Photo Friday: Penang, Malaysia

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Often, while Kristin is slaving away and ticking off boxes on fancy, bureaucratic documents while we’re in port, I get into the countryside for little effortless jaunts with our carefully planned collegiate extension of U.Va and the ISE curriculum.

Semester at Sea offers field programs to students as part of their practicum in-country with over-qualified professors leading trips called FDPs. Absolutely stellar tour guides are always used as partners and a big reason these programs are so successful. Someone like me can easily join a tour and instantly gain top-notch instruction and knowledge on a place we’re visiting. This tour of old town in Penang, Malaysia is called the Georgetown Heritage Walking Tour, and consisted of a short bus ride and visits to various churches, temples and mosques across this dense city.

We happened to visit right after a big celebration that required massive amounts of incense. (Reporter failed to note which one, oops.) These sticks were as thick as an elephant’s trunk. The air was heavy, acrid and about at capacity for the oxy/nitro/smoke ratio for human lungs.

Irresistible architecture was contrasted by our FDP leader, professor Lewis Nelson, and was fascinating to compare with the extraordinary Indian monuments and subtle decorations we’d left behind on the sub-continent.

I once read that the entire amount of gold we’ve harvested from our planet could fit into a basketball court-sized cube. Someone misplaced a decimal sign in their calculations, methinks.

Prayers, wishes and general expressions of piety are sold at the entrances to some of these temples and placed—along with smoldering myrrh—in strategic locations intended to capture the attention of god, Shiva, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Confucius etc. Whoever is available that day.

The writing on the wall often depicts family histories. You’ll need a lot of time to decipher these primitive blog entries. I didn’t see a comment section, either. Probably below the fold.

If you visit these sacred places please…be Sacred. Pictures are fine, but blend into the woodwork like these piles of ash.

And just.. be. You might learn something just watching it burn.



Traveling often includes long layovers. Next time you’re transiting through the United Kingdom, consider staying in one of these apartments in London.

  • November 11, 2011

    Really interesting photos.

  • November 11, 2011

    What a magical place to visit and learn about.

  • November 11, 2011


  • November 11, 2011

    My grandmother’s from Penang 😀 Did you manage to try any Penang food? You’d be missing out if you didn’t

    • November 11, 2011

      We didn’t have any Penang curry (drats!) but we had a lot of delicious Chinese food there.

  • November 11, 2011

    The last one is my very favorite. You’re making me wish I’d gone on this FDP with you! AH well, next time.

  • November 11, 2011

    Gorgeous photos. I love the Goddess of Mercy temple. We’ve been living in Penang for the past six months and love it here, a shame we didn’t know you were in town!

    • November 13, 2011

      Tracy, we were really only there for a hot minute (three days/two nights)–and I was working that whole port–so I didn’t have much time off to do anything! It was a very pretty city, though. Are you liking living there?

      • November 13, 2011

        We love Penang, the food and culture is fascinating, But after 6 months here we’re starting to get itchy travel feet again. Looking forward to travelling again next week.

  • November 12, 2011

    Excellent photos and captions, Scott. I can’t imagine how thick the air must have been with smoke seeing how large those incense sticks were. You must’ve thought you walked onto a Bob Marley Day performance by Snoop Dogg at Cal Berkeley with the amount of smoke that was in the air there.

  • November 16, 2011

    GORGEOUS pics SVV!!!

  • November 21, 2011

    Love the black and white pic. Do you use BW film or do you edit it on the computer?
    BTW you could also have CS’ed it in HK but you may be over that now you are married? hehe!
    those good ol’ early 2000s days 😉

  • December 6, 2011


  • December 16, 2011

    Malaysia is in southeast Asia. it is the amazing place…….nice pics……….

  • December 24, 2011

    Penang is such a beautiful place, gorgeous photos!

    • December 25, 2011

      Thanks Becky!

  • July 16, 2013

    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who was conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this topic here on your web site.

  • November 4, 2014

    Nice post and images!

    You have to explore more places in Indonesia to get inspirations.

    Keep writing and goodluck. 😉

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  • May 25, 2018
    Thien Nguyen

    Hi Kristine,

    I’m Thien from Vietnam. I was in Malaysia a couple of years ago. Your sharing strongly reminds me of my traveling experiences when in Malay. Thanks greatly for that!

    I saw that you’ve been to Vietnam and next time, if you wish to have some local friends who can help you during your trip in Vietnam, you can book a Vietnam Free Tour from GoAsiaDayTrip. This is totally a free-of-charge program so you don’t need to pay for that.
    Hope that you can come and explore our beautiful country.

    Hope that you can come back and further explore our country.

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