 13, 2005.

DAY 482:  Samuel L. Jackson once said in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, “Personality goes a long way.”  Although the Olive Spring Hotel where I stayed for my first night in Georgetown, Penang’s main city, was colorful and clean, it had no personality — probably because most of the staff was off for the Chinese New Year long weekend like most of the businesses in town.  After shopping around for a new place that morning, I found a place that, although not as colorful, had personality.  Personality goes a long way (and so did my money since it was cheaper).

“Have free tea or coffee,” said Amy, one of the cheerful owners. 

“Have an orange.  It’s Chinese New Year.  For prosperity,” said Jimmy, the other owner of the Love Lane Inn, named not for being a honeymoon resort or a motel with an hourly rate, but for being on Love Lane, a street on the outskirts of Georgetown’s Little India named after the Chinese matchmakers who once lived there. 

Love Lane” was just one street name based on Penang’s history, like most of the others streets in town did.  Many streets were named after places from all over the world — Rangoon, Kensington, China, Madras, for example — reflecting the multi-cultural past of what was once a popular international trading port for textiles, spices, tea, and other goods.

As explained by the main exhibit at the Penang Museum, “They came to Penang from all over the world.”  By “they,” the museum meant the Nyonyas, Chinese, Eurasians, Indian Muslims, Siamese (Thai), Europeans, Burmese, Malays, Punjabis, Indians, Arabs, and Japanese.  This hodgepodge of culture is exemplified in modern Penang through its mix of people, cuisine, and architecture

Walking around Georgetown (named after the King of England when the British took over in 1760 under command of one Francis Light), I saw the juxtaposition of different architectural styles.  Just down Love Lane was the Cathedral of the Assumption, a Catholic church set up by the Eurasians from Keduh in 1786, which was not too far away from some Chinese temples and Muslim mosques.  Two blocks away was the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion — the UNESCO-recognized former residence of a Mandarin industrialist who hit it big in Penang in the late 19th/early 20th centuries — a true hodgepodge of architectural styles with Art Nouveau stained glass windows, Venetian shutters, Victorian cast iron work, and Chinese roof elements.

Most of the streets were deserted as I continued to walk around Georgetown; most people had the day off for Chinese New Year and had boarded up shop — unless they were getting a prosperity blessing from Chinese drummers and traditional lion dancers.  Georgetown’s usually vibrant Chinatown was pretty much a ghost town; even the Khoo Kongsi Temple in the center was only visited by handful of Western tourists marveling at the intricate craftwork — craftsmanship that attracted the film crew for 1999’s Anna and the King.  Walking up the road, I saw where most of the Chinese descendants had gone:  to the 19th century Kuan Yin Teng temple to pray to the Goddess of Mercy for good luck and a prosperous new year.

The other neighborhoods weren’t so dead, particularly the non-Chinese dominated ones like Little India, a bustling market area that brought me right back to my time in India, with Bollywood hits blasting on speakers, restaurants emitting the smells of curry and roti, and numerous saree stores.  The legacy of Hindu Indians was seen not only in culture but also in architecture, as I saw when passing by the Sri Mariamman temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

Indian Muslims were also represented along with their other brethren of the Nation of Islam.  Georgetown boasted many mosques, none more spectacular than the Masjid Kapitan Keling, originally built in 1801 when the East India Company found the presence of a mosque necessary with all the Indian merchants in town.  Cauder Mohuddeen, an Indian Muslim merchant nicknamed “Kapitan Keling,” proposed to have it built and it soon was — it is still in service today as evident when I heard the mid-day call to prayer coming from the minaret.

Non-Muslim visitors were not allowed inside, so I hopped on a bus to travel the twenty minutes to see other cultures of Penang represented architecturally, namely the Siamese (Thai) and Burmese (Myanmaran), as seen in two temples across the street from each other.  In true Thai style, a huge reclining Buddha was enclosed in the Wat Chayamang Kalaram for tourists to see and devotees to pray with offerings of incense sticks and lotus-shaped candles.  Across the street, devotees of Burmese Buddhism prayed to an upright Buddha in the Dhammikarama Temple, the only Burmese-style temple in Malaysia.  Burmese architecture differed from Thai a little bit, with a different style of stupa surrounded by a turtle moat, and statues of sacred boys and the Panca-Rupa, Guardian Protectors of the globe (picture above), each with the powerful qualities of the elephant, horse, lion, deer, fish, and bird.

A TOWN NAMED AFTER AN ENGLISH KING is not without its English influence, and England was thoroughly represented architecturally as well in Georgetown, from St. George’s Anglican Church, to the Victorian-style Penang City Hall, to the Victoria Memorial Clock Tower.  The British settlement on Penang (then called Prince Edward Island) all began at Fort Cornwallis, the military base set up by Francis Light in 1786 to defend the island from the French, the Siamese, the Kedahs, and booty-hunting pirates with cannons pointed out to sea.  With the pirates at bay, trade business prospered and European maritime architecture surfaced on the historic and Beach Street. 

BUSINESS CONTINUES TODAY in modern Penang.  As Let’s Go points out, Penang is “more powerhouse than paradise” with multinational corporate offices and five colleges.  With that said, the inevitable American influence was also present in Georgetown, with a big modern shopping mall with American products from The Body Shop and Apple computer (iPod Shuffles all sold out!).  On the speakers I heard a DJ playing Britney Spears, Eminem, and that Linkin Park/Jay-Z song that I’ve heard just about everywhere since the Philippines

The American pop mix came on as I sat with my feet soaking during an ion cleanse, this new treatment to relieve your body of toxins by osmosis through the feet.  Different toxins exit your body by some reversal of ions or something that they said was safe (according to American and European doctors), and after a half-hour session, my clear water turned to brown — mostly from toxins extracted from my liver.

It probably didn’t matter that the toxins of my liver cleared out, because I soon just clogged it up again in true American-influenced fashion.

SPEAKING OF FOOD, Penang boasts a very unique cuisine that blends cuisines from all over the world.  There were no Penang-specific restaurants in town that I saw or read about; all the Penang-only treats were cooked up in the many groups of food stalls scattered around town.  Amongst the Penang specialties that I had that day — yes, I did venture beyond McDonald’s — was assam laksa, a spicy fish and noodle soup with pineapple, red peppers, ginger and mint leaves (which was complemented a bottle of Skol beer, one I had not had since my days in Brazil); and curry mee, a spicy curry noodle soup.  Curry also came in the form of junk food when I had a bag of curry doodles as a snack. 

WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS of the people of Penang, there might have been some tension, but there was definitely a unity in diversity on the island.  Chinese New Year was celebrated by faces of all backgrounds at a small outdoor concert that I ran into that night, down the pedestrian mall from the fancy Eastern & Oriental.  Three Chinese musicians performed for a crowd of Indians, Thais, Chinese, Europeans et al. — with a cover of Rob Thomas/Santana’s “Smooth” of all things.

Yup, with influences from all over the world in Penang, the American influence was bound to come sooner or later. 


Next entry: Like A Frog With No Limbs

Previous entry: Back To The Future

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Comments for “From All Over The World”

  • GREETINGS FROM K.L.!  Here’s another one for you, just in time for the WHMMR…  I’m pretty much all caught up now (just one day behind)...

    MORE TO COME as the countdown to 503 continues…  Get your RSVPs in!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  09:10 AM

  • wooha second, what a honor!

    is there anything better than 3 new blog entries on a monday, 2 in the morning and one in the afternoon.

    now that makes the time go by..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  11:57 AM

  • Wow, thanks for the new entries!  What the heck have you been doing to your liver???  That water sure looked gross!  LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  12:30 PM

  • eww, gross. that water looks nasty. i don’t think your poo shots are as bad as that water.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  02:55 PM

  • I don’t know whether to run and de-toxify myself right away or be in the dark about my toxins forever.  The thought of anything from your liver coming through your feet freaks me out big time.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  04:59 PM

  • I’m really skeptical about the Ion cleansing.  Did you see anyone else having it done?  What colour was their water? Ditto on the “gross” comments.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  11:24 PM

  • You going to make it to Bali?
    I’m in Lombok right now, heading back to Kuta in a few days…

    Posted by erikvK  on  02/14  at  12:27 AM

  • JANICE:  Actually, mine was the least gross of what I saw; others had greens and cheesy yeast clumps and orange foam.  Google ion cleansing and you’ll probably see more photos, with what each color represents.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  11:14 AM

  • THE OTHER ERIK:  Looks like I’ll just be in Jakarta to visit a friend and that’s it for Indonesia (for now).

    See you in B.C. for the Vancouver pre-503 festivities!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  11:16 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM SUBANG JAYA, in the suburbs of K.L.!  I’m writing this on VIVIAN’s computer.

    Terima kasih to her and her family for the gracious hospitality…  Details to come in the next coming entries…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  11:20 AM

  • LOVE the sari shop photo. Nice!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  02:14 PM

  • It looks like that ion cleanse sucked out the deep-fried cuy you had in South America.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  02/14  at  02:44 PM

  • EROCK! this is perfect for you!

    Help Wanted: The Exotic Slave-Blogging Life Awaits You! email this post

    Attention all career-driven, ladder-climbing freaks: Gawker Media?s urban travel blog, Gridskipper, is looking to hire an additional blogger with a mastery of monosyllabic communication. If you?re broadly traveled, urban obsessed, and love working in your pajamas, this gig might be for you. You should know your way around the web with equal verve, and have journalistic ambitions and writing skill (no, seriously). Travel journalism experience not essential ? in fact, we?ll probably hold it against you. Interested applicants should email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  05:55 PM

  • Hey Erik… Any chance of pre-503 festivaties in Toronto?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  07:55 PM

  • TD0T:  Nope; BC in the west, NYC in the east.  You must choose… although you BETTER be at 503 in NYC—you’ve been commenting since “Pre-Departure” and we’ve never met yet!

    “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”  - Frank Sinatra

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  10:45 PM

  • c’mon TDOT - you gotta represent for the 1981ers and Canadians out there…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/14  at  11:00 PM

  • TDOT:  I hold you completely responsible for representing the reputations of everyone born in 1981.  Come on down!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  03:17 AM

  • Erik, I think you’re gay too, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Women and gay men can just tell these things, we have a 3rd eye, as you would call it. It’s good that you were born a Filipino, we are an open-minded liberal and caring people, more so than anywhere else in the world I know, and we love gays. Many celebrities in the Philippines are openly gay - just watch the hit show EAT BULAGA! the #1 SHOW in the Philippines for 20 years running - and still going, it has 2 openly gay baklas as TV hosts, and everybody loves them as part of the family.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  05:04 AM

  • Check this out everybody:

    Bakla & Tomboy Documentary


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  05:16 AM

  • wait, did i miss a pun or anything?
    since when is erik gay ? wink
    queer eye for the travel guy?

    well, well..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  05:21 AM

  • I don’t know, even if they don’t realize it themselves, we just know these things and we have a feeling, and my feelings are always right. Every single person I suspected to be gay turned out to be gay, not saying I’m like an expert, but women (ALL women have this ability) and gay men, we can tell. I knew some people who didn’t realize it for a LONG TIME that they were gay, even like Erik said, when they were hit on by millions of gay guys, and they were like “But I’m NOT gay”, and then what do you know it? They turn out to be gay. And gay men don’t usually hit on men unless they have a feeling that they’re gay, because they don’t want to risk being rejected, and I don’t know, just from what I read, I have a feeling that you are. Not that I’m trying to make a big issue of it or anything. But go with the flow, we all love GAYS!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  06:10 AM

  • DENNIS:  I think I missed a pun too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  07:51 AM

  • there you go erik, no chance to escape your homosexuality hehe

    next time you’re near a ladyboy, give it a shot, they wont refuse you anyway wink

    now that’s what i call fun (no, i just mean the blog postings) :>

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  08:40 AM

  • Uh, okay - this is odd… I go trekking and come back to craziness!!

    I fell down a CLIFF!! Isn’t that exciting! And sprained my ankle and scraped myself up and everything!!
    Pictures to come…

    Posted by Noelle  on  02/15  at  08:56 AM

  • erik gay?  please….erik, an author, yes….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/15  at  09:44 AM

  • great pics—except the gross-out toxin one. eew. I’m also skeptical. My feet should not be able to “pass toxins”.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  07:00 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Like A Frog With No Limbs

Previous entry:
Back To The Future


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

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Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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