My girlfriend wasn’t really interested in looking around George Town, particularly on foot, so with that in mind I left her in bed for an hour or so each morning while I went out to explore. I wanted to see the area as its normal to get to know your surroundings and for two other reasons; one was that it’s a British colonial town and the second was that parts of it were used to portray “Bangkok” in the 1999 film ‘Anna And The King‘ starring Jodie Foster.
There was a bit of light rain in the air on my first morning outing but that soon cleared up as I briefly walked around by Fort Cornwalis and then on to Penang Town Hall (above) where its Grand Ballroom played the part of the ‘Royal Court Room’ in the aforementioned movie which to be honest I only watched once I discovered some of it had been filmed in Penang. For the record, I’d never heard of the film until well after the trip had been booked and even though it was way more interesting than I thought it would be I won’t be rushing to see it again as its not exactly my type of movie!
The following morning I gave myself a bit more time and headed to Swettenham Pier (below) in Penang Harbour which portrayed “Bangkok Harbour”. There was absolutely no-one else around when I was there and I only saw a few people as I moved back in the direction of the hotel via Armenian Street. This played home to the “Bangkok” street scenes and its Armenian merchant houses (below) supposedly needed very little set dressing to make them more 19th century-like.
On that very same street (at #128 to be precise) was Syed Alatas Mansion (below), an 1860’s house of an Arab trader from Sumatra, where Anna and Prince Chulalongkorn find ‘Lady Tuptim’ in chains and as a slave. The temple where she was actually captured by palace guards (having ran away, disguising herself as a young man and joined the monastery where her former fiancé lived) was the UNESCO world heritage site Khoo Kongsi.
As far as temples go this was quite interesting as its a clan house (part temple part meeting hall) in the middle of a neighbourhood of houses and for that reason was difficult to find. Khoo Kongsi (above) is an elaborate mix of dragons, lanterns, carvings, paintings and ceramic tiles and that was my final port of call before I went back to find sleeping beauty still asleep in our room.