Penang: An island off the north west coast of peninsular Malaysia. I take an overnight train from Johor Bharu Senetral to Butterworth, a city just outside of Penang. I cross into Penang by bus and take a shared cab to Georgetown. I’m on my first solo adventure outside of South Korea, so my guard is up. The taxi is not a taxi, but a local guy trying to make a few bucks. He keeps apologizing about the broken aircon and chitchatting with the other passenger in a language I don’t understand. He drops me off last and I escape to my air-conditioned private room.
The town is covered with art. Huge murals and wire sculptures decorate the crumbling buildings. I manage to cross the road on the edge of the coast and I find myself upon a row of jetties. People still live out on the water, but the routes are trailed by local shops selling water, knock-off sunglasses, and souvenirs. On my walk back through the historic district, a sweet smell wraps itself around me. I happen upon a famous bakery and buy fresh Portuguese Egg Tarts.
I wake up the next day a bit refreshed and eager to see more of this interesting town. I walk through winding narrow roads and absorb the colonial architecture. I spot more and more famous murals with more and more tourists waiting to take their photo. A long line stretches out into the street from a corner restaurant. Huge steaming pots cook on outdoor burners and plastic white patio furniture sit inside. I buy a bowl of Laksa and find the only open seat left. My table-mates are three Malay girls. One is from the area and speaks English fluently. She tells me that when people travel to Penang, they come to eat.