Yesterday morning, Monday, (almost literally) bumped into Lindsay, co-conspirator with her partner Rob of the second-greatest blog on the entire triple-dub: Year Of The Durian. (Sorry guys, Shorpy will always be #1…)
They’re just on their way out of town, in search of the elusive (perhaps mythical) “Elephant Dung Durian”: Durian that’s been swallowed whole by an elephant, then shat out undigested – but now delicious beyond belief. Good luck, friends!
Wouldn’t want to be seen to be endorsing British Imperialism; but who could possibly resist visiting a site called “Fort Cornwallis”? Not me!
It’s kind of neat, with a few structures still in tact after all these decades.
The displays set up giving a basic history of the fort are fun: though seemingly written by a group of eight-year-old kids, it can’t help getting in some little jibes at British and French Imperial behaviour. But the best bit is about the fort’s founder having “forked out” his own money for a needed upgrade.
There’s a goofy cannon up on the wall, overlooking the sea, about which everyone is all gaga.
I saw one girl leaning on the cannon – technically not against the rules, I guess.
Save for the traffic, it’s quite a wonderful little town. It’s not difficult to understand why it’s received World Heritage status. But here’s the difference with Luang Prabang: in the latter, most everybody gets ‘round via bicycle; while here in George Town, it’s all motorcycles and automobiles. And they’re so loud.
Still, there are certainly plenty of neat old buildings here; and the people are very friendly and interesting. And definitely some great signs.
The tallest skyscraper is something of a focal point for the city.
It looks reminiscent of a Wilco album cover, true; but its name is the real drawing card: KOMTAR. Say it with a growl in the throat, and it’s as though it were an villainous mastermind in a Saturday Morning cartoon. As the building fairly dominates the skyline, one never fails to take sight of it, and so reflexively cry out in fear of the evil dastard KOMTAR’s irrepressible minions.
Some of the temples here are pretty wild; more evocative of Haiti, perhaps, than Southeast Asia.
I arrived at one last night just in time for “Evening Pooja”.
It seemed vaguely like some kind of Eyes Wide Shut shit was getting ready to go down…
But I didn’t stick around to find out. Visited some other temples to-day, Tuesday.
Quite nice, even though…
But then, the camera’s batteries were up and finished, so I decided to put off the temple explorations, and instead visit the largest mosque in town.
Very beautiful (and the intermittent prayer calls coming from the mosques in town are stunningly, heartbreakingly gorgeous). I went to take a “guided tour” of the interior, which turned into an hour-long recruitment pitch. Wow, Islam’s even stupider than I’d realised. I mean, not as stupid as Christianity or anything; but still, pretty damned stupid.
The guided tour of the biggest church in town (the first Anglican church in Southeast Asia) was much more fun, if quite brief in duration.
Apart from the prayer calls, the music blaring out from temples, shoppes, and homes here is incredibly wonderful. Possibly even as good as in Cambodia.
Down at Times Square, there wasn’t any kind of buffet going on; but I did manage to explode my budget all the same. Went in for a two-time prize-winning variety, the Musan King.
It’s even better than it looks. When Hassan, the wild and crazy vendor to whom we have been previously introduced, asked me how it was, I couldn’t even find the words. I managed to eke out an awestruck, “Amazing!” But that didn’t even come close to telling the story.
“This is the King Of Durian!” Hassan declared (i.e., the King of the King of fruits). “And now you are eating it; so…you might be a king!” He’s very charismatic, you can see.
Four Welsh youngsters staying here at the guest house tried their first Durian to-day. They weren’t impressed. Well, I guess if you can’t love Durian from Penang, it just wasn’t meant to be…
Meanwhile, to-day I went for another named variety, the Ang Bak Kia. As he was cutting it open for me, Hassan predicted, “When you eat this, you will be mesmerised all the way back to Seattle!” I think he’s right.
What an experience – the first time that eating a Durian has actually brought tears to my eyes (and no jokes from the cheap seats, people!). Also had a bit of Hor Lor and D11; both superior — but it’s the Ang Bak Kia which will be haunting my dreams until long after I’ve returned to the States. Pretty sure it won’t have been my last one…
Turns out, Hassan and his brother operate a quite large stall near the airport – a “Durian Paradise”, he calls it. Listening to him talk about Durian makes me want to follow him to the ends of the Earth. The Shaman and his Acolytes: “You’ll smell ‘em before you see ‘em.”
I asked how many Durian fall in Penang each season? About a million, he says. Wow! I then asked if he knew of Jim Morrison. I think he may have thought I was being a bit patronising, as he answered, “I only know Jason Mraz.” After I picked myself up off the floor, I told him that I thought that he is the Asian Jim Morrison: the philospher/poet of Durianism and all for which it stands.
Tomorrow, he says, I will eat a Red Prawn. I was able to resist quoting Lawrence Of Arabia: “Then it shall be so, Lord.” But I’m sure I won’t be able to resist, on the morrow, the Prawn’s siren call.
In other news, very highly recommend Episode #7 of theAlpha To Omega Podcast:
Colette O’Neill, the creative genius behind the Bealtaine Cottage permaculture small-holding in the west of Ireland and the A Life In The Country blog, is this week’s guest. We chat about her love of permaculture; how she decided to give up her career as a teacher in London and return to Ireland to turn an old bachelors’ cottage and three acres of poor land in the wilds of County Roscommon into an oasis of abundance. We hear of forest gardens, stylish wooden verandas, her pantry, ancient burial sites, fairy rings, living outside the monetary system, the cuckoo, and space travel.
This is an incredibly inspirational interview.
Also! I have selected a “Personal Anthem”. The way it works is, when all the jag-offs at the stadium or watching on teevee are busy bleating up their star-spangled bullshit, I’ll instead be blissing out to…
Or, if it’s not that, it’ll be this…
Personal Anthem, man. Get yours to-day!
Incidentally, Joseph Arthur’s spectacular new album, Redemption City, is still available for free download — in both MP3 and FLAC! — from his site. Well, for what are you waiting?