The Gang Goes Fabric Shopping

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Southeast Asia 2023
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Our last day in Penang – sad to be heading back, but glad we had such a relaxing visit. We got up early again to have breakfast, because Kat had an Important Business Meeting at 8am (Dungeons and Dragons). I popped over to a local coffee shop to read for a while. As an aside – George Town is packed with hipster coffee shops, and yet somehow in a food-obsessed culture, nobody makes good espresso beverages (americanos, etc). I’m sure there’s some explanation. I love kopi (coffee with sugar and condensed milk) but sometimes I don’t need that much sugar.

After D&D wrapped up, we set out on our main mission – to find some songket fabric for Kat and her sewing friends. Fortunately, Kat did her research well and the first store we went to (a Kamdar outlet) was packed to the gills. Kat interpreted “we have some space in our bags” as “we have unlimited space for fabric” and went to town. I eventually pried her out of the store with a promise of lunch.

The last day in a foodie destination is always a little stressful – in your heart, you want to re-eat every meal you’ve had, so it can end up being a bit of a letdown. We scored pretty well for lunch, with some laksa and char kway teow at a packed hawker center. Today is the Prophet’s Ascension holiday, so many of the businesses run by muslims are closed, but there’s always food to be found. Tomorrow there will actually be a bunch of festivities for the holiday, but sadly we’ll miss out.

After lunch we set out for City Park, one of the larger and older parks in the greater George Town area. ?(George Town itself has very little green space.) City park turned out to be pretty great, though getting there involved running a gauntlet of monkeys. Monkeys: cute in theory, kinda sketchy in practice. The park has all kinds of spaces for swimming, skating, doing graffiti, exercising, etc. It’s tucked up right against the hills, so it has some fun topography as well. We got some ice cream bars and enjoyed some shade for a bit. It was a super pleasant place to discover and we’ll know to return in the future.

We made the hike back into town and had our last trip to China House. It’s really a highlight of being in Penang – friendly staff who are always up to chat, gorgeous baked goods, and plenty of space to camp out.

We made a slow wander back through the Indian part of George Town, then detoured to the shore to marvel at one of the cruise ships docked in the port. A modern cruise ship is quite a sight, dwarfing the city around it. Plenty of other folks were milling around, enjoying the sunset and the breeze.

We had our last meal of the trip at a hawker center near our house, then ventured home to pack. I’m staying up late for a work call – our sleep schedule for the next couple days is going to be wrecked anyways, may as well lean into it.

I really wish I could get a sneak peak of George Town in 20 years. Having been here in 2016 and now again in 2023, you can get a sense of the trajectory it’s on, and I want to see how that plays out. On the one hand, Penang is booming – an educated, multilingual population, stable-ish politics, and proximity to China without being China have drawn lots of employers (Intel, Dell, AMD, etc). A building boom, fueled by a mix of population growth and speculation has transformed the skyline – a dramatic shift even from 2016. And then there’s George Town, and especially the UNESCO world heritage “old town”. It’s not hard to imagine George Town ending up like Venice – a tourist pastiche, set in historic buildings but devoid of any authenticity. It’s definitely not at that point now, and hopefully smart policies will help avoid that fate. Fingers crossed!

3 thoughts on “The Gang Goes Fabric Shopping

  • Susan McFadden February 17, 2023 at 3:46 pm Reply

    We have loved all your posts. Yay–Kat got to buy fabric. And those monkeys! I’ve heard they can be quite brazen. Thanks for sharing these adventures with us and giving us a sense of Penang now and what its future may hold. May your travels back home go well. (FYI, I read that a cruise ship is coming to Escanaba though it won’t be as enormous as the one you saw.)

  • Judy February 17, 2023 at 4:06 pm Reply

    That looks like one of your best trips yet. The photos are so good and give us a feeling of how things are -warm and inviting 🙂

  • Barb Luedtke February 18, 2023 at 6:07 am Reply

    Thanks, Colin & Kat, for a great travel-log! I enjoyed each day’s post. You certainly make the most of each day

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