Penang–it must be Friday

 

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Overcast skies as we ate breakfast this morning overlooking the coast of Penang.  In spite of that, the heat was building as we set off in our independent ways this morning: I was heading to the Batik workshop, Mark to a fruit farm and a temple.

 

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Sharing stories of our day later, we found we’d both travelled much the same path, just a half hour apart and had enjoyed similarly interesting days here.

 

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The landscape we drove through was the coastal developments looking a great deal like many others – tall, high rise apartment blocks set in lush green gardens.  Quite a contrast to the little two storey shophouses downtown in the heritage area.

 

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The Batik Workshop was set in similarly lush surroundings and the fifteen of us were curious as to what we might find here.  We didn’t have to look far, for there, right on the verandah was the first demonstration of block printing.

 

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With remarkable speed and achieving a pretty high level of accuracy, the gentleman printing this pattern in a mix of beeswax and tree sap (for flexibility) was happy to have his skills admired by a succession of foreigners.

 

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Of course, I’m finding that my eyes dart here and there, up onto the ceiling where many, many metal blocks are hanging!  There are more on the walls, in boxes under the table – all over the place.

 

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Then, a young woman demonstrates the “free Tjanting” process and quickly draws several perfectly straight lines and an hibiscus flower.  I can sense several in the group getting nervous now, wondering if they are going to be asked to do this themselves in a minute!

 

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But we can relax, because we are shown around the corner and each select a worktable where a design has already been drawn out in wax onto the cotton cloth and all we are asked to do is to write our names.

 

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There are bottles of dye, each with its own brush made from a rough piece of wood, and bottles of water for diluting the colours.  A quick demonstration is offered and we’re set free…

 

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Mine is taking shape nicely and I’m soon ready to work the leaves.

 

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There are ooohs and aaaahs as the delights of working with colour are shared amongst us.  The glorious surroundings are enhanced by the birdsong and the sound of rain gently falling on the leaves just outside the workshop. 

 

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Everyone created their own masterpiece, some with a little help from the young and extremely delightful Nepalese chap, who swiftly covered the background with colour to finish those who hadn’t quite made it this far in time.  These cloths will be finished by the ladies in the workshop here and sent to us at home.

 

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This afternoon, we pottered about the old town, enjoying the atmosphere.  There were one or two relics of the old British influence to be seen

 

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and some beautiful old buildings.

 

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The predominant influence in this part of the city now is undoubtedly Chinese/Indian, evidenced by this beautiful doorway

 

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and the brightly packaged goods in the supermarket we explored.

 

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Wandering about the streets, it was good to see that we weren’t so far from home at any time.

 

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We’d seen further evidence of that one the way to the Batik Workshop, too.

 

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We didn’t spend all our Ringit so arriving back on board to find this gentleman sitting in the hall, we swapped a few of them for rupees, asking ourselves how many places in the world could one sit alone at a table with money laid out like that?

 

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So, another great day.  We made the tie-break at Trivia this afternoon but sadly missed out on the points.  Tonight, we have plans for dinner with friends and we gain an hour thanks to Thailand’s time difference.

Phuket tomorrow, with a few last minute schedule changes as a result of industrial action by the port transport people.  Instead of berthing at the normal place, we’re going to drop anchor and be tendered ashore.  That’s always fun…

Phang Nga Bay

Kuala Lumpur