Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Echoes of China in Penang, Malaysia

A few days ago Beth told you about the wonders of George Town's Little India. Today I thought I would balance our take on this awesome little town with some images of its Chinatown.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

To say that George Town even has a Chinatown is a bit of an understatement—nearly half of Penang's population is Chinese, and it shows. What is so amazing about George Town for sinophiles like myself is that coming here, especially after living in mainland China for so long, is like stepping back in time a good 60 years to pre-Mao China.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

How so? Well for starters, many of the Chinese here (who, remember, make up almost half the population), speak a Chinese-Malay hybrid called Penang Hokkien, which is pretty fascinating to listen to.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

Furthermore, the signs bearing Chinese characters (which are everywhere), are written in traditional characters, and are often accompanied by the incredibly unhelpful Wade-Giles system of romanization. Both were cast out by Mao Zedong in favor of simplified characters and the pinyin system which I am familiar with.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

Yet most telling is the sense of religion here.

Along with traditional characters and Nationalists, the glorious leader also cast religion out of China, despite his mother being a devout Buddhist. Although religion, mainly Buddhism and Christianity, is still practiced to some degree in China, one gets the feeling it isn't what it used to be.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

In George Town, there are a number of Buddhist and even Daoist temples, all of them frequented by believers. In front of Chinese storefronts there are small shrines with incense faithfully burning.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

At the stoop of a Chinese home, a small shrine to Buddha can be found, complete with a fresh offering of fruit.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

To see Georgetown's Chinese-Malaysians go about their lives feels like looking into a world I thought only existed in books.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

But, as my illustrious older brother once told me, "dude, your whole blog is just pictures of food." Well Nick, this entry will be no different, because Chinese-Malaysian food is awesome.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

These are hand-cut noodles in a dark oyster sauce, and I've got some fried rice. The little side-dishes are a spicy chili sauce. Like all people who live in really hot climates, the Malaysians like their spice, and I'm starting to dig it too.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

Also, Beth is here. =)

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

Food here is often sold from small stalls, where you can try dishes from all over Asia.

Chinatown, Penang, Malaysia, Day 63

This is where we had our first brush with the world-famous chicken rice, which is derived from a Hainan dish and is served in a variety of ways all over Southeast Asia. It's boiled chicken with rice that's been cooked with chicken stock, and man is it tender and delicious. Although it was pretty good here in George Town, it's widely regarded as Singapore's national dish. Guess we'll have to go see how it stacks up!

2 comments:

  1. So interesting!! We license books in traditional and simplified Chinese for different markets in Mainland China...

    also, I like the...btw, in case you forgot, beth is here too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. looking splendid in the sun you are. prepare yourselves. 12 more inches of snow at alley pond park this morning. flurries expected this week-end. we are awaiting your return with warm hearts, open arms, and steaming cups of hot cocoa...

    ReplyDelete

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