Culture / Sightseeing

Articles to be found on this page have diverse interests including: Attractions, Destinations, Photography and, tips and hints on all of the above.

Readers can refer to the table of contents at right for fast navigation - GC.

Penang - The Pearl of the Orient

Every year, thousands of visitors travel to Pulau Penang to experience the unique cultural heritage and scenery. It is also a very cosmopolitan city, perhaps the second busiest in the country after Kuala Lumpur, and is rich in cultural attractions for the sightseer.

Before seeing for yourself what Penang has to offer, read the following two excerpts from Wikipedia and Lonely Planet...

"The island of Penang was referred to as Bīnláng Yù (檳榔嶼, 槟榔屿) in the navigational drawings used by Admiral Zheng He of Ming-dynasty China in his 15th century expeditions to the South Seas. Fifteenth-century Portuguese sailors from Goa en route to the Spice Islands often made stopovers on the island which they called Pulo Pinaom. Early Malays called it Pulau Ka-Satu or "First Island" because it was the largest island encountered on the trading sea-route between Lingga and Kedah.

Copyright TrulyAsia.TV
The name "Penang" comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut palm (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang may refer either to the island of Penang (Pulau Pinang) or the state of Penang (Negeri Pulau Pinang). In Malay, Penang's capital Georgetown was called and labelled in old maps as Tanjung Penaga (Cape Penaigre), named after the many ballnut trees (also known as Alexandrian laurels, Calophyllum inophyllum) on the coast, but now usually shortened as Tanjung (the Cape).

Penang is often known as "The Pearl of the Orient", "东方花园" and Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara (Penang Island of Pearls). Penang is shortened as "PG" or "PP" in Malay." - Wikipedia

LonelyPlanet gives this overview: "Back when the distinction between governments, armies and companies was less precise, the British-based East India Company sailed into Penang harbour and took over the 28-sq-km island as its first settlement on the Malay peninsula, a move intended to break Dutch Melaka’s monopoly of the spice trade.

What evolved on the formerly unpopulated ‘Betel Nut Island’ was a bustling port. Entrepreneurs of every imaginable ethnicity, most notably Chinese, flocked to this new land, creating wealth and cultural hybrids. Like many company settlements, Penang wilted after the collapse of the British Empire. Today it’s become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Malaysia although this high-tech world is scarcely noticeable to the casual traveller. Beyond the capital Georgetown’s heat and decay are beach resorts, such as Batu Ferringhi, and the sleepy Malay fishing village of Teluk Bahang."

To give an idea of what you can experience when visiting Pulau Penang 'Mutiara', play the following videos from Truly Asia TV:

Penang Attractions - Part 1

Penang Attractions - Part 2

More specific details can be found at Penang Information


Petronas Twin Towers & Sky Bridge

Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge is one of major landmarks in Kuala Lumpur that you should not missed when visiting Kuala Lumpur. But before you can visit the Sky Bridge, you must get an entrance ticket first - effective from 1 October, 2011 tourists need to pay RM10 for the Sky Bridge visit and RM40 if they want to go to Level 86 of the Petronas Towers. For the RM40 package, tourists can visit Level 86 and the Sky Bridge together but the only time slots available are at 12:00 and 17:00, with just 60 tickets for each slot. 

The number of tickets issued daily has been reduced from 1640 to 1120, with the ticket allocation of 1000 for the Sky Bridge and 120 for visiting level 86, making the process getting tickets more challenging than before. 

If you plan to visit Petronas Sky Bridge by your own, try to go there as early as you can or, you can get the full-tour package from a tour provider.

Watch the queuing process and numbers of tourists arriving from 05:00 to 08:40 on this YouTube video by's anrsml 

We actually feel that the best view of KL and, indeed, of the Petronas Towers is from the Menara KL. With the options of viewing from the Observation Platform or, as we do, from lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at Seri Melayu's Revolving Restaurant - Website: but hey, why not do both? - GC



- by Michael Gebicki via The Age

        - accessed by GC on 18/02/2011

In the home of nutmeg awaits a heady blend of history, culture and marine life. How much longer, wonders Michael Gebicki, will Banda remain off the tourist radar?

SINEWY brown hands reach out to grab mine and haul me up the side of the quay when I land at Banda Neira. Their motive is commercial as much as cordial. One wants to sell me a collection of 18th-century coinage imprinted with the VOC insignia of the Dutch East India Company. Another is trussed with strings of pearls, a third thrusts an antique dagger at me, handle first.

There's perfume in the air, the scent of spices. It might be the cloves of Kretek cigarettes but to my nose there's nutmeg and cinnamon in the mix. Behind me, across the waters of the channel, is that cloud or steam coming from the crater of Gunung Api? Even today, the islands of Banda set fire to the imagination - photo by Michael Gebicki / Lonely Planet

At the eastern reaches of the Indonesian Archipelago, Banda is a group of 10 small islands that are part of the province of Maluku, once known as the Spice Islands. Getting to Banda has never been easy. Sailors berthing here from Europe would fall on their knees and give thanks to God for sparing them from scurvy, dysentery, malaria and pirates; but it was worth it. They were halfway to a fortune.

From the quay, I pass through the grounds of the Hotel Maulana and on to the main street of Banda Neira, the largest town, which threads past a mosque and the bazaar and on to a street lined with buildings set back behind deep verandahs with shuttered doors and windows. Further back, under the eye of the hilltop Belgica Fortress, is a scattering of villas once owned by the perkenier, the Dutch landholders. Some have been handsomely restored but most are falling prey to time, mould and tropical vegetation. It's the classic castaway island - languid and serene - and grafted with a history that seems as much fantasy as fact.

Banda is famous as the original home of nutmeg and, from the Middle Ages, nutmeg was the ultimate prize of the spice trade, a nut to steal men's souls. As well as a condiment, nutmeg was said to ward off bubonic plague, prevent sore throats, scarlet fever and ailments of the spleen. It was used to treat memory loss, dizziness, epilepsy, to guard against broken bones and - naturally - to increase a man's potency. In Europe, nutmeg sold for 300 times its purchase price in Banda, the only place nutmeg grew. Whoever could control Banda and its nutmeg trade was guaranteed a fortune.

After passing through the hands of Chinese, Arab and Portuguese merchants, the nutmeg trade fell into the hands of the Dutch when they grabbed Banda and set about creating a monopoly. Their efforts were frustrated for many years by the British East India Company, which had occupied and fortified the nearby island of Run, a western member of the Banda Islands group and another source of nutmeg. After protracted sieges, battles, intrigues and massacres, the Dutch finally gained control of Run when they traded it for a small, unproductive island in North America, which they called New Amsterdam, now known as Manhattan.

The Dutch East India Company eventually petered out, replaced by the Dutch colonial administration, which ended when Indonesia gained its independence after World War II. But Banda is still strewn with reminders of its former rulers.
Set into the floor of the Dutch Old Church are the headstones of settlers who died in the service of the Dutch East India Company. The beach in front of the former Dutch administration buildings is littered with Chinese porcelain, wine bottles, remnants of bowls, plates, Dutch clay pipes and cups that broke during the sea voyage and were thrown overboard when the cargo was landed.

Most poignant of all the colonial mementoes is the inscription scratched into a window pane in one of the former Dutch buildings along the waterfront. It recalls the melancholy end of a homesick officer who used his diamond ring to etch his final thoughts into the glass, telling his family how much he loved them, before hanging himself.

The Dutch influence even extends to Banda's shopping scene. If you've ever wanted a serving plate featuring the coat of arms of the Dutch East India Company, a mahogany wall cabinet, a blunderbuss or a smallish cannon, the antiques shops of Banda Neira have just the thing.

Nutmeg remains an important cash crop in Banda and much of the island is still covered in nutmeg trees, which grow only in hot and humid places with pure air, abundant rainfall and shade, which comes from the giant canopy of wild almond trees. When the yellow-green fruit splits, the mahogany-coloured kernel of the nutmeg appears, sheathed in a fleshy, crimson web of mace.

However, there is much more to the islands of Banda than memories and agriculture.

Dominating the landscape is the massive volcanic cone of Gunung Api, which rumbles into action at least once every century and particularly at times of historic change for the islanders. Its most recent eruption, in 1988, killed three people, destroyed more than 300 houses and filled the sky with ash for days. Climbing the scree-covered slopes to peer into the cone of the volcano is not for the faint-hearted but, provided you start in the cool air shortly after dawn, it's well worth the effort to reach the 666-metre summit, where the views are sensational.

Diving and snorkelling around Banda varies from merely sensational to off-the-dial awesome. These waters are part of the Bird's Head Seascape, a vast marine zone at the absolute pinnacle of underwater biodiversity, sometimes described as a species factory. Unknown to marine biologists until the 1990s, it's blown all previous counts of marine life out of the water. Pelagic species are especially abundant, including hammerhead sharks, rays and tuna. Sea snakes are common and one of the local specialties is a large population of the gorgeous mandarinfish, a close relative of the LSD-fish, so named because of its psychedelic colouring.

Banda is a perfect fit for a certain kind of traveller with a taste for hot, dramatically beautiful and eccentric places that are off the beaten track, although you have to wonder how long it will remain under wraps. While he was showing me around the old Dutch buildings by the waterfront, my guide pointed out a crumbling colonial relic that has recently been acquired by Adrian Zecha, the creator of Amanresorts. In a world where the taste for the exotic runs to ever-more remote parts of the globe, sleepy little Banda might be on the radar once again.