Although Penang is an island just off to the north east of peninsular Malaysia it seems like a world apart. Unlike Malaysia’s capitol of Kuala Lumpur, there are many streets that have been left just as they were over a century ago.
Back then carts were pulled by strong men.
It is almost the same today except it is bicycles that are peddled by strong men.
Graffiti has been raised to a fine art of iron working as local artisans weld their messages and place them before blank walls.
Down an alley way I was surprised to see a life like painting on the side of a building.
My artist wife Deirdra couldn’t resist getting into the picture herself.
In Penang it also seemed as if the natural world will not be denied as it can be seen to break through the side walks ….
…. and even grow out of tall buildings.
Where in the US we have “drive up to a fast food window service” the locals here have drive up in your car, pop the trunk, and yell that you have food for sell service.”
Within moments there was a line up of hungry passersby being served up lunch out of the back end of a car.
Medical tourism is big business in Malaysia. This shop promised to within minutes restore my balding head with hair ….
… but I was discouraged by the entrance to the doctor’s office.
Back at the hotel I met up with my good friend Vietnamese guitarist Tinh Mahoney who was going to join me in concert that evening. What he could do on six strings sounded like he was playing on 20! That was especially true when he picked up my harp guitar.
After our practice, Deirdra, Tinh’s friend Tam, our concert promoter and up-and-coming harp guitarist Brain Gan, Tinh and I went to lunch. The restaurant served our food on a palm leaf. After the meal they had their palm out when we left.
Later that evening there was a great turn out for the concert. Most were hearing the harp guitar for the first time. Tinh and I played a few improvised duets and surprised ourselves that we ended in the same key!
The next day we played a concert in a high scale shopping mall that was celebrating it’s first year birthday. The stage was made in the shape of a Birthday cake. I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to be asked to jump out of the top of the cake and burst onto the stage with my harp guitar cranked up to lead everyone in a verse of Happy Birthday.
But they asked Tinh to come out first. He stunned the crowd with his intensity, physical posturing and facial grimaces. His guitar playing was nothing short of amazing as well. By the time I played, hundreds of people had gathered round and were wondering where Tinh went!
I wasn’t sure if anyone was actually listening as they didn’t come to the mall to hear live music. But they did come to shop and shop they did at the CD table where I almost ran out of product to sale.
It was fun to pose for pictures with so many new fans.
Tinh and I packed out after the gig, I with my little travel harp guitar on my back, while Tinh wrestled with all his gear.
He went back to stuff the rest of his gear into a huge duffle bag. I recommended that he think about traveling lighter.
The next day we left the instruments in the hotel and just went out and had fun.
We went to a Butterfly reserve. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Butterflies in every imaginable color and shape were flying all about and in every direction!
One landed on my arm and I was instantly a little boy full of wonder again.
It then saw Deirdra and landed on her face! How could that face get more beautiful? Penang was literally one surprise after another.
On our final night in Penang we met at a restaurant at ocean’s edge. Carolyn Khor interviewed me for the local newspaper, Tinh and Brian became close, and a local guitarist and entrepreneur Leon Thum joined us. Deirdra and I were humbled to have meet such a wonderful group of people.
Although Penang was beautiful, the time we spent with our new friends was unforgettable.
The next day Tinh and I, along with Deirdra and Tam, left for Vietnam on the last leg of our South East Asia adventure.
Look next to Part 4: John Doan’s Southeast Asia Tour – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – From Mopeds to life in City Parks, to Posing with a Model, to Resourceful Street Vendors, from the former President’s Palace to a Rooster on the Street.