I’m in Malaysia! To make a long story short for discretionary purposes I am here in Penang since Wednesday till Sunday to get a new visa.

Matt is always mildly vexed that I do not have a working camera. It's not an issue when we travel together where he is shutter happy, and I get to use his fancy Canon when the mood strikes. However, when it's just me, and I don't have a) a camera, b) a fancy phone with a camera (old school candy bar phone from 5 years ago) or c) a computer program for taking normal pictures with my webcam, I have to get a little inventive. Matt graciously put on his most charming smile so I could take this picture of the lights of Penang from a 4th story balcony at the Hotel Mingood. It's pretty right?

Perhaps this will be helpful for any hapless travelers needing an Indo visa from Penang. I am staying in Hotel Mingood, which isn’t the prettiest and freshest girl at the ball, but it is quite clean, the beds are comfortable and come with extra pillows, the staff are knowledgeable and friendly, it borders the cultural heritage Chinatown and Little India sections of George Town, the wireless is fantastic, it’s affordable, short-short walk from some dam delicious street food (oh Indian how I’ve missed you!), and it’s a short bus ride (oh public transit how I’ve missed you!) of 1.40 Ringgit to the Indonesian Consulate. There’s a one-day turnaround for the 60-day B211 visa. Got to the consulate at 8:00am, an hour before they opened, to be sure I would get one, which isn’t bad considering my woes in Timor Leste of having to arrive at 5:00am! I was first in line to submit my visa application, gave them the paperwork, answered some simple questions, paid the price of 170 Ringgit for the visa cost – done. Came back this afternoon to pick it up, and the consulate was FILLED with people. None of them apparently were waiting to pick up their new visas. In situations like this it’s always best to try and avoid just waiting in line, because of lack of any clear instruction. I soon caught someone behind the glass and was instructed to wait in front of a window with zero line. Very speedy.

On the way back from the consulate in Penang’s zippy and clean bus, we stopped at a light long enough for me to accidentally notice and read this on the street:

Transfer Road: "The foot way were meant to protect pedestrians from the hot tropical sun and rain. With the influx of immigrants work increasingly became hard to find, many of the old and unemployed thus began using these corridors to set up small business instead. The hokkiens bagan calling these 'gho ka ki' 五脚基 or 'five foot way' trades."

How fantastic is this street art?! I had to find out more about this wire rod sculpture, and after a quick Google search found an article from July 2010 describing that this sculpture is just one of fifty-two caricature sculptures to be put up in stages all over the World Heritage area of the city. The Kuala Lumpur based company, Sculpture at Work, won the competition, ‘Marking George Town — An Idea Competition for a Unesco World Heritage Site,’ which was to showcase the historical and cultural identity of the place. The project is due to be complete early 2013. The creative director, Tang Mung Kian, said the concept was inspired by the “voices of the people” – local stories and anecdotes that depict the reputation and history of the place.

The cartoon style and the locations makes the message so accessible. I like that the sculptures are not always at ground level, and the colors and natural decay of the walls behind them adds a lot of character. I want to share all the neat sculptures that are already up, but as I am not able to do much sight seeing (what with a big report, plus a brochure, plus a school paper worth 50% of my grade all due end of next week – though apparently I have time to put this post together…), and it’s already been established that I have no ability to take photos anyway, I had to shamelessly cull from the internet. None of the images below belong to me (just the stunning one on top). Unfortunately, there is one sculpture I was able to read about here , but not find a picture of titled “Same Taste, Same Look” of traditional Cantonese dim sum restaurants.

I hope you enjoy the show! In addition to a few news articles, major sources were W-H-Y-S  blog and this flickr account.

Carnarvon Street: "This was the place to go for Chinese books, stationery, coffins and paper effigies. All the pleasure of material world can be reproduced in paper and burnt as gifts for the hereafters."

Malay Street: "Not only were hapless cows bred and slaughtered here, but you could also smell the fish hung out to dry."

Pranging Road Ghaut: "Prangin River was a bustling waterway for all manner of goods that were shipped to Penang from all over the world" ... and apparently for all manner of wooers. A singing:"Ah Ling I love you" B: "Oi! You tackle my wife ehh?!"

Jail Break! Acheen Street: "This old Acehnese Godawn was originally a jail building already extant in 1805 - hence the thick walls and small windows."

Weld Quay: "The famous Weld Quay was the birthplace of Kelinga mee, a spicy Indian noodle dish created to whet the appetites of sailors and port workers."

Muntri Street: "The black and white amahs were Cantonese domestic servants from Guangdong who did all kind of household chores and would refer to themselves with wry humorous "Yat Keok Tet 一脚踢 (One Leg Kicks All)."

"Where's my husband?" Love Lane: "The Local Chinese say the richmen who lived on Muntri Street kept their mistress here, hence the name 'Ai Cheng Hang' 爱情巷 or Love Lane." By the way, Penang has designated bike lanes!

Pitt Street: "In the days when your money could be as 'big as a bullock cart wheel,' this was a popular rest stop for the limousines of the time."

Pitt Street 2: "Tok-tok mee is so called because hawkers would strike a 'tok tok' sound to signal their presence." According to an article the "tok tok" sound was made with two bamboo sticks. "Mee" is the word for "noodles."

Market Lane: "Also called today the palm wine, tuak is an alcoholic beverage made from underdeveloped flower of coconut palm tree. The collecting and market for tuak was entirely an Indian affair with the majority of its drinkers being Indian labourer." Note the sign in the left-hand corner is for Shop Tuak. In Aceh there is also tuak - it is also considered the local liquor, but much more clandestine due to the whole Sharia business. I have yet to have a chance to try it, and apparently it is not sold to women, because how indecent would that be?

Muntri Street: "This is the place where the famous shoe designer, Jimmy Choo started his apprenticeship." Who knew? Apparently back then women buying Jimmy Choo's were supporting child labor.

Armenian Street: "The Tuak Pek King Hneoh Grand Float Procession 大伯公香花车大游行 is held in the year of the tiger to wash away bad luck and bring great wealth and health."

Armenian Street 2: Soo Hong Lane is the narrowest street in George Town. A hand-pulled rickshaw (aka trishaw), the most popular form of transportation then (and I have seen them still now), navigating through the street. I like how the rickshaw poles blend in so well with the tent poles.

Chowrasta Market: "The early convict labourers were reputed to have built most of the government building in Penang. Some ex-convicts became petty traders and were the core group who started Chowrasta Market 吉灵仔万山." Great arm and leg hair.

Seck Chuan Lane: "Seck Chuan Lane was a distribution centre for market produce. Many itinerant hawker took advantage of the crowd by plying their foods here. One of the favorite foods sold isTing Ting Thong or rock dandy, a hardened mixture of sugar, sesame seeds and nuts loved by kids. It has to be 'chiseled' and 'hammered' to break it into smaller biteable pieces."

Kimberley Street: "Kimberley Street is famous for its hawker food. Some stalls have been here for over 3 generations." Three generations simultaneously apparently! I love the flame coming from under the cook's pan and the map sticking out of the tourist's pack.

Rope Walk: "Rope Walk was named after the rope making activities on the street." Somewhat Rapunzel-esque.