notes from the road

George Town, Jewel of Penang

I love George Town.

Crazy characters, colors bursting, loud and busy with laughter and yelling. People smile here. They look at you and stare, interested and amused.

My type of place.

We only just arrived, but have already had several encounters with the people of this city. They seem eager to chat, to share and ask questions of us too. How I’ve missed that, and am so happy to feel connected to these curious people.

The buildings are beautiful – decayed and run down in the most graceful way, full of stories and history. Tiny alleys filled with secrets. Shops inside spaces you never knew existed, packed with endless items and trinkets, foods, spices, electrical parts. Bold, unapologetic colors that widen eyes.  It’s chaotic yet serene.

I like the pace.

It’s stifling hot – hotter than anywhere else we’ve been so far. Yet the people are still running around, shuffling, hawking, selling their trade. Walking to school, to work, or just idling by. The eyes, teeth, smiles of so many faces, different shapes and colors, welcome me and brighten my spirit. Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians are all mixed up, blended to perfection. One joyful combination, a feast for my eyes.

We’ve been sweating endlessly for days, drenched shirts, beads dripping from our glossy faces, hair thick with humidity. I love this weather, but it’s been a feat of strength to survive these George Town streets – quirky, vibrant, dilapidated wonders.

I am so happy here.

It’s been a rejuvenating experience to see so many lively souls, filled with smiles – toothless, gapped, gleaming white teeth – they are all so beautiful.

The elderly are kings in this town. Johnny says it must be where they come to retire. I think it’s a generation of hard working traders, craftsmen, skilled artists perfecting their craft. Grown old in body, wise in face and spirit. Old young souls riding bicycles, scooting along on mopeds and motorcycles, reading the newspaper. I watch them in wonderment, enjoying their tea and dim sum with their comrades, fellow kind warriors of this island city. Playful geezers exchanging war tales.

But modernity is not too far away. The streets are brimming with youthful electricity, street-art dripping from the crumbling walls.

The food is exquisite. “Hawker” stalls abound in a surprisingly clean and organized fashion, serving up steaming dishes to the masses of hungry locals. We must eat all day long, keep up our strength and energy to combat this booming city heat.

We have been greeted so warmly here. The locals are eager to help, practice their English, give directions, offer suggestions.  A simple smile, a nod, a wave follows me down each corner, accompanying me along the way…







  1. These shots are so great. It’s fantastic to look at them and imagine your experiences.

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